My husband and I became foster parents nearly 3 years ago. We wanted to fill our house with love and laughter while helping children in need. We knew it would be a life-changing experience, but I never realized how freeing it would be.
I’ve always been a very structured and orderly person. I was often described as organized, prepared and a perfectionist. Then we received our first short-term placement. Shortly after she returned to her biological family, we received two toddlers. I wanted these kids to experience all life has to offer. Soon, words like “tired” and “messy” began to describe me and my house. While my heart was full, I still was struggling with balancing a full-time job, being a full- time mom and keeping up with the house. After a couple years of running almost on empty, I finally learned to stop trying to do it all every day. I let go of making myself feel bad and trying to be perfect.
When I let go of trying to do it all every day, I realized going to bed with dishes still in the sink would not hurt anyone. I learned as long as the kids still had one clean pair of underwear, the laundry could wait one more day. To save my own sanity I needed to say “no” on occasion when friends asked me to do something. I love my kids and my job, so I find time for both. During the leftover time, I tackle whatever is the highest priority and let lower priorities go.
A big part of feeling comfortable about letting go of trying to do it all every day was letting go of making myself feel bad. When I do not have enough time to grocery shop or enough energy to cook, I should not feel bad about taking my family out to eat. I was imposing rules on myself that were not only unnecessary, but were taking a toll on my self-esteem.
I have stopped looking at other moms and wondering why they have it so together. I realize now they only seem to have it together. No one is perfect. Instead of putting effort into trying to appear perfect, I put effort into things I enjoy and embrace my imperfections.
As a perfectionist, giving up on the quest to be perfect was difficult. I would take 2 steps forward and 1 step back. But each day offered numerous opportunities for practice and I have learned to let go. It’s taken a HUGE weight off my shoulders. I recently had four family members stay at my house (which would have given me a panic attack a year ago). Upon their arrival I told them, “my house isn’t perfect. Two adults, 2 kids and 2 dogs live here. If you find a dust bunny, ignore it or better yet help me out by placing it in the trash.” It set an open and honest tone for the weekend and we had a great time.
As a foster parent, my days are filled. Learning to let go of being perfect helps so much. The children do not need perfect. They need love, laughter and security.