return to me week 3

Perfectionism & Alternate Routes.

I loved hearing from all who wrote to me this week. Two of the questions felt like they would strike a chord with many of us, so I’m sharing them {with permission, of course}.

Question: What happens when we are the source of the ‘shoulds’? I should make my kiddos a fabulous breakfast and have them sit and eat nicely, I should do all the laundry, I should clean the kitchen, I should prep dinner, I should teach them to speak Spanish (or sign language or whatever other amazing thing their supposed to know), I shouldn’t have the tv on, I should work out, only eat vegetables, only drink water, BLAH BLAH BLAH. You get the idea. How to I yank those weeds and give MYSELF the high quality no? I think my expectations of (and consequential disappointment in) myself is more overpowering than what comes from anyone else.


Answer: This happen for anyone else? Yes, that’s what I thought. And of course the irony was that the question arrived as I was walking in the doors to my daughter’s school where I was helping with the holiday festivities, because, well, I should.

Listen to the wisdom of my great-grandmother Daydee. She always told my Dad {her grandson-in-law} to do everything in moderation. When we are the source of our own shoulds, it is our perfectionism talking. And while, on the outside, perfectionism looks like we are the people who want to do things really really well, on the inside there is a different story.

On the inside our perfectionism is telling us to do it exactly out of fear. Fear that if we don’t do it perfectly, we {or the people we love} won’t be safe. Safe from…the damage of tv that will only show up later in their life, safe from the calories of beverages and how it impacts our waistline, safe from the diseases and conditions that exercise helps to prevent. Fear of not having clean underwear on {and your mother being right if you were, heaven forbid, in an accident and the paramedics and healthcare workers at the E.R. realized this. Although, let’s be honest, the state of your undies is probably the least of their concerns}. These are quiet little fears that hide inside our voices of perfection. You most likely don’t hear them directly. In fact, in reading this you might think “Nope. Not me. She’s got the wrong woman.” Try instead the word “worry” and “right” instead of “fear” and “safe”….that’s what I thought. Tomato, Tomahto.

So how do we give ourselves the high quality NO? We reset the bar. Yes I should do the laundry, and instead of a load a day, I’m scheduling it 3 times a week. Yes drinking water is the best thing for me, and a pumpkin spice latte is sometimes just the treat I want to enjoy. Yes I am the best teacher for my child, and the once-in-a-while watching of Mr. Rogers will not undo all that I have done. The question is, where is your bar? Is it at 90%? 82? 76.3? It is going to vary for each of us, and vary from issue to issue, and vary at different times in our lives. How do we know when we’ve found it? Because the voices get quiet. The ‘shoulds’ are silenced. They no longer call our name. Fear / worry no longer nags us into action. Play around with your bar, find just the right setting for each issue, and of course, let me know how it goes.



Question: I’m finding it easy to map roots and wings to the positive items in my life, but I’m stuck on the negative big picture ones. I’m not seeing a way to apply any roots or wings. Help. How do I do this?

Answer: There are lots of things that are going well in our lives, and those are the things we don’t think of as Big Stuff. For example: if your one year old just starting walking, that doesn’t feel ‘big’, it feels exciting. If your high school senior just applied to college and was accepted, that feels exciting. If you aren’t sure how you are going to pay tuition, it feels Big. The moment something shifts from big to exciting we release it and move on…to another concern. It’s one of the things we mothers are good at—scanning the horizon for any choppy waters.

So check your list of 5-6 Big Stuff items. Is it full of events that feel challenging or uncertain? If so, here’s an alternate way to look at the Underground Map from workbook #2.

In the original extra credit assignment, your job was to spread out all of your Big Stuff on a page. Then try and connect as many of your roots + wings to each event. In this version, we’re only going to run a single rail to each event {plus an engineer tunnel—we’ll get to in a moment}.

Before you begin drawing, you might want to start with sticky notes. In two colors. Write down your Big Stuff items, one on each note. (for our example: sleep, professional life, partner, neighbors, family of origin / in-laws. Switch colors and write down each root + wing, one on each sticky (ex: kind, pride, acceptance, confident, content, hopeful) . Now try and pair them up. Which root or wing would be the most helpful, the most critical, the most transformative to each event? Does acceptance need to happen most with your neighbors or your family? Is hope more critical to your relationship with your partner or your feelings about sleep? Move them around, play with them, until you’ve reached just the right one-for-one combination. Set your pairings aside.


Now let’s draw the Underground. Here’s a map template page, if you’d like, or, of course, you can use any blank age. Write out your 5 or 6 Big Stuff events well spaced on the page. In the top right corner, write out your roots + wings. Just below your list, write the word trust. Draw a line from trust through each of the Big Issues, just as it’s done in the picture.


This is a gift I am giving you. An extra root + wing that lies underneath them all. It is trust in you. Because you have it. It is already there. It might be a little faint right now, but I know it, I see it, it’s in you. Trust yourself. Trust your inner voice. The quiet one. Trust is the tunnels that the engineers ride when they need to reach a station to make repairs.

Now draw the lines from each root + wing to each Big Stuff. Your finished map might look something like this:


Why did we do this? We can’t change the Big Stuff. We can’t force teachers to like our kids. Or our neighbors to parent with compassion. Or our extended families to act with love. But we can choose what we bring to it. And you’ve chosen that which you need the most in those moments. A single feeling that will act as your emotional lodestone. Try making it your mantra, or write it on your hand, or put a sticky in your pocket to remind yourself, this is what I bring to the table. Then watch, as your emotional stance alters the tracks of those around you.

Free Guide: 5 changes in 5 minutes to make parenting better, easier, right now!