The Cost of Perfectionism

I’ve always said I wanted to be honest and “real” here. But I’ll think who wants to read that? and stop myself. Then one day I’ll write something anyways and you all respond like you did to my post about feeling isolated as a stay at home mom. And I’m reminded that us moms have one huge thing in common: we love our children but it’s exhausting!

How many days do you get up and feel like your to-do list is endless? And then the kids won’t cooperate – whether it’s simply getting through chores & breakfast & starting homeschool (like my family) or you’re rushing out the door for school and work. (Input your scenario here.) And the end of your list gets that much farther away. Do this day in and day out and you have a recipe for discouragement and frustration.

The expectations that are put on moms these days – by others, and more likely just ourselves – are often completely unrealistic and setting ourselves up for failure. And who wants that?

Can I really be a good mother to 4 children, homeschool, keep a perfectly clean house, laundry done, cook homemade dinners each night, make sure the kids get socialization (heaven forbid that doesn’t happen as homeschoolers!), volunteer at church, go to the moms’ group, do regular play dates with friends, be a super couponer, and be an awesome blogger who gets tons of page views each month?

Of course there’s everything in between – kissing boo-boo’s, cleaning up spilled milk, writing a letter to my grandmother who has Alzheimer’s, brushing the dog, giving haircuts, reading stories, doing activities like play-doh, baking cookies. And it would be nice if I got a few hours of sleep at night, took a shower, read my own Bible.

You add your own list.

Is it possible? Maybe. But at what cost?

Perfectionism has a very high cost: our peace and happiness. Our joy.

We are human. We make mistakes. We can’t be perfect and be supermom. I’m sure we would all like to be, but the sooner we accept that we’re not, the sooner we can start really living and learning to enjoy today.

As moms, we have one of the most incredible, joyful blessings at our fingertips: our children.
If we are so busy trying to be perfect, we will miss that. And those small moments will slip away. When my daughter brings me a drawing she worked so hard on, do I look at the crayons all over the floor that the dog is chewing on and the baby is now using to draw on the wall with? Or do I hug her and thank her for that special artwork she made for me and remember what really matters?

I admit I have a hard time with this. I’m really quite a perfectionist, but of course kids have a way of inadvertently bringing the flaws of perfectionism to light. And my kids put that up front in my face everyday. I’ve recently become aware of how much joy I’ve lost in my life because of this.

Philippians 4:4 is a well-known verse but I think it’s meaning is often passed over because it’s so simple. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again; Rejoice!”

Have we lost our joy in trying to be perfect?

I’m trying to let go. To live for today, for this moment. And be happy and joyful. I know this will make me a better wife and mother, more than any amount of homemaking skills I have (or don’t.)

Will you help me with this? What’s one little moment that rang true to you this week? That made you say THIS is why I do it?

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About the Author

Erika is a happily married mom with four energetic children. With a love for Jesus, photography, organizing, and encouraging other moms, she stays busy and definitely does not have it all together.


  1. Shannon Stephens says:

    Perfectionism has a very high cost: our peace and happiness. Our joy.


  2. I have a real problem with perfectionism because it backfires for me and I end up depressed and doing nothing — if that makes sense. If I don’t try and attempt to succeed at everything then I can’t fail — ah, got to love logic like that :-)

    A moment this week that rang true for me — two moments actually. I was snuggling with my son (who is 7) and he told me that he thinks I’m “cute” and he doesn’t want me to go away (to the hospital) again because he misses me so very much. He was so seriously sincere, laying there gazing up at me and stroking my hair as he likes to do. I felt so right in that moment. The other moment was with my daughter (who is 9) — and it was the opposite of my son — it was letting her do her own experimenting and mini-baking project. I was nearby for advice but she did almost everything on her own and I managed to resist the urge to jump in and “show” her what to do or how to do it. It was tough but I let her be — and when she came to me with her little cake (a bit lopsided but very nicely decorated with icing and sprinkles) and said, “look mommy, I showed you I can bake on my own” with such pride I knew I did the right thing. I gave her space and that felt right also.

  3. I used to be a perfectionist til it crashed me big time. I actually would not go to sleep til the all the kids toys were put away, a perfectly empty and clean sink at night, every piece of laundry done. Wanted to look nice and keep up appearances, and that of my kids too. Almost to the point of ocd. It made me an anxiety ridden mom with no sleep and this lifestyle of choice had to go. I actually had to go to counseling to get it Undone. (now my husband laughs that i went TOO far. lol). I was home with my first 3 kids and then became a single mom due to abuse. Talk about being isolated! After moving to a bigger city, going back to school…and having to make A’s or it would kill me, working part time…I found my niche and a decent job. Got remarried, had 3 more kids and promptly got so ill I landed on my patootie. I have never been the same. The price we often pay for perfectionism is our health. Moms put ourselves last and our children, house, spouse and often everyone else first. Now a mom to 3 still at home and a live in tiny grand daughter, the isolation bites even harder. Kids are busy, I am so proud of all of them and what we are able to do for them and with them, but I do miss the “normal” life of a human. Mother means everything to me, but it has taken a lot out of me as well, and it does happen to so many others. I just say slow down young moms…rejoice in the amazing things that being a mother, wife, friend means…but remember we are to treat others AS we would treat ourselves…God loves us enough to give us life and I think I have learned…He also expects us to take CARE of ourselves too. That is not selfish…that is self love and self preservation. And without that, we cannot give of ourselves for long.

    • I’ve seen people pay for perfectionism with their health too. It’s just not worth it. I’m also seeing a counselor and have been doing better, it’s definitely a process though! Thanks for sharing all that, Eileen – it was wonderful to read. Have a great weekend!

  4. Ah, I’m a perfectionist, too! Thanks for reminding me that it’s okay when everything isn’t “perfect.”

    To answer your question, I would say that one of my favorite moments this week has been the time spent reading aloud to my daughters at lunch time. Typically I finish eating lunch before they do, so I will read aloud while they finish eating and clean up from their meal.

    We are reading a book of John Newton’s letters and I’m so thankful for the testimony they get to hear and the things we get to discuss from our reading. It’s one of the benefits of homeschooling that I would not have time for if they were schooled outside the home.

    Have a great weekend!

  5. You know I understand girl! Being happy isn’t nearly so hard as being perfect.

  6. First of all, thanks for the rafflecopter link!

    The moments that make parenting worth it to me are when I’m praying with my daughter before bedtime and she’ll say something like “Mom, you forgot to say thank you for…” She’s 3, and I feel like I’m doing SOMETHING right!

  7. I feel ya girl! I used to be the same way but with 4 children it’s impossible! Plus trying to be something we are not robs us of our joy. The only perfect One is our Creator! :)

  8. Great post! I think you summed up what a lot of Stay at Home Mom’s are feeling! I just had my son 4 months ago and have been home with him since. I work 1 day a week, which is nice for me to get out and have some adult contact! It is exhausting…caring for a little one is a lot of work…the job never ends…24-7!! I was a type A+ personality until I got pregnant and I feel that God turned me into an A- or B+ because I wouldn’t be able to survive Mommyhood on being A.

    Thanks for the post!


    • That’s why I was inspired to write it. Even for those of us who aren’t “perfectionists,” I think there can be a sense of worrying if we’re good enough. It’s tough sometimes.
      Thanks for commenting. :)

  9. This is a great post! Being happy is key in life! Living today in the moment is a great moto to go by~

  10. I’m not a stay at home mom, but I tell my friends who are that they need to find that balance. Being with the kids all day everyday can get exhausting.

  11. Perfectionism is such a myth isn’t it? Something we can never achieve but promises us that if we do reach it we will be sooo satisfied…and then we project this off onto our precious children..Hmm how do I know all about this! LOL
    This is a great post and a great reminder to REJOICE!

  12. Thank you for sharing this. It is so important that moms, whether they work outside the home, or stay at home with their children, realize that they can’t do it all. We are bombarded with so many messages about what we should and should not be doing, that it’s difficult to figure out what is right for us. At the end of the day, we need to turn everything off, think about our priorities, and be sure that our personal and professional goals are realistic and achievable. Oprah once said (and she may have been quoting someone else), “We CAN have it all, but not all at the same time”.

  13. We don’t have to be perfect because our children are! (at least they are perfect until the hormones kick in)

  14. I wish that I was more of a perfectionist at times.

  15. This is way easier to do as a grandmother than it ever was as a mother!! I love it more too!!

  16. It was great to find this I have four children 13 and up I found out in the last six month that I have perfectionism. Because of my child hood anyway last year I crashed I was homeschool in a new state my husband had bipolar so put kids in a great school The perfectionism Is worse now because stayed home for 20 years never worked so couldn’t find anything part time does anyone know how to get over the depression part of this I feel stupid helping at school all the PTA parents work I feel like I stick out like sore thumb I’ve slowly been taking one other projects now thAt the kids big I feel useless. Any advice would be great

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