01 Aug Motherhood + Identity: Losing My Perfection
Each morning she’d rise from an eight hour slumber and jump into the shower. Makeup on, hair washed, bed expertly made.
Leaping out the door with coffee money jingling in her pocket, chit-chatting with the barista fashioning a flat white. Work still a good two hours in the future – life was good!
Fast forward three years, and what’s changed? Well, nothing really. Unless you count the miniature shadow that demands attention at every single moment, the tiny tornado of emotion who can shift gears from pure devastation to unfounded ecstasy in milliseconds, the creature observing each and every movement, word and reaction of its mother…
This tiny human that has completely and utterly undone me with a Love so fierce that it has changed everything in me. I admit it– everything has changed.
I’m mostly preaching to the choir when I state the obvious here: motherhood is a hurricane of shock, love, joy, denial, thankfulness, hysteria, doubt, intuition…and spiky legs.
A wave of euphoria swept over my husband and me as we pondered the perfect name for the babe brewing in my growing belly. It was the loveliest moment when we landed on ‘Peaches’ for our baby girl, and to level out the sweet with some spunk, prophetically coined her middle name ‘Wilde’. But, just as she was Wilde by name, my life quickly became wild by nature.
The cyclone didn’t hit until six weeks after our little one was born. In the immediate days following childbirth, I was in a state of euphoric bliss, endorphins pulsing, friends arrived with boxes upon boxes of peaches to our tiny one-bedroom. I was feeling the love…and then suddenly, I wasn’t. That is, I was on cloud nine until I ran headfirst into an old frenemy and accomplice, Perfectionism.
Since I was really little, I’ve always been a perfectionist. I just like to put things in place and make pretty surroundings and a calm environment. To be in the middle of doing something and be interrupted and dictated by a crying baby, I didn’t really cope with that straight up.
I found myself really needing everything to be perfect – it was like a survival mechanism I guess. My whole life, whenever I’ve been in very stressful situations, I needed my environment to be really calm. It was like, first my house would need to be very tidy, then I could handle all the chaos.
You never really know the measure of your flaws and insecurities, or how deep their little roots are planted, until they are challenged. For me, motherhood and all of its out-of-body epiphanies drove my perfectionist self into chaos and confusion. The character trait that had once spurred me to create and excel in my younger years was all of a sudden condemning me, guilting me, overwhelming me and controlling me.
I was like, yep, I can do this, I can achieve everything and have a baby and run a business and be a wife and all these things. Then I got to a point when I realised, um actually no, I can’t.
I was telling myself that this is just what motherhood is…it’s hard. I thought I was just being weak, I was like, ‘Pull yourself together, women do this’.
It got to the point where I could feel the adrenalin of what I was putting on myself affecting my body and the anxiety peaked and I was like, this is not normal, I don’t want to raise a child like this, I want to be in a healthy state.
So I opened up to myself and the people around me and said, ‘I’m not dealing, this is hard’. I decided to surrender.
Not just to my unwavering desire that all the cushions be straight and in a row. I decided to surrender my mindset, let the chips fall, learn to embrace my imperfections, allow room for chaos and learn that the spontaneity of this little human was good for my soul. Her beautiful, messy, sporadic character was necessary for the undoing of me needing to have everything in its place to feel that sense of safety. It was bloody hard. But I made the decision.
I’ve learned that motherhood is a curious paradox. It feels at once as though you’re wearing your very soul, your insecurities and your deepest fears in miniature human form and at the same time, you feel empowered, strong, invincible, bold and courageous.
The deepest level of love is realised in us the moment we conceive and nurture our children; yet the same can be said of the second birth of our insecurities – often the very ones we’ve worked so hard in our past to overcome.
Perfection is a noble goal, but an unattainable one. I’m learning that if I should reach for anything, it should be excellence, because that word compels me to create without so desperately requiring it to form my identity.
Now I try to do things intentionally, if the house is a cat fight, I can just walk out the door and do my day. I’m learning to let clients down sometimes and say, ‘Sorry it’s actually not going to be delivered today’. I’m just being ok with not being perfect.
I still like an ordered home, but I’m not going to freak out if it doesn’t happen. Right now, I’m looking at dishes in the sink and Peaches room has clothes all over the floor and I can let it slide.
That said, I still often catch myself straightening cushions and repositioning furniture, and I laugh at my aesthetic and ordered nature. The fact is, I’m faced with choices everyday, to discover the freedom of not needing every single thing to be perfect, and to choose to let many things slide! It’s liberating, and it’s something truly precious that motherhood has taught me. I’ve learnt to give myself a bloody break, and smell the roses. You really should too, you perfectly imperfect goddess!
Tess Guinery is a Visual Communicator + Graphic Designer living in Palm Beach on the Gold Coast, with her husband Caleb and daughter Peaches. Tess believes the way we begin our day determines the kind of day we will have, and that our creativity is explored through our daily processes – starting with the small things, evolving into greater things. Follow Tess via her Instagram and blog.
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