June 18, 2012

On Being the 'Perfect' Mom, and the nursery reveal (part 2)

Do you remember those worksheets you were given by your teacher in grade school to practice handwriting? With the printed example of each letter in uppercase and lowercase, and a great amount of space for you to repeat your lines and curves until your letters began to resemble the examples? When I was little, I would painstakingly take my time to try to make sure that every single one of my letters looked just like the examples. If I strayed too far off course I would begin to erase. And erase and erase and erase. I didn't want there to be any trace of the imperfect attempts I had made. A lot of times these handwriting exercises resulted in paper so worn through from eraser marks, tears streaking the page, and a little Heather feeling so frustrated with herself. I haven't changed all that much in the last twenty years or so.

I am a perfectionist through and through. I'm not sure how much of that is just built into my character, or if it's tied to the OCD and anxiety I've had for most of my life, or if it's somehow a deeper need for proving to myself and the world that I can do something/everything right (and not having enough grace for myself). However, last week was a huge lesson-learning week for me, in that the one place I NEED to let go of this desire for perfection is in parenting. The baby is not even here yet but he's already teaching me so much :)

I like to have things my way, and I like to do them 100% to the best of my ability. I hate cutting corners, and if I know that I don't have the time or energy to do something well, I actually have an awful habit of not doing it at all until I know that I do have adequate amounts of time to give it what it deserves (a phone call to a friend, the stack of thank you cards that still need to be written, cooking a meal, working on a project, performing a piece of music, etc.). For weeks and months, I've been dreaming up fun ideas of how the baby's nursery would look and all of the fun projects I would work on to save some money and give his room a well-loved look. I've envisioned that the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I'd have everything done (in the order I want it all done!), I'd be well-prepared for his entry into the world, and I would do it all while feeling relaxed and calm. I wanted to give the nursery an owl theme, and I planned on painting a mural on canvas for the wall, I wanted to work on an applique baby quilt, and I definitely wanted to make my own mobile for over his crib. I've made dozens of to-do lists in the last month or so, and I said to myself that the baby couldn't get here until all of it was done. At least the BIG stuff. The one big thing that was left on the list was getting the crib set up, and finishing my little DIY projects for the nursery.

Well, last weekend, the crib arrived. My husband spent a few hours putting it together, with me handing him tools and pieces when I could, but mostly just taking pictures and buzzing around him watching his every move and making sure he was doing it right (like I know anything about putting cribs together). When it was finished, I looked around and realized that the nursery was ready. We had a place for the baby if he were to arrive this week. And I crumbled. I was back to the five-year-old version of myself throwing a temper tantrum and feeling that familiar panic setting in through the tightening of my chest and stomach... I wasn't doing everything right, it could be better, I wasn't ready yet, etc. I'd been feeling my body getting ready for the baby to come soon, and I knew that now that the crib was in place, all of his basic needs would be able to be met with the preparations we'd poured into so far. I realized that I wasn't going to have time to make a quilt, or paint a mural. I panicked about not being able to be a good mom, because I couldn't even get these simple projects done before he even arrives. I started thinking about being a stay-at-home mom, and how much pressure I'd been putting on myself to do everything the 'hard way' (cloth diapering, breast feeding rather than formula, making our own baby food, home-schooling?) to prove to myself that it was worth me pushing my husband to get a full-time job to support us and that I'd be a STELLAR mom just because I do everything myself and I do it well.

In the middle of my meltdown (which at that point was only tears and pouting, as I hadn't yet verbalized/processed exactly why I was sad), my husband pulled me by the hand upstairs. I felt like a child as I said, 'Where are we going?' And he said, 'You're going in time out. You have to get out of the nursery.' He plopped me down in a stool at the kitchen counter and opened the freezer. He scooped a huge bowl of chocolate ice cream for me, made me eat it, and then I talked through my (calmer) tears to he and his mom, as I started to put the pieces together about just how scared I was, and how I was afraid that I was already failing.

This week has been me coming to terms with the fact that I am NOT a failure. I love my son so much that my heart aches when I think about holding him for the first time, kissing his little cheeks, being able to sing him to sleep, hold his hand as he takes his first steps, let him know that he doesn't have to get it all right, and I love him for exactly who he is. I have already given this child more grace than I've ever given myself, but I'm coming to see that my love for him is greater than any silly craft project that I had planned on perfecting for him. He will love me and need me just the same, whether I put him in disposable diapers or finish his mural or not. I will definitely try my best, but I do not need to 'get it all right' to prove to him or anyone else that I love him. And thankfully I have an amazing husband who is going to be a phenomenal father to stand by my side even as I mess up every day.

I have come to fall in love with this nursery, our labor of love, and I LIKE that it is simpler, and quiet, and not all about Momma and all that she can do, but a place where we will be able to shower this child with love and spend the first months of his precious life learning how to be a little family together. So without further ado, here is our little bird's nursery:


  1. The nursery is adorable! I LOVE it!
    And if it makes you feel better, I was crazy about having a perfect nursery...and guess what? Carter is 1 and still hasn't slept in it ONCE! We used it for maybe 2 weeks until I realized I was crazy to walk into there to change his diaper when I could just do it in my room : )

    And are you going to cloth diaper?! It's FUN!!! I have become slightly obsessed. We used disposables plenty of times too, but cloth is so much cheaper and CUTER!

    Good luck with everything, you'll be a wonderful mom!

  2. I love this nursery in every way! The amount of love stored in those paper cranes is enough to keep any person happy for a lifetime. Love the re-use. Cannot wait to see a perfect little babe in your arms in that rocker :)

  3. I love your post. I know how you feel/felt. It gets a little bit over whelming as the time gets close. But at lest you have a nursery. We're still waiting on getting ours.

    Also, get ready for the baby blues. Those come after the baby is born, you just kinda start crying for no reason. I know that Ish felt bad every time I cried.

    p.s I love that you have the eceiving blankets I made for you in the changing table! :D

  4. The nursery looks beautiful. And you will be a wonderful momma. Praying for you and anxious to see your precious little boy!
    Mrs Breve

  5. You will be a wonderful mama because you care so much, and try your best in everything you do... multiply that by the 'love factor' of having your own child. Also, you have received one of the greatest things a new mother can have, and that is the love, care, nurturing and 'role-modeling' you have received from your very own mother. Of course mom's not perfect, but I don't think anyone has ever been as loving, giving, encouraging, caring, supportive and unselfish as your mom. I'm sure you'll realize this soon.

  6. Heather I love this you guys did such a great job! I love love love the bird mobile! It's just per....I mean wonderful!!! <3

  7. I can relate to so much of your perfection driven emotions! Your so amazing and will do a phenomenal job! I think God uses our children to help us learn grace. That certainly has been the case for me! I was just sharing some of my "you'll never believe what I did..." Mess up mom moments to your mom. she was a great sounding board. Can't wait to see lil Emmits face!! :-)

  8. Looks Awesome.