redefining “a good day”


I have always been a perfectionist.

Now, anyone who peeked into my home at this moment and saw the disorder in my living room or the state of my kitchen might not believe that.  But I have always been a sort of all-or-none perfectionist.  For example, if I can’t get all of my house clean at one time, then why should I bother cleaning any of it? (That is the logic that allows you to be a perfectionist and an awful housekeeper!)  When I was a little girl and something went wrong with my day, if I gave the wrong answer in class or got embarrassed or someone hurt my feelings, I couldn’t wait for the day to be over so I could start afresh tomorrow — that particular day, in my mind, had been ruined and I would trudge through the remaining hours of it until I could get my clean slate the next day.

As I got older my expectations of perfection mellowed a bit.  I mean, I didn’t consider it a bad day just because I said the wrong answer out loud in class.  But still, a good day for me continued to be one in which nothing went wrong.  Or at least, one in which relatively little went wrong.  You may think that by these standards I would have very few good days.  On the contrary, I was a very happy person and I had many, many good days.

Enter: children.

With children, there is no such thing as a day when nothing goes wrong.  Babies cry — every day — some more than others.  They fuss at inconvenient times.  They may resist your rocking/bouncing/nursing for 45 minutes or more, and then if they finally fall asleep, the moment you try to set them down they wake up — screaming.

And it doesn’t get that much better with age.  Toddlers cry — every day — some more than others.  They fall down a lot.  They spill things.  They refuse to put on their shoes or their clothes.  They throw tantrums (often in public).

Mama sometimes throws tantrums, too (though hopefully not in public).  And having kids has taught me that I am actually not the patient, tidy, well-organized, mellow person I once fancied myself to be.  I lose my temper.  I yell.  I forget to put things on the grocery list.  I forget the grocery list.  I don’t sweep the kitchen floor often enough.  I hurry my child along for no good reason other than I want to be going faster.

One or all of these things now occurs in my life on a daily basis.  By my old standards I would never be having any good days.  Ever.  So, in light of the fact that unpleasant things are going to happen as we deal with little ones who are still learning about emotions and trying to understand their place in the world, I’ve had to redefine “a good day.”

I’ve come to realize that having a good day is more about attitude than about the actual events that took place that day.  I’ve had to accept that a good day is going to have rough spots.  But if I can respond to those rough spots with patience, understanding, and compassion, then things will probably turn out better for all of us.  I sometimes forget that, as the grown up, I have the power to set the tone for our day.  How I choose to react to things will affect how the girls react in turn.

And so this is how I find myself at a place in my life where I might have spit-up in my hair and baby snot wiped into my sweater, and the clean laundry may be sitting in the basket another day getting wrinklier and wrinklier, and Adeline may have resisted my attempts to get her dressed for the better part of half-an-hour, and Quiznos might have forgotten about my delivery order so we end up eating pb&j tortilla roll ups (because I didn’t make it to the store to buy bread) — all this may occur and I can still look back and say, “Hey, we had a good day today.”  And, if I somehow manage to take a shower in the midst of all of this — why, then it is a great day, indeed!

PS — check out {i n h a b i t} at The Little List!

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18 thoughts on “redefining “a good day”

  1. I could not have said it better myself! this is just perfect! Every part of this post are things that I struggle with and feel everyday. I have the power to choose how the day will go and I work on it everyday! thanks for making me feel normal!

  2. Sometimes I swear you pull thoughts right out of my own head. Your logic on cleaning the house is pretty much my mantra as well.

    Your writing and honesty have been inspiring me a lot lately.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. Ditto! Just like the mothers in these comments have already stated – you captured how we define a new normal so perfectly. From one perfectionist to another – this is a hard transition to make. And it takes time. And in this time, our kids are growing up too fast. I think about all the things I want to do with the kids, all the details that go into preparing for these types of activities – but then, things go awry, things do get left from the grocery list {including the list – lol!}
    I use to define a “good day” as one where the kids didn’t cry at all that day. But you’re so right – it’s all about our attitude. Because they do model us, and if I expect them to keep their chin ups, and have a bright attitude – I should too as a perfectionist still {of course} 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this great post! How similar we all are! Have a “great” weekend!

  4. You are not alone. I get frantic and impatient and angry, and I react to those emotions in ways I’m embarrassed to admit! If you only knew how many days I had to sit Abram on my knee and say, “I’m sorry, honey. You didn’t do anything wrong.” And I am always humbled when he replies, “I give (forgive) you!” Likewise, our heavenly Father does not withhold His forgiveness when we fall at the foot of the cross and lament, “I yelled at my son; I am the worst mother in the world!” Oh, and by the way, you are a good mommy, and don’t you forget it!

  5. Thanks for your honest post–keep them coming! It’s inspiring to us other moms to know that we’re all struggling with the same things. You don’t hear about the difficulties of motherhood quite as often. We mothers don’t want to admit our imperfections! But, how wonderful when we can share those feelings, so we can encourage each other. Love what “gi” said about falling at the foot of the cross –I have to go there so many times a day! You are doing a wonderful job and your girlies are just lovely.

  6. Hi Sara!
    I found you back! It took me awhile to find you via Bits of Sunshine. I do my own website and haven’t perfected the comment thingy yet… so sorry for the delay! I look forward to getting to know you via the blog world and maybe someday in person too! ( i have family in SD)

  7. Wonderfully honest post. Tonight is an “in-our-jammies-already-Thank-God-no-one-has-been-killed-jumping-off-the-couch-’cause-dad’s-tearing-apart-a-laptop-and-mom’s-blogging” night at our house. We seem to have more and more of those as I realize that life is what I make it, not what I always WANT it to be. We are learning, like you, to relax. Soak it all in. Loved this. Loved your littles on the quilt. What a brilliant reminder that as moms in particular, days are about constant rearranging… readjusting… refocusing… THANK YOU!

  8. I need to read this post every single day. Seriously. This is a beautiful reminder and resonated with my own struggles so deeply. Thank you for sharing your heart and for participating in {inhabit} this week.

  9. Oh my. These words could have come out of my mouth-though not as eloquently. I too am a perfectionist and highly sensitive. I am working on revising my attitude-especially around cleaning and attitude.
    Thanks so much for stopping by and chatting!
    xo Angela
    PS Your babes are incredibly adorable!

  10. Thanks, everybody, for your kind words and empathy! It means so much to me, as a mother and a blogger, when people understand what I’m trying to say. As a mother, I’m reassured that I’m somewhat normal (or at least not abnormal!) and just consoled by the fact that others are going/have gone through the same things. As a blogger, every time I hit that Publish button, I wonder if people will understand or agree with me or just think I’m some giant weirdo. I appreciate all of your heartfelt comments. I know your time is valuable and it certainly does take time to leave comments as articulate as these. Thank you all so much!

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  13. Wow! bambinosteps turned me on to this post and I feel so grateful to have read it. As a fairly new mom and raging perfectionist I really appreciate hearing that I’m not alone. I feel very inspired, I plan to try hard to redefine my definition of a “good day.” Thanks so much.

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  15. Hi Sara! It’s almost a year since you wrote this post and now I have a little one – Ben will be 3 months old next week. I’m so encouraged by your post! In adjusting to new motherhood, my standards for a good day have also changed. I always look to you as an example of beautiful motherhood and I’m so relieved to read that your baby Bea also cried and that you also spent days with spit-up and snot on your clothing. It’s not just me! I’m going to put extra effort into compassion and patience – for my baby, my husband, and even me!

  16. Pingback: My One Word: Imperfection (part 2) | making life

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