A Vacation from Perfectionism

July 9, 2009 at 11:16 am 40 comments

Right now Orison, Morrow, and I are on vacation! We’ve been visiting my parents in Erie, PA and then their lake cottage in Chautauqua, NY. Abraham was here for the long weekend, but is now back to life (reality) in Minneapolis.

Being alone with the kids means I have lots of parenting choices to make. Normally, my default parenting style is to be on the strict side. I expect my kids to listen to the direct instructions I give them. When they don’t, there’s a consequence of some kind.

And in my normal life, I’m ashamed to admit, I say “no” a lot more than is necessary. I say no to things that are going to inconvenience me or make my life more difficult in the short term to save myself some work. It’s laziness, really. It doesn’t serve my children when I act that way.

I also struggle with perfectionism. I want life to be “just so” and when my plans are derailed, I act out in anger and frustration toward the people I feel are blocking my “perfect” path. Sound contradictory? Um, yeah.

But on this vacation, I’ve been making a conscious effort to be as permissive as possible.

You want to go swimming? Sure.
You want to ride your bike for the 90th time today?
Sounds great!
You want to ride on the tractor?
I’d love to take you.
Bedtime at 9pm?
No problem.
You want a piece of candy?
(Whoa, this is really not typical me) Pick 2!

I suppose when many of the typical life demands are removed, I have more freedom to say yes. I’m not as worried about meeting a timetable, I’m not as easily frustrated, and I stop seeing my kids’ enjoyment as an obstacle to my happiness. Instead, they start to be symbiotic—when I’m making my kids happy, they’re happier, and then I’m happier.

Of course the fundamental rules of life still apply:

Respect your parents.
Listen and obey when you’re told what to do.

Not only am I less stressed when I take the demands for perfection off myself and my kids, my kids are actually more obedient when it’s time to obey.

I know that God is helping me to love my children more thoroughly, not seeing them as small inconveniences. Left to myself, I’m selfish, mean, restrictive (for no good reason), lazy… the list could go on and on. But for this little stretch of vacation, I’m really hoping to learn to enjoy my kids more. Hopefully it’ll transfer back to my real life.


Entry filed under: Family.

Hot weather is good for… naps. Blogs I Read: Honey for a Child’s Heart

40 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Andre  |  July 9, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Thanks for the post, Molly.
    Me and my wife aren’t parents yet, put it’s great to learn.

  • 2. Jen B.  |  July 9, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    This is so profound! I, too, have noticed that I am more fun as a mom when we are on vacation. It is FUN to say “Yes!” to your kids. I say “No” so much because it’s not what I want to be doing.

    Thanks for the encouragement to enjoy my kids. Squirt gun fight this afternoon?

  • 3. Julie  |  July 9, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    I am so like you. We just got back from the beach and I have noticed the things you are describing in myself. I do have the tendency of being very strict so that I am not inconvenienced, I need to learn to be a bit more permissive when at home and not worry about being inconvenienced.

    Thank you.

  • 4. Laurel  |  July 9, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Thank you, Molly, for this reminder. I see in myself so often the tendency to say “no” because I don’t want to be inconvenienced. Perhaps it’s incorrect to say that I see it often – I do it often, I recognize it rarely. I would like “yes” to be more frequent than “no,” for “no” to come only when needed. Thanks for the encouragement to say “Yes!”

  • 5. Ashley  |  July 9, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Hi Molly. I am so there! I have 3 kids and it’s so hard to say yes to many of the things they want to do, but I’m trying, esp. being in the middle of summer and them being home more than usual. I take it one decision at a time and try to pick my “battles” very carefully so that they enjoy their childhood and their summer.

  • 6. Kristin  |  July 9, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Thank you SO much for this post! Ugh, I so relate and was encouraged.

  • 7. Sturgmom  |  July 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Wow.I could have written paragraphs 2, 3, & 4. A wise friend nce told me that having children makes our own sin that much more apparent. I, too, tend to be lazy, selfish, and impatient more often than I am loving, permissive, and serving. Thank you for your transparency in this post. It’s a true encouragement that God can continue to grow us through our sin to make us mor like him for His glory.

  • 8. Karla A.  |  July 9, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Thank you for this post. I cannot even tell you how much that encouraged and ministered to me today!

  • 9. MrsMK  |  July 9, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Yep, me, too! Your closing paragraph is so true! Thank you!

  • 10. Jocelyn C.  |  July 9, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Wow Molly, thank you!! My husband just came home for lunch and I was saying: “Why do I say no to the kids so much? Why don’t I say YES! more?” He immediately directed me to this blogpost! Thank you for your honesty and authenticity!

  • 11. Greta  |  July 9, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Yikes – this hits CLOSE to home. My theory (thus far) has been that if I say “no” now, I can always say “yes” later but it’s more difficult to go from “yes” to “no”.
    You know…the whole growing into more responsibility and privilege thing.

    I love what you’ve said here and it sounds so good. I’ll be attempting to implementsome of the things you’re talking about.

    Good stuff, good stuff.

  • 12. Auntie D.  |  July 9, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    If you ever listened to Rachel Barkey’s “Death is Not Dying” presentation, she spoke about how her terminal cancer diagnosis made her change her perspective on responding to her children’s requests. Wonderful to see you experience this recognition without such a serious impetus.

  • 13. Tina  |  July 9, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    I love your honesty Molly. God bless you and thanks.

  • 14. Elisabeth  |  July 9, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I also ere on the more strict side, with myself and my organized life and I suppose probably with my son, who is only 7 mths old at this point.

    I’ve also found that when I’m on vacation I feel more free. This has particularly come out in my relationship with God, where the daily shoulds of prayer and Bible reading become legalistic. When I’m on vacation the shoulds disappear and I feel more free to worship as the Spirit leads.

    I love God more in these times and my husband says it is much easier to enjoy my company.

  • 15. Chris  |  July 9, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    So happy that you’re enjoying a nice vacation!
    I may have mentioned that I grew up in Erie, too.
    We were just there last week.

    And one of my junior high/high school friends used to invite me along when her family spent two weeks at Chautauqua in the summer.

    They rented the Ithaca, right across the street from the Amphitheater at Chautauqua Institution. We went down to the auditorium for a few shows, but often we just hung out on the balcony and watched from a distance and listened to Madame Butterfly and things like that.

    I can still hear the little newsboy calling out every morning, “Chautauquan Daily! Get your Chautauquan Daily!”

    Hope the rest of your trip is delightful!

  • 16. cvonhelms  |  July 9, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    I periodically look at your website. I found it indirectly through Desiring God. I listened to Rachel Barkey’s speech and was changed by her life lesson that sometimes saying no because it is inconvenient for me is not God honoring or God imitating. If we are called to be like Christ, we are not inconvenienced by our children’s requests. They are little for only so long and we should find joy in their asking instead of irritation in having to fulfill. It brings sadness for me for Rachel’s children now that she has passed that they won’t get to ask her for anymore requests and she won’t get the joy of pouring juice, or getting candy, or going on bike rides, or playing the Wii, or watching movies or whatever it is they want to do with her. Remembering this helps me treasure each request and you are right, the more I can say yes to them, the more helpful and obedient they are in response, funny how that works. Anyway, thanks for your openness and honesty

  • 17. Debby  |  July 9, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    2 Things:

    1. I can totally identify with the perfectionism thing. I’ll be recovering from it for the rest of my life. I’m so thankful Jesus came to save perfectionists, too!

    2. Thank you for the reminder to enjoy my kids, by your desire to enjoy yours. That was the best advice I got when my big boy was little…”just enjoy him.” Don’t freak out about when he learns what…just enjoy him. That’s been so freeing. And is again tonight. Thanks, Molly.

  • 18. Lisa S  |  July 9, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Thanks so much for your honesty! I often despair that I am too strict, yet struggle with what the right balance is. It is so encouraging to read your post and the comments here and know that I’m not the only one.

  • 19. Esther  |  July 9, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    What a relief to see that I am not alone. But, also, how humbling. Now, how can I overcome this perfectionism curse when not on vacation?

  • 20. Tricia M.  |  July 9, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Sweet post…some friends of mine were just talking about this the other night. I obviously needed to hear it again, with three little ones and another one still in my belly. I struggle with many of those same areas, thanks for the reminder!

  • 21. lindataway  |  July 10, 2009 at 1:49 am

    Nice post …especially for the young familly , i like to read it.
    This sharing make strong each other. ……Give your kids with love, be patience , ..touch, gift, service,and guiding in quality time although you very busy.

    Now there are a lot of cases of violences in indonesian’famillies….the children get a litle love, attention,food, study becouse they are poor.Poor in heart and poor in materials.

    I have 2 dougters and 2 sons.Winda, Michael, Weldy and Yohana.
    The oldest is a doctor now she is still studying the specialist of radiology . 6 grandchildren , the oldest 7 years old and the youngest 1 yaer old. There all funny and some time strike each other…
    When their parents are very busy , they take the children to me…..wowwww… 5 children in my house run, run and run, …cry,cry, hahaha……i enjoy but very tired, becouse i am 55 yearsold.
    My youngest dougter still study in Japanese Depertemen
    she love the children very much…..

    Some time their parents are very patience , sometime forget..but i ask them not to strike them, no to be provokated by their attitude.
    Becouse they are alitle agresif and hyperaktif..so we have to be patience .

    Now Parents have a heavy duty in wacthing and educating their children becouse most parents in my town work very busy in office. Their children watching TV and play games all day , little rest and food. …..I asked them take their children play out door. ….in the garden.

    Its good for their phisics, and motoric and health. Also you have educated your kids like that . Its very good for kids.

    Thank you…sorry my english is bad. God Bless Us.

    and food

  • 22. Amy  |  July 10, 2009 at 3:10 am

    I’ve been there….sometimes I am still there. Selfishness just consumes this flesh of mine at times. The Lord says our children are blessings. Keeping that at the forefront of my mind changed my life. (yet I continue to need reminders! Thank you, Molly!)

  • 23. henny  |  July 10, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    I wanna give you a serious high five!!

    no really, I know exactly what you mean. I struggle with the same thing. though I wouldn’t say it’s laziness so much as priority mismanagement – I put my comfort over theirs sometimes would I ought not to. I don’t do it always. and I put A LOT fo work into parenting and loving my kids. but i lack in the fun part. I love goofing off, but I take my work sometimes a little too seriously. you know how it goes…

    anyhow my point before I got sidetracked in my personal confession there for a moment, was that I’m glad you posted this. it’s encouraging to me. I’ve been working hard on correcting this the last 1.5 yrs. I’m making progress for sure, but it’s sometimes like walking through mud to change bad habits you know?

    ::::slapping you 5:::

  • 24. Aimee  |  July 10, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    hey. My sis in law has been talking about this same thing this last week or so. she is doing a “yes” mom challenge. she has posted every day so far on what she has said yes to. very interesting.

  • 25. Aimee  |  July 10, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    oh. just kidding. it is shanemerrittfamily.blogspot.com

  • 26. Crystal Malek  |  July 10, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Oh, Molly, this is soooo me. I just thought about that last week, that I say NO way too much. And same here, usually out of laziness. I really hate that and so desperately want to change. Feel free to post any practical advice in this area as the Lord reveals it to you, please??

  • 27. Michael  |  July 10, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    All that I have to say to this post is AMEN! It is as if I am reading a confession of myself posted. Wondering how did she get into my mind and heart like that LOL. Here is a {pat} on the back for making strides to enjoy your kids. I am trying myself and when life boggs you down the top seems so far away! May God give me back the joy of mothering !!!!!!

  • 28. Stacie  |  July 11, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Thank you for your transparent writing — on a topic that most of us moms could learn from.

    Much love,

  • 29. Elizabeth Esther  |  July 11, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Have you been spying on me? Or are you just my lost twin? Man. I rarely get choked up while reading posts, but this? Off to fetch Kleenex. Didn’t realize it would be so hard to look into the mirror of you and see me.

  • 30. Rachel  |  July 11, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    I’m not a mama but I feel this way with other people in my life (as far as hindering my plans, etc). Thanks for your honesty and desire to grow from it!

  • 31. jessica mell  |  July 13, 2009 at 2:52 am

    amen and amen !

    a helpful, timely post for me as i head into 5 weeks of summer camp as a staff member,

    thank you !

  • 32. Rachel  |  July 13, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Great thoughts- I think my biggest challenge is fatigue…. when I am tired, I am NOT the mom I want to be. Thanks for the insight and the challenge to look deeper into my reasons for saying “no.”

  • 33. Kelly @ Love Well  |  July 14, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    The sound you heard after publishing this post was me yelping because of my sore toes.

    Good gravy, you hit the nail on the head. I hate seeing my children as inconveniences, and I would never confess to that verbally. But my life’s actions often betray that’s what I believe.

  • 34. Amy  |  July 15, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    this is a great post! i wish i would have seen you for more than 3 minutes from a distance with the VIP tent separating us while you were in Erie, but………..oh well! a smiling face is always a nice visit 🙂

  • 35. Jamie Wilson  |  July 16, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    I try to answer yes to my kids as much as possible (within reason, of course). And there are days, often for several in a row, when I forget and drift back into saying no becuase it does inconvenience me. But the days when I say yes, are the most pleasant. For me and the kids. And looking back at some of the times I’ve said no makes me cringe. No, you can’t paint right now. Why? Becuase you’ll make a mess. (and I’ll have to clean it up) No, you can’t go outside. Why? Becuase it’s too hot. (for me, that is). No, we’re not going to the park today. Why? Because it’s too crowded (and that makes it hard to keep up with your younger brother). This post points me int he right direction, again. And it is comforting to know it’s not just me who struggles with saying no.

  • 36. cafegirl  |  July 23, 2009 at 12:08 am

    I am so excited to have stumbled across your blog! We are friends of Dustin and Kellie Shramek (which is how I found your blog – through Dustin’s blog, through your husband’s blog). Anyway – I so appreciate honest blogs about motherhood and I can so relate to a struggle with perfectionism! I am headed off to bed, but excited to come back tomorrow and re-read this post and the many comments…thanks for sharing.
    Jen Duey

  • 37. Phyllis  |  July 23, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    I’m a little confused as to the cause and effect with perfectionism and selfishness. Does perfectionism cause selfishness? Selfishness cause perfectionism? or Does sin cause both?

    It seems that Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength leads to loving neighbors, children, family, etc. as we should.

    I think I will start there:)

  • 38. Kristin  |  July 26, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    This is a good post for new moms like me to read. Thanks Molly!

  • 39. Lindsay  |  August 12, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Your self-description in this post fits me to a T. The Lord has been working on me in these very same areas. But I am in need of occasional (umm, I mean, frequent) reminders…which He is so good to give me. Your post served as one of those this evening. Funny…I used to peruse your blog pretty regularly, but haven’t been for about 6 months, for no particular reason. I got on tonight and checked out some of your recent posts, and saw this one. Perfect. A wonderful reminder to love (in word AND in deed!) my children more. Thanks for your honesty.

  • 40. Just say “Yes” « A wife loved like the church  |  August 22, 2009 at 8:49 am

    […] 22, 2009 Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah @ 7:49 am Tags: Julia Mabel, Mamahood I read a post a while back about loosening up on some of our perfectionism and allowing our kids to just be […]


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