The Perfection Obsession: When the Details Sabotage Your Happiness
If you’ve seen the movie or read the book, I Don’t Know How She Does It, or read Perfect Madness, you know what is meant by the perfection obsession. It’s not a new concept. Its origins are from the 1950’s, when most married and employed mothers left the workplace to become full-time homemakers with children. The marketing of new appliances had a significant role in creating the perfection obsession. The work previously called drudgery was transformed into the myth of happy homemaking. The right stove, refrigerator, automatic washer and dryer, and amazing vacuum cleaners would free up a woman’s time so she could relax enough to entertain her husband, friends, and children.
The most recent incarnation of the perfection obsession is called the “New Domesticity” described in the 2013 book, Homeward Bound and also personified by several outstanding, financially successful and much admired blog/businesses. The author, Emily Matchar, describes the new trend as being more back to basics, and environmentally grounded, focusing on personal fulfillment rather than perfection. Nonetheless, one has to be quite dedicated to home schooling, baking from scratch, raising children, chickens and produce, and finally creating and managing a few stores on Etsy, EBay, and Amazon all while traveling to proselytize the movement.
Yes, I’m both exaggerating and a recovering perfectionist. But I do admire the group of writer/mothers who have published contrarian positions, with catchy titles like Bad Mother, Good Enough is the New Perfect, or Sh*tty Mom that could be deflating or merrily subversive.
There’s no reason for any of us to develop feelings of frustration about being imperfect. We’re all targets for four marketing myths that fuel the “perfection obsession” and the debate on what it takes to create happy families. Here’s my list:
Control: Can you take control of your life? Sure, if you understand that you can only control what you do; and hope you have done it in such a way that you get the impression you have controlled what others do in response.
Balance: There is no balance. There are too many things going on during your waking hours that balancing all things cannot be achieved. Not in one day, one week, or one lifetime. We all need to optimize (make the most with what you’ve got) our time so that each day is lived to your own best.
Absolutes: There are very few things in life that are either/or. Work is not opposed to Life. Love is not opposed to Reason. Make room for inner flexibility and reciprocity among your needs so you can get most of what you want from each big force that drives your life.
Perfection: The only thing perfect on this earth might be a snowflake. Nothing in human existence is perfect; everything can be accepted as is or improved. Even our precious babies will one day reveal their imperfections. In the end, we should not let the obsession with perfection be the enemy of getting to good.