By Halina Newberry Grant
I’ve never been perfect, don’t worry – I know that. In fact, I suffer from a terrible disease called perfectionism that has held me back from happiness more times than I’d like to think about. Missed opportunities because I couldn’t submit the perfect head shot or demo. Missed auditions because I wasn’t the perfect size (whatever that is.) Missed connections with potential suitors because I wasn’t perfect, how could they seriously be interested in me?
I had reached a happy place of acceptance about my imperfections prior to getting pregnant, or so I thought. I had embraced the mantra “don’t get it perfect, just get it done” and was seeing some great results in my creative life. I could finally laugh at myself, and accept the results of my pursuits, whatever they were, because I could accept myself just as I was, just for today.
But since having my daughter a little over a year ago, I’m discovering all the areas in my life that I actually hadn’t let go of. Little self-imposed rules in my head that would run on repeat had me constantly judging myself, keeping track of every time I didn’t measure up to my stringent, unrealistic expectations of myself. And now that someone else is more important to me than myself and depending on me to keep her alive, I have absolutely no choice but to let all those rules and judgement go or I will get absolutely NOTHING done, and live in lonely, self-absorbed, miserable self-imposed exile.
So as an exercise in letting go of the shameful reality of my imperfection, I’m baring all for the world to see; here are 10 things that I don’t do perfectly anymore now that I’m a mom:
1. Care For My Dog
My dog is my first kid. My phone and my social media pages were full of adorable pictures of him until she came along. He’s still my constant faithful and loving companion, but our relationship has changed. When my daughter was born, he assumed the role of Guardian of the Manor. He barks at anyone who crosses an invisible threshold on our property. He is always at my feet, always looking to me for his next direction. It’s exhausting.
I know that when he gets the right amount of exercise he is more balanced and happier. But I can’t give that to him every day. Most days our walks are a power struggle – where he used to walk happily beside me, he now anxiously pulls on the leash one way or another, sometimes upsetting the stroller, sometimes almost tripping me up. He gets mopey and bratty when he’s cooped up inside all day, and I get annoyed and impatient. I feel horrible.
I know we both need some work with a trainer to find a new balance, but I, imperfectly, have not been able to set that up for us. So for now, some days I really let him down.
2. Show Up On Time
Sometime in my 20’s I decided that showing up late shows others that you don’t care about them. I think it’s selfish and I make others suffer when I plan poorly. So I used to show up early – usually about 10 minutes. If I was running late I would find a way to notify you, and would be appropriately apologetic.
You know where I’m going with this. Now with a kid, I sometimes leave the house on time. The first time. I almost always have to go back home because I forgot something crucial like – oh, say, the diaper bag.
There was a pretty steep learning curve for me on this one. In my daughter’s first 6 months of life I was sometimes showing up an hour later than I promised. I cringe thinking about it, and though I know I’m forgiven (it turns out that people who care about you are very forgiving, especially people with kids) I have a hard time forgiving myself for this one.
3. Replying To Your eMail/Text/Voicemail in a Timely Manner
Oh god, this one is painful. Remember that voice mail you left me three weeks ago? I got it, I listened to it probably three days after you left it, and it’s been on my mind to call you back, but phone calls are impossible with a toddler, unless we’re on a walk and I remember to charge my blue tooth and then remember to take it with me and then I can talk while pushing the stroller and being pulled by the dog. I might also try to call you back from the car, but I will only have about a 5 minute window to talk so hopefully you won’t answer, because what a tease! Also, the baby is probably sleeping in the back and if I change her music to our conversation she will probably wake up.
Oh, and that email. I have so much I want to say to you – but I haven’t responded because I only have one thumb to type with because I’m nursing and using my phone one-handed, so I really can only text.
I probably responded to your text a day or so later, because I had to check that date with my husband to make sure he’ll be home that night so we can go out. Actually, he has tennis so that night is out. Sorry it took three days for me to remember that.
4. Sending Thank You Notes
You have bought me lunch more times than I can count because you know I’m broke. You have always brought something lovely for the baby, and you almost always agree to meet on my side of town because you know it’s easier for me. You endure a meal with a messy toddler (in a restaurant that is not as nice as you’d like because the nice ones don’t have high-chairs) just so we can catch up, and you patiently allow your stories to be interrupted over and over and over again.
It’s not like it used to be, and I miss those days, and I love you so much and thank you and sorry for not sending a thank you note every time. I want to buy you a mansion in the hills just as soon as I get my money right.
5. Professional eMails
This is more painful than I can express. Gone are the days where I carefully construct a thoughtful and corporate-lingo laden submission, taking my time to reword that last sentence carefully. Double checking the subject line to be sure it doesn’t look like this is just a forward of an email I already sent. Making sure my signature doesn’t include a pithy quote, my head shot – or worse, make it obvious that I’m crafting this letter with one thumb on my smartphone.
I probably don’t have any typos because they’d be underlined in red, blessedly.
BUT I PROMISE YOU I WILL ALWAYS USE YOUR, YOU’RE, THEN, THAN, ITS and IT’S CORRECTLY. NO MATTER WHAT.
I still eat healthy. Four years ago I cut out certain foods that I can’t eat like a lady, and I still abstain from them. I don’t diet. I don’t research diets. But my former three meals a day with two optional snacks now looks more like 10 small meals (some large!) that I eat while standing or shovel into my face hole as fast as I can because my daughter ate her meal while I was preparing mine and she’s signing “all done” and near a melt down in her high chair.
7. Self care
Hair cuts-gone. Mani/pedis-Ha! Hair color-a muted version of its former glory. Fingernails-jagged. Body hair-obvious. Eyebrows-“natural.” Makeup-smeared. Skin tone- burned. Body-soft. Clothes-wrinkled and ill-fitting. Body scent-“natural.”
I don’t have time. See number 5.
9. Completing this list of 10 things.