P erfect.

Everything will be perfect.

I’ll have a perfect menu, a perfect table, and a perfectly clean house.

My husband of six months had just informed me that he would be completing a masechta the next week.

“Do you want to go out to eat?” I asked. “My father always took us to a fancy restaurant when he made a siyum.”

“Actually, I was thinking of making a siyum here,” my husband casually informed me. “We’ll invite my parents and your parents and all of our siblings.”

What?!? No way! How will I ever manage?

Yet as the idea settled, I thought, Wait, this is a wonderful chance to show everyone what I can do. I’m going to make one perfect dinner.

I spent the next week agonizing over menus, cooking up a storm, figuring out seating arrangements, and frantically cleaning every nook and cranny of our apartment.

The big night arrived. The house was perfectly clean, the table picture-perfect, the food cooked to perfection. And I was a perfect wreck.

The combination of stress, a series of too many late nights, and neglecting to eat and drink properly was a recipe for a migraine. By the time I realized what I had done to myself, I was too far gone to be able to keep down painkillers. I spent my “perfect” evening wishing everyone would just hurry up and leave already.

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn anything from the incident. For years, I continued to struggle valiantly to be a perfect wife, mother, teacher, and homemaker. I wanted to have a freshly cooked well-balanced meal on the table every night for dinner, the clothing folded just so on the shelves, the checkbook balanced to the penny, and time to play with and read to my kids each day. Bedtime, of course, should be exactly the same time each evening. Throw into the mix a physically demanding special-education job with a commute. I was juggling more balls than I could ever hope to keep up in a perfect array simultaneously. Something had to give.

A peek into my closets and drawers would have shown neatly folded piles of clothing. But come the frantic early-morning rush to get everyone dressed before I left for work, I was pulling clean school clothing from the pile on the couch or dining room table where it was waiting to be perfectly folded before being put precisely in its designated place. The clothing inside the closet was an illusion; it stayed where it was because nothing fit.

The toys on the shelves were carefully lined up with every piece accounted for. But that represented a mere fraction of the play items in the house. The rest of the myriad pieces, gifted on birthdays or Chanukah or purchased as afikomen presents, were haphazardly strewn all over the floor. At night I was too exhausted to put each toy exactly where it belonged. Since I couldn’t do it perfectly I merely kicked things to the side to leave a clear path for walking. Tomorrow, I thought, as a yawn cracked my face, maybe tomorrow I’ll somehow manage to clean this place perfectly. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 558)