Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sometimes done is better than perfect

I may not have had any clarity when I finished writing about my joyless haze, but after a few days, it generated some much-needed perspective.

All the well-meaning people in my life weren't so annoying afterall. Instead of pestering me, I got a lot of genuine support even if just in an e-mail or voicemail.

Turns out, a lot of women feel this way. Overloaded. Overwhelmed. Incapable of handling all the responsibilities that come with running a home, raising a child and keeping a job.

And, as always, knowing I'm not alone lessens the blow somehow.

After discussing it at length with Jerry and a few friends, I realized I can't escape all of the blame. Of course my horrible schedule and resulting lack of sleep play a major role in my unraveling, but there is at least one thing within my control -- addressing my insane need for perfection.

I've always tried to do too much. Why let someone else do it when I know I can do it so much better? In college, a professor actually docked me for taking on an entire group project and not allowing others to contribute. I was furious because I thought surely he would see how much I had done to make up for their lack of motivation, but it blew up in my face. Similarly, I was penalized at one of my jobs for trying to take on too much responsibility and not delegating some of the workload to my subordinates.

Fast forward a few years and I'm doing the same thing at home. Do I really need to spend time reloading the dishwasher just because I don't like where Jerry put the plates? Sure, I could redo it to wedge in four more bowls and a cutting board, but is it worth stressing over? Probably not.

Secretly I feel frustrated when Jerry is able to eat an entire meal without being interrupted to assist Allison, but the second he tries to help, I tell him he's not dicing her food small enough and take over.

Trying to relieve me of some responsibility, Jer took the initiative to wash a load of her clothes this week. But what did I do? Instead of saying thanks, I immediately asked if he treated all of her stains. When he hadn't, and I realized all of the split pea blobs and grape juice dribbles were now set in thanks to a spin through the dryer, I just sighed.

That was enough.

He walked away feeling like he can't do anything right. I sat there looking at a pile of clean clothes that I didn't have to wash and didn't have one nice thing to say about it. I'm sure some women would fall over dead if their husband spontaneously did a load of laundry. Why hadn't I shown at least a little gratitude?

I go through life trying to take on the world. What's the worst that would happen if I allowed myself to get a little help once in awhile? Certain things might not be done to my exact specifications, sure, but I might be a whole lot happier if I had a few less things to worry about.

So instead of carrying around a giant to-do list in on a notepad in my purse, I've decided to keep it on the fridge. That way, if Jerry has a spare moment and feels like he can tackle something that he might not otherwise have had the foresight to do, great.

Eventually he'll know to use the stain stick.

And I'll learn to live with the fact that sometimes life is a little messy.


Marina said...

This post was perfect. I'm so glad to hear you saying these things. And I'm sure Jerry will love this insight as well. Good for you. <3

Ray said...

I'm glad that you finally learned that, "You CAN'T do everything." And whoever expects you to is a moron. Good for you for letting Jerry help out. That's what he's there for as well. That's part of what a marriage is about. Helping each other. It's a partnership as well as team work. You'll kill yourself trying to do it all. And frankly, you shouldn't have to.

I'm also glad that you noticed that Jerry felt defeated. Let him help you. You'll love him more for it and he'll feel more wanted. Which is always a good thing.

Take, care.

Mike said...

I'm glad you're making things turn around a little.

Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, look around, and re-evaluate.

Anonymous said...

You are most definitely not alone :-) I, for one, am in the same boat - and it goes nowhere when you try to paddle with one oar without the help of others.

julie said...

I'm so glad you're giving yourself a break and learning to accept help. I'm the same way about the dishwasher and the laundry, but I'm learning to gladly take whatever help Mat offers. Well... I still won't let him fold my clothes or Shobha's, but I'll gladly let him fold his own!

In replacement for your to-do list (which I think its awesome you're taking it out of your purse) maybe you could try carrying around a gratitude list. Anytime you need a pick-me-up, take out your gratitude list, read through everything you've already listed, then add one or two things. Sometimes just reminding yourself that you're grateful (even for the little things like a cup of tea or the fall foliage or those first few quiet minutes of Alli's nap) can really put a new spin on your perspective.

And just remember - she'll grow out of those stained clothes before you even know it. (There's a freebie for your gratitude list!)

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the idea from julie for a gratitude list! Dont forget to put "wonderful husband" near the top!

Timberly said...

I totally hear where you're coming from. I'm the same way. And Dan gets annoyed when I complain about having to do it all because I never ask him to do much to pitch in.

Jennifer Suarez said...

Very true and I can relate to most of what you said.

The important part is that you acknowledged it and talked about it with Jerry.

One warning - the feeling of wanting to do it yourself is something you slowly learn to overcome with children too. As Allison reaches age 2 (and beyond) she will want to do everything herself and you will once again find yourself resisting the urge to do it for her because she's doing it {too slow, too messy, wrong}.

Kids are easier to deal with because you can always tell yourself "It's OK, they are just learning, it's part of life, part of becoming idependant" For some reason when it comes to the other people in our lives, like our spouse, we lose sight of that compassion.

I'm proud of you for re-focusing your sight. You are a great mother and a great wife. I admire that in you and I hope that you see it too.

Miss said...

You're definitely not alone! Sometimes I'm working long hours, taking care of the dog, trying to keep up with the house and be a good wife/daughter/sister/friend. We're battling IF right now and sometimes when everything is crazy I wonder how I'll be able to add a baby to the mix?

I thought this post was great - the ability to take help and know that not everything has to be perfect is a good lesson to learn (note to self - hint! hint!). Take care :)

Sheryl said...

Good for you!

Thanks for the follow-up. Keep us posted on how it's going.

Tiffany said...

Awesome post! It takes alot to be able to see that sort of thing within yourself, let alone try to tackle it! I'm so proud of you!

In a side note, did you know that I'm pregnant? :D Yes! I'm due at the end of December! I've been reading your blogs alot more recently as I've been trying to see how other people juggle the homelife/career/family bit. Your post today definitely is something I will try to remember when I get down on myself for not being superwoman. Thank you! :)

kimiedawn said...

Ha-ha!!! This hit right at home. I actually got mad at my husband the other day for unloading the dishwasher and putting up a few dishes that weren't completely clean. We should definately be happy that we have husbands that will pitch in around the house. I know that I always feel bad afterward and apologize, but it is nice to know--I'm not the meanest wife ever!!!

LeslieAnn said...

I know how hard it is to admit things and realize things like this when you're a perfectionist. I have similar problems because of an anxiety disorder. "Yes I can do that." "No problem." "I'll be there."

I kept doing this, while going to school full time and working more than 30 hours a week and I ended up in the hospital for exhaustion. They sedated me. Then my doctor put me on meds. The meds helped (and made me gain weight unfortunately). But what also helped me was working on time management skills. I also live by lists, but that's what works for me. It keeps me organized and sane.

I think you just have to know and realize your own limits. So good for you. :) Let your loved ones help.

erica said...

I feel like it's a cultural thing that becomes instilled in us. Women should be superwomen. They should take care of the kids, the house, AND work and it should all be done perfectly. In discussions I've had people often blame a patriarchal society but I think a lot of it is learned by women and sometimes it's women that keep this cycle going. We decide to bear a burden so we can feel accomplished by doing it all. However it's impossible to do it all and so many women get defeated. I've heard my mother tell me over and over again for years "I'm sorry I'm such a bad mother" because she doesn't home cook all our meals and keep the house clean when she spends 12 hours a day on her feet! I tell her she's a wonderful mother and that I'm surprised she's had enough strength to do all that she has.

So long story short, I think it's absolutely wonderful that you've recognized your limitations (sane limitations that is) and found a way to fix things. I think all of what you said is a wonderful idea and it really shows the benefit of allowing men to pitch in... not only for your own sanity but for his feeling of worth as well. Thank you for this post and for sharing this process with us!

And I love the gratitude list. I may have to start keeping one myself.

chelsea said...

I'm kind of the same way, a perfectionist. But your title really is so true. Its better for things to be done even if they're not perfect. Maybe in the laundry room, or by the dishwasher you can leave directions of how you like things done so that Jerry can see. Or anyone else who wants to help!

Anonymous said...

I'm the same way-a perfectionist, especially when it comes to my son. It really took me quite awhile to realize I wasn't doing anyone any good (especially my husband and my son) by constantly criticizing the way he does stuff with him. I was making him feel like an inadequate parent and driving him away from wanting to spend time with his son. Now, that I've realized that I just look the other way if things aren't done exactly the way I'd do them. It's helped us out a lot and I think its great that you are realizing that!

Lioncloud said...

I think that the tendency towards perfectionism is the result of the fact that we have so few things in our lives that we can really control. When you feel helpless about so many things, obsessing about the small things you _can_ control is a great temptation.

Jerry is a great Dad and husband, and if you want to hear stories about unhelpful husbands, call me!


the plainsman said...

I'll go back and read the other comments, but this put a smile on my face, even though it was not the intent. Good you are working it through and that made me smile as well. And yes, some guys have the same issues with delegation, too. I see one every day when shaving!

Kristin said...

That's beyond wonderful, sweetie.
good for you =]]


jsi said...

Your darling will grow out of those slightly stained clothes so quickly...and now they can be finger painting clothes, too.

Encourage your husband as best you can - you are a team and he understands you better than you think.

Good to know that there is a light at the end of this tunnel for you.

sarahhhh said...

yessss, good idea. my family is particularly structured and neat. so when i started dating my fiance i would visit his parent's home. they are neat too, but are wayyy more relaxed in their habits that my family keeps so strict to. i learned a lot about myself during our time together, and have definitely seen it's a-ok to let some things take shape. it's a great start. good luck to you and it will all work out. :)

i have rediscovered music therapy. Sarah McLachlan has been on repeat here, give it a whirl.

Anonymous said...

Good to know that you are going to start delegating more. I have the same personality and things have to be done my way so usually end up doing things by myself... Even if it is little things like laundry and other small chores. I guess it is something I will need to work on as well. My husband has already given up on helping me around the house. So your title "sometimes done is better than perfect" hits the nail on the head!
Hope you feel better. I have felt the same way and sometimes I still do. Do you think you may be able to change your schedule at work? I know it may be hard considering you are an editor, but it is worth a try.

Anonymous said...

I'm sensing a bit of a trend with these comments.

Seems a lot of us woman do the same. I was just thinking how is it that my husband is not aware of the "cups go on the top rack for the dishwasher" rule. When I just sort of knew it myself. Another one of my favorites, don't dry stains, it sets them, if you know you have a stain when you put it in the wash, check it before tossing it in the dryer.

Seems a lot of us have issue's with accepting help when its not done to our standards.

I wonder why that is.

Suzanne said...

Your posts lately could NOT come at a better time.
I was told this week by my mother in law that I "really need to get it together". That simple statement has rendered me numb for the past few days. Feeling even more worthless and out of control than usual.
You are NOT alone.

Maria said...

Often I can be the same way with Mitch as you are with Jerry. He did a load of my laundry once and I'll I could talk about was the fact that I don't dry my clothes on high heat. After it all came out of my mouth I realized what a bitch I was being.

There are so many things in my life that I feel that I do better, so why have anyone else do them? Yet meeting someone else who is the same way really gives you precpective into how annoying that mentality really is.

You can call me Al said...

thank you for this post (just got to it today). i struggle with this too, and am doing my best to change. so thank you for sharing.