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Past Perfect

Henchie Weinreb, MSW

As Jews, mothers, wives, employees, we strive for excellence. But when does healthy aspiration become unhealthy fixation? How do we reconcile our aim for perfect with healthy, balanced living?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It’s Wednesday about 11:20 p.m., and I’m standing in front of my washing machine. I cannot do this. I cannot look at the stains on another white shirt — I don’t want to pretreat them! I am so tired, I hate doing laundr… Uh-oh, I’m sounding ungrateful. Why can’t I just do the laundry and be happy? Chances are, the washing machine will break and I’ll be begging to be able to do laundry. I’m sure Shira never thinks this way — she’s always so happy, and her kids always have perfectly clean, ironed shirts. I am so incompetent! Just look at me, I can’t even get the shirts into the machine without having a crisis.... Uh-oh, whoops… there I go again thinking in perfectionist mode.   The messages we receive — both internal and external — seem unending. Do more chesed. Take parenting classes. A clean home is a sign of an uncluttered soul. Do not eat white flour. Definitely do not eat sugar. Invest more time in your marriage. Speak gently. We all want to be successful. As frum women, we often want to be successful in many different realms — all at the same time. And there are plenty of people with whom to compare ourselves: those superwomen who work, mother, teach, host — and whose kids say they feel like an only child because they get so much attention. Not to mention the starched white shirts they provide each day. All too often, we’re left floundering in a sea of inadequacies and confusion. How do we achieve growth? Just what is the difference between being a perfectionist and striving for excellence?

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