As a “recovering perfectionist” my aim in life is to make everything nice for everyone, but also to my liking. As a mom, that desire has multiplied tenfold. As a single mom, it has the propensity to exponentiate to a degree unheard of. As my children acclimate to new living arrangements, I need to keep my desire to fix their problems at arm’s length and away from them. Because, in my desire to fix the problem, I create more issues. Make sure to check out my other blog post about how the “perfect mother” is an antiquated idea that has been ingrained in us from past generations.
Here’s what I mean, by trying to fix their problems, I rob them of so many life skills that they will at some point need to learn. First, I rob them of the chance to take responsibility for their actions and their words. If they express a feeling such as “I miss you, Mami,” and I jump in to offer solutions to their Saudade or longing, I inadvertently teach them that they just need to express something and someone else will take care of it. Kind of like the people who say, “It’s hot in here,” instead of, “Can you lower the AC?” It also teaches them that people, (or perhaps more specifically I, their mother), are mind readers and can assume what they meant or what they want with these statements. Talk about the start of communication issues and relationship drama! If you think that the other person can assume what you want from a relationship by making a blanket statement, you set yourself up for disappointment and resentment when they don’t meet your perfectionist expectations.
When you can’t fix the problem, sit with it.
Secondly, I send a message that when they make a comment in the realm of sadness, longing, discomfort, or anger, it is perceived as a problem that needs to go away. The other day, while in session, I was sharing with my inspiring zen-like psychologist, the need I have to fix the “problem” of them missing me by asking their father for time to see them during the weekends that they are to be with him. She helped me explore my tendency to view this as a problem instead of a learning experience for them, and for me. This is our new reality. Time will be shared with each parent, for the most part, exclusively. I got the lesson intellectually. However, it was not until the next day when I was with my daughter and her grandmother that the lesson hit home.
My daughter had slept over her grandmother’s house. They spent the day together, then later her brother and I joined them. When it was time to say goodbye, my daughter became upset and my thoughts went immediately to “fix this for her, Eva. How many separations must she go through in one week?” I asked her if she wanted to call her grandmother to feel better or if there was anything she or I could do for her to feel better. Her response, “Mami. You can’t fix this. Let me be sad. Let me miss her.”
I was floored. Was she somehow tapping in my conversations with my psychologist? Was she reading my books on compassion, acceptance of as-is, and flow? She’s seven- years old! And, as it is for me in many of my areas of personal growth, my kids are my biggest teachers. She was right. The message registered in my heart and in my mind. Before you knew it, she was fine again. I thanked her for that special moment; she smiled, and we moved on.
Fix or Fail Perfectionist
We can’t fix our kids’ lives. The more we try, the more we fail. Life is meant to be lived by each individual. And as moms, we want to protect our babies from pain, especially if that pain is caused by our decisions that have both nothing and everything to do with them. No, it’s not fair that they are casualties of divorce. But would they be considered casualties of an unhappy marriage, as well? Our perspective that divorce is bad and being married is good also sets our children to grow up feeling pity for themselves. If we want to teach them well, we must let them sit with the feelings of sadness and anger. We must let them express themselves. We must teach them to be direct and honest so that their relationships can be healthy and mutually satisfying. There is a major caveat to this lesson – and that is boundaries. Our children can be very angry about something but that does not give them the right to become physically aggressive with anyone for the sake of letting out their feelings.
That is how we deal or fix the problem, by letting them live it and go through it. Much in the same way as we as moms, single or in a relationship, have had to go through our uncomfortable moments to get to the other side. Talking through these issues with professionals and loved ones can help. When you are so in it, and especially when everything is still raw and new, it is so easy to get sidetracked and fall back into unhealthy perfectionist patterns. If any of this resonates with you, and you need someone to talk to, know that you can reach out, I can help.