I've read my fair share of parenting articles discussing perfection and the notion of "having it all," but none touched me like the recent piece called "Why Women Should Stop Trying to Be Perfect" by Barnard President Debora Spar.
Since it's a pretty long article, I took what I thought were the 5 most salient points to share with you. Hold on to your hats, mamas, because what she is saying might just change your life.
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- Acknowledge that biology matters. As Spar notes, biology doesn't determine everything, but it does matter, especially when it comes to having babies. So while women will always be the ones physically able to have babies (sorry guys!), we can try make choices that help alleviate the tensions that having babies can cause, like staying close to family so you have a support system, or breastfeeding for less time than you might want. Those might not work for you, but her point is that we physically cannot do everything. What we can do is make conscious choices in our lives to live more healthily and happily instead of leaving it up to chance.
- We cannot do it alone. Getting help from men is a function of basic math, Spar says. It's not that we're not smart enough, but rather because we make up only 50 percent of the population. So if we're going to make changes, not just in the work place but in our homes as well, we need to ask for help and accept it. And by the way, there's no men bashing in this article. Spar acknowledges the increased involvement of men and fathers, as well as the challenges they face in today's parenting climate.
- Return to social structures from earlier decades. Remember coffee klatches and neighborhood clubs? Probably not because much of that has been poo-poo'd as time wasting nonsense in this country. But there is great value in having strong connections with neighbors and friends, as they not only provide us with support, but they can be a wonderful resource when we need help. I'm a firm believer that our tendency toward solo achievement and perfection, particularly in our society, is slowly killing mothers. Or at least, killing any hope of true happiness.
- Recognize that the quest for perfection is a myth. If we continue to use perfection as a standard for success, Spar states that we're condemning ourselves and our daughters to failure. And really, she's got a point. So much of what many women are dissatisfied with in their lives has to do with feeling not good enough. And if we ditch the image of "the perfect mother" from our heads, the only goal we have left is to just do what's best for our children and ourselves.
- Channel the passion of political foremothers. "Feminism wasn't supposed to make us miserable," according to Spar, and she's right. Her suggestions for making change aren't elaborate or even that time consuming, but they could make a world of difference. How about starting a small babysitting co-op in your neighborhood to help frazzled moms? Or host monthly potluck dinners like our grandparents used to do back in the day?
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By making small changes, by giving ourselves a break and realizing that we're all in this together, we might just enjoy our lives a little more. And we might just give our daughters a fighting chance at happiness too.
What do you think about Spar's points about women and perfection?
Photo via DonkeyHotey/Flickr