Until recently I had been of the opinion that if a job was worth doing, it was worth doing well. Indeed this phrase rings out in my mind on an almost daily basis. I usually hear it in my Grandma’s voice .. I have a memory of her saying it to me when we were both younger and it was something that her mother had said to her too, a little family ideology if you will. And I find it useful. It helps me to do all the washing up at the same time rather than adopting a (never-ending) one-batch-at-a-time approach. It allows me to wash it all properly with hot, soapy water rather than allowing the last quarter to be washed in the previous three-quarter’s tepid grease. It makes sure that I soak and scrub the laundry rather than just bunging it all in the machine and crossing my fingers that my washing liquid will do the job on the paint, poo and pasta sauce that has come to dominate my (laundry) life. It means that the bees I paint on the kiddlies’ bedroom wall1 are actually quite passable in comparison to my first mediocre attempts that turned out just that little bit shit. Yes, all very helpful. Makes me more productive and at the end of the day I’m glad that I got those things done: there’s little to no smell of rotting food or dirty undercrackers in the house, the plates aren’t greasy and the bees look lovely.
A close to perfect bee
What I hadn’t banked on it doing, however, and what I hadn’t really even noticed until recently, was that it has stopped me from completing a variety of things that have been in the offing for a good decade or more. To start with there are those piles of photographs from a travelling adventure in 1999 that are still waiting to be put in an album because the album is ‘worth doing well’. Now I’m a bit of a photograph album perfectionist, so for me ‘worth doing well’ means that it has to have hand-drawn maps of the locations that the photos were from, excerpts from the diary that I wrote along the way and maybe the odd little sketch of something relating to the pictures at various stages (all beautifully scribed in metallic pen, of course). In summary, it has to be nothing short of a work of art. And it will be in 2078 when I finally get round to doing it on my death bed (I’m hoping for a 102 year innings).
Now photograph albums are one thing, but what if we’re talking about me applying for the job of my dreams? In this situation it is easy for most of us to put off applying for that challenging career catapaulting job by convincing ourselves that we don’t have quite the right qualifications. And sometimes this is true. I’m not going to run for President of the USA just yet, for example, as I haven’t read a newspaper in months, have very little aptitude for diplomacy and, most importantly, still haven’t got round to deleting all those offendingly compromising ‘Uni Days’ photos that some kind soul put on Facebook. (I’m also not American.) But sometimes we don’t apply or don’t apply yet for a perfectly achievable (if challenging) job just because we can find excuses not to; because it’s a little bit scary, or the job is too perfect that unless I’m perfect myself there’s no way I’m going to get it. So in the same way that I have put off doing my perfect photo album I start finding reasons that this perfect job isn’t for me: I only have the 1 year’s experience in a particular skill rather than the 3 they ask for in the job description. I start doubting my abilities.. “I’m just not good enough”, “I’d feel like a fraud”, etc. I’m just not the perfect candidate. Well here’s a thought. What if no-one else is either? The consequence of this situation is not only that I don’t get my dream job but also that the person that does get it is possibly not as well qualified as I am. And all because I was waiting to be perfect. Well maybe it’s time to stop trying to be perfect and settle for good enough instead.
Even Mary Poppins had a day off
Ah-ha so now that we’re banding around phrases like ‘good enough’, suddenly the concept of not trying to be perfect becomes a bit more familiar to me. As a mother of a wriggling, jiggling, giggling, squawking, food throwing, howling handful of twins, one of the earliest lessons I learned was that I needed to adopt a ‘good enough’ approach to being their Mum. Fortunately some clever soul thought to tell me this right at the beginning of the twin Mum fun-ride as it is physically and mentally impossible to strive for ‘perfect parenting’ with twin babies. So although I still did try to do some baby signing, baby led weaning, baby massage (when do I bloody get one?), baby swim-swim, baby silver service and cocktail waiting, etc. I did, and do, just about manage to remind myself periodically that just because I’ve had to push them around in an enormous Titanic monstrosity of a pram rather than have them all aesthetically slung around my body; just because I gave them puréed food rather than starting them off on organic beef wellington with a rosemary jus it’s just, just
possible that they will still develop into perfectly fine, happy, functioning adults.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not dissing the benefits of all those things I’ve listed and I do still find myself drifting towards the unnecessary where things like handmade play dough is concerned., but I’m also perfectly aware that whatever I do I’m still going to completely screw my children up. That is inevitable. Can you show me an adult human being with absolutely no insecurities or other character flaws? Even Mary Poppins is only practically perfect in every way and she can fly, slide up bannisters and make a flight of stairs out of a puff of smoke (and manage not to punch Dick Van Dyke in the oh so un-cockney mouth for two hours). So my point is, that we shouldn’t and mustn’t allow ourselves to worry constantly about how imperfect we are, whether as parents or otherwise. It is okay not to be perfect. In fact it is advisable not to be. So let’s all say it out loud. I am not perfect. But I am perfectly good enough.