Author talks about "Getting Past Perfect" to find joy in the messiness of motherhood.
Sometimes it seems like Perfectionism might be the evil twin of Sloth. As with that deadly sin, perfectionism has its own insidious ways of tempting us to pride, self-doubt, and the need to over-achieve.
Kate Wicker’s new book, Getting Past Perfect: How to Find Joy and Grace in the Messiness of Motherhood, is written for those moms — and they are everywhere — who have spent their whole lives trying to “be more” and “do more” (and “be” and “do” it better, all the time) until they are driven to exhaustion — with a pit-stop at self-loathing — but rarely manage to arrive at their Pinterest-promised destinations of satisfaction or joy. Here she answers our “fast take” questions.
What inspired the book?
As I grew into my mothering shoes and faced my share of joys and challenges as a mom, I felt called to write a book that would encourage parents differently than a lot of standard mom books do. I had personally read through stacks of parenting books, yet what I craved was a book that presented an encouraging yet honest view of motherhood and all the fears that come with it. Moms want to know they’re not alone—that there are other moms out there who struggle, who sometimes find their kids ridiculously annoying, and who grapple with things like feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, anxiety, depression, and fears.
Just as my previous book Weightless sought to free women from being slaves to food, scales, unrealistic beauty standards, and unhealthy body image, I felt a real calling to help moms from all walks of life to overcome Pinterest-inspired perfectionism by replacing their deepest fears and anxieties with an unwavering trust in God and the freedom to love and mother their children authentically—and imperfectly.
What story or anecdote (or piece of advice) in this book most personally resonated with you?
One lesson – aside from the overall and important theme of ditching perfectionism – that is critically important for me to always keep close is to not compare myself to others. I’ll be mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and will see a beautiful post of children reading together from a homeschooling mom, and I’ll beat myself up for being a homeschooling dropout, even though I know sending my kids to school was the right decision at the right time for our family. Or I’ll see moms sharing their healthy family meals, and I’ll start to feel guilty for making something out of a box for dinner that night. Mothering has turned into a competitive sport. Whoever sacrifices the most—even her sanity—wins. But the truth is, motherhood is not a competition, and no one wins, especially when they fall into the comparison trap. Whenever we compare ourselves to another mom, we’re not doing ourselves—or them—any favors. Comparing might leave us feeling inadequate because clearly, we’re a monumental failure when compared to others.
When we compare ourselves to others, we can easily become lawyers and judges when we’re called to be witnesses to Christ’s love. We can be tempted to praise ourselves and rely on a false sense of humility because we can always find something wrong with someone else. If your internal scripts are incessantly critical of others—or yourself—it’s time to make room for grace. “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective” (1 Cor 15:10). One of the most important lessons in Getting Past Perfect for me is to be secure in who you are—even if you’re different from every other mom you know—and give other moms permission to be who they’re called to be. Women who live off grace have more grace to offer to others.
Did writing this book teach you anything?
Yes, and I suspect I’ll always need to review some of the lessons I learned.
I was having a rough week in the trenches while grappling with all-day nausea and throwing up during pregnancy as well as keeping up with a very busy travel soccer season among other things. I was filled with anxiety, wondering how in the world I was going to meet everyone’s needs once a newborn was in our midst when I already felt so overleveraged and overextended. Then I received an email with a proof of my book to look over and edit one last time. I dug into the manuscript, and the words didn’t even really feel like my own. Much of Getting Past Perfect was Spirit-led, and I needed the reminder that week that sometimes just waking up and showing up for our children is enough. In our relentless quest to exult and even exonerate motherhood from ever causing us any negative feelings, we can end up feeling defeated, collapsing into a heap of self-doubt at the end of a bad day, week, month, or even year. As I proofread my book, I reminded myself that I was falling into the same soul-crushing trap of worrying rather than trusting, putting way too much pressure on myself, and also forgetting that being a “good enough” mom is far more realistic and joy-yielding than trying to be a martyr mom who sacrifices all and tirelessly works to get everything right all of the time.
Writing and re-reading Getting Past Perfect taught me to trust in not only my ability as a mother but more importantly to trust in God’s mercy and love for me as well as for my children. It also taught me that my plans and all the things I long to control aren’t usually what’s ultimately best for me. I discovered I was pregnant when I was writing the book. After years of pining for another baby, I had recently embraced the size of my family and felt at peace with it and then—wham!—I was pregnant and sick with both nausea and anxiety. But as soon as my Charlie was in my arms, I was filled with gratitude and love. The transition was smoother than I imagined. Friends and family stepped up to help. I was blessed beyond measure, and I immediately saw that this new baby was yet another gift from God and yet another reminder that I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me. Charlie’s birth, beautiful newborn stage, and the way his siblings adored him solidified so many of the sentiments of Getting Past Perfect. I’ve got this. And when I don’t, God does.
If there is one person you want to reach with this book, who would that be?
It’s my hope that this book reaches any mom who might be struggling for myriad reasons, any mom who has suffered twinges of inadequacy, or questions her sometimes less than rosy feelings about motherhood. However, if I had to choose one woman for the book to reach, it would be a mother mired in depression. Having dealt with both postpartum depression and clinical depression, I know how hopeless and alone you can feel. What’s worse, as a Catholic, I also experienced crushing guilt because I told myself that my joy should come from Christ and if I prayed more, then I wouldn’t be in this dark place. I know now that depression is a serious medical condition that can’t always be “fixed” with spiritual action or faith. I want any mom out there who is wondering how she can go on and is so sad and hopeless that she’s not alone and that she needs help. Accepting that doesn’t make her weak; it makes her brave.
What is the ideal beverage to have in hand while reading your book?
I’d say it depends on the chapter. Sometimes you’ll want to laugh at my parenting anecdotes, and a beer would be a good companion. There are some passages that would go down well with a full-bodied glass of wine—and perhaps a good girlfriend or two nearby. Then there are some more contemplative moments when you might want to sip on tea or coffee and let it all sink in. I’m personally a coffee or vino gal, so that’s what I’d be sipping depending on the time of day!