Perfection Is the Enemy

I have many stories to tell about our little homeschool: why we homeschool, how we blog about it, my very public struggles with homeschooling. But this time I’ll share what is on my mind and heart the most lately.

I am fairly confident (at times) in myself and my ability to teach my preschool-age kids. I’ve worked hard to get to this place over the last year and a half. I’ve researched, shopped, and learned more about homeschooling until I find myself in a good place.

Our homeschool days happen in short spurts:

  • School time
  • Story time
  • Nap time
  • Snack time
  • Free play time
  • Television time
  • Outside play time
  • Time off

. . . the list goes on and on. I have another long list of things that I attempt to conquer every week around the house as well. I’m still learning about balance. I’m still learning to let the dishes pile up and enjoy my kids. I’m still learning that the laundry, at least for now, does not have to get finished the same day. I’m still learning that husbands need attention. I’m still learning that I do not have to be a super mom.

Perfection is the enemy

Recently, I read something on a Facebook status that stuck with me: “Perfection is the enemy.”

Intellectually, I whole-heartedly agree with that statement. However, I must admit that my gut reactions to the events of our daily lives are the direct opposite. I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist – just ask my husband! – and that perfectionist desire really comes down to what I feel about what others think of me. It’s ugly, I know, but it is what it is.

I’d much rather get the entire house clean, top to bottom, than get a little bit of housework done. It gnaws at me when things are left for later. When we had only one baby, I still managed to get all the cleaning done. (Of course, it was not ever perfect, but it was really clean!) I suppose that I assumed I’d figure out how to do that again with all three kiddos. I still have hope that someday, when my kids are bigger, they’ll pitch in and we’ll have a tidy home again.

I should share that, despite the pictures posted on my blog or on Facebook, homeschool in our house never goes exactly as I planned. The plan is more of a guideline, much as it should be. Still, this bothers some part of me.

We do end up where each kid needs to be and I know that this is best, but it still hurts the perfectionist in me when things don’t go as planned. I am like a tree inside. The kids are the winds that bend me. (Okay, overly dramatic but you get my point.)


Homeschooling, marriage, parenting, and relationships of all kinds present challenges and these challenges are always an opportunity for personal growth. There is a kind of pain in growth, but real growth leads to joy and strength. When I see my little learners discover themselves and the world around them as they grow more confident, I’m encouraged in my silly struggle with myself to take joy and pride in them.

This homeschool mama understands all of this, and still I fight with that wretched part of me that cares so much about appearing perfect in some way. It seems so strange to consider all of this now – how I crave some unattainable perfection in life. How I still dream (to the point of anxiety) of a world where nothing goes wrong, no one fights or cries or pees in their pants or makes a mess . . . where everything is just perfect.

Big sigh as I finally take a breath.

This is something that I want and something that my head knows is not real. I know that the mess and goodness of life totally facilitates our learning, our growth, our maturity, and more. Inside of me lives this terrible dichotomy of desires. But over and over, real life takes a hammer to my quest for perfection. Although it’s quite uncomfortable, I pray everyday that my desires for perfection are someday completely crushed and that only my desire for God’s best for my family remains.

I have mixed emotions about sharing my thoughts on all of this with others. I hope that somewhere, some reader finds that she is not alone. I’m reminding myself that someone is listening and can relate and that I’m not the first to fight the quest for perfection . . . right?

Here are five good reminders that have helped me in this fight as of late. Cheers!

1. The very best days in our homeschool have been the days when I am able to roll with the punches, so to speak. These are the days that I’ve been able to step back and be fully aware of my kids and their discovery of knowledge, themselves, and their abilities.

2. It is perfectly acceptable to admit when one needs help and to ask for it – pun totally intended.

3. Getting off the schedule now and then is good for us, all of us. It keeps things fresh and exciting. Life is an adventure, and this is a knowledge that I want our kids to take with them when they grow up.

4. Mom and Dad need to take care of themselves and each other. When Mom and Dad are less stressed and more rested, they make better parents, teachers, spouses, and friends.

5. When my plan for the day is not working – whether that plan is to run errands, to clean, or to have school – it is all right to take a break. Get outside, go for a walk, watch a movie, or make cupcakes. Just reboot. I want the kids to learn how to be flexible as well, and what better way to teach them than by example, right?

We are such a work in progress here and are wishing you and yours the very best! Blessings!

Tina is a stay-at-home mother of three, married to her best friend for five years living, learning and homeschooling in New Mexico.

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  1. For us, it definitely makes more sense to go with the flow. My kids are almost 4 and 20 months, and anytime I plan anything it never seems to work out. I have general goals for the day, circle time/music time/reading books they choose/read long book i have chosen/cook something/play/eat/rest time. But, if I get beyond those basic labels, it doesn’t go well.

  2. I struggle with this as well. You are not alone! I have to remind myself everyday that life would be boring if all the days were perfect. I hear noise sometimes from my son having fun and all I hear is the mess I will need to cle!n up then i tell myself relax lol. I also want to do my best homeschooling but have found this year taking days off are ok here and there and he has not suffered from this but is doing great! Its a struggle daily and I pray we both can overcome it. Our house and dishes and laundry will always come but one day our kids will be grown. I am sure I will never look back and say I wish I cleaned my house more but I know I will say I wish I played with the kids more! Blessings. Jeanie

  3. Tina, thank you so much for writing this. Perfection is my enemy. This is our first year homeschooling and I have had to give myself little lectures about the dishes (they can wait until after lunch), the laundry ( I can fold it after the kids go to bed). I am still struggling to let somethings go. We are also in New Mexico and I have found that sometimes I even have to change our schedule do to the weather we have here (such as snow just this past Tues!). I keep reminding myself that I am not perfect, my kids aren’t perfect and we will have our good days and bad days. You are not alone and thanks for reminding all of us that sometimes we need to take a break and just enjoy our kids.

  4. Thanks for this post! I am just in the ‘do we or don’t we homeschool?’ phase, but I’m a (recovering) perfectionist, and I struggle with what it would all look like. God has really been working on my heart as to how I deal with my littles in general, but especially in what I expect from them. Perfection is the enemy has been pounding in my brain… Learning to breath and relax!

  5. Tina,
    I enjoyed this post. After five years of homeschooling, we’ve developed an eclectic style that works for our family.

    In your post my favorite reminder is to “roll with the punches”. Yes!! Several years ago we woke up to find my daughter’s hamster dead. My plans for school went out the window that day as we dried tears and buried the poor little guy. Allowing yourself to “get off schedule” – brilliant. Rigidity can crush the joy out of homeschooling. Oh! Taking care of mom and dad. So important.

    Wonderful suggestions to avoid burning out.


  6. I’m so encoureged by your comments ladies! Thanks for taking a minute to read this- I had something else ready but THIS was what was on my mind and on my heart when the time came!

    Heather, it’s close to the same here- basic goals at these ages are key 🙂 thx for the comment.

    Jeanie, you are so right! One day our kids will be grown and we’ll always have the laundry lol. Thx!

    Stasia, thanks for the good words… where in NM r you? I think the snow is finally done for us here 🙂

    Mandy, i’m glad this helped you in this phase- it’s a huge decision and I’m sending good thoughts your way!

    And thank you Laura! Your awesome.

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