I first heard the phrase "Progress, Not Perfection" a few years ago from the president of a company where I used to work. I immediately loved the phrase and decided to sort of make it my motto. I liked the idea of forgiving myself for not being perfect but commiting to try to improve.
Since then, I do always try to keep this in mind, but even as much as it resonates for me, it's regrettably easy to forget.
Every time I lose my temper and yell at my kids or my husband or my mother, I feel such overwhelming guilt. And I shouldn't! Compared to how I used to be ten, five, even two years ago, I barely ever lose my temper these days. When I look around the house and it looks like a tornado ran through it, I feel like such a failure. And I shouldn't! I am about a gazillion times more organized and clean than I used to be. I have systems now. When I serve my family a meal that came from a can, a pouch, or a freezer, I feel like I'm taking a very sneaky shortcut and wish that I had skipped watching 22 minutes of Throwdown with Bobby Flay and instead made something like Bobby made, preferably with free range, organic ingredients. But I shouldn't! I make healthy choices a lot of the time, I'm a damn good cook, and the occasional convenience food item is NOT going to harm us. The fact is I have a young and demanding family and I don't have hours to lovingly slave over gourmet side dishes every day - which may or not be eaten, owing to the whims of a two-year-old. I'll have time for that when the boys are older.
So clearly - I am the embodiment of Progress, Not Perfection. I have nothing to feel bad about. And yet there it is. I don't know why I have such an impossible standard that I try to live up to. It's, um, impossible. And nobody really cares if our floors are spotless enough to eat off. My kids will eat off them, clean or not. And if they are spotless, well, they won't be for long, with two kids and two dogs.
At the end of the day, our tummies are always full, there are clean clothes to put on the next day, we're washed, and the house is not sparkling, but there's no threat of contracting an e.coli infection from walking across the kitchen floor. We almost certainly ate more fruit than cookies on any given day, and there are frequently muffins baking in the oven for the next day's breakfast (even if they did come from a mix). The dish drainer may be piled sky high with dishes that I didn't dry and put away, but at least they're washed. I strive every day to stay calmer than the day before and not to let little things upset or anger me. I try so hard to breathe instead of snap, to distract or redirect instead of yell - and I fail sometimes, but I succeed often. And - most importantly, I think - my toddler son ends every day by saying "YES" when I ask if he had a good day, flings his arms around my neck, and kisses me while giggling. So I've got to be doing something right.
Maybe one day I'll make it to Perfection. But for now I'm going to be happy every day with just a little Progress.