Good Enough is the New Perfect

Damn it all, it’s been way too long since I have sat down to blog it up.  So, I guess I need to play a little catch-up, huh?

First, let me start with some good news.  Ferris had his 90 day review, and while there were some tense moments between him and the CEO (The Wife), I am happy to report that his contract with us has been renewed, and he will be with us for a long time…pending a successful 12 month evaluation that is.  Just kidding kiddo, you can stay.

The big news since we last spoke (I wrote, you read) is that Ferris started daycare this week.  Unfortunately yes, the time has come for the Wife to head back to work.  Well, not to imply that what she has been up to as of late was a 3 month vacation by any means.

In a perfect world (my perfect world that is) we would never have to send Ferris to daycare at all.  No, we wouldn’t be rich and saddle the kid with a nanny 24/7…..wait, I take back the rich part.  We “WOULD” be rich, but no nanny.  In fact, in my perfect world I would be able to do something like this (writing that is) for a living, which would allow me to stay home and kick it with the Mini-Me.  I totally said that last part (“kick it”) just to get under the Wife’s skin.  She seems to think that I view being a stay at home parent as a party or something.  It’s good to see even with all our ups and downs through this whole process we still haven’t lost our sense of humor; or at least our sense of messing with each other.

I dare you to try and tell me this is not awesome

To clarify, I *do not* think being a stay-at-home-parent is a party.  I realize it’s hard work.  Shit, I saw how hard it was on the Wife, but I think she’s sees how excited I get when I talk about the idea of staying home, which in turn probably makes her feel like I’m not taking the responsibility too seriously, when in fact I’m smiling at the idea of spending every day with my boy.  But alas, this is all for naught, as we don’t roll like that (money wise), so we are like most families in America these days, and need 2 incomes just to say we barely make it.  Well, that might be a little over-dramatic; we do well enough.

That’s kind of the theme of my thoughts today; good enough, or well enough, is the new perfect.  I stole that phrase from a book the Wife has been reading lately.  Good Enough is the New Perfect started as a blog, but has since found its way into hardcover/paperback in stores around the country.  The idea behind this blog/book is, in my opinion, nothing short of genius.

The blog/book helps new mothers see that their efforts “do” in fact matter, and while you will have more days where you feel like you accomplished nothing, or realize that all you got done that day was brushing your teeth (or not sometimes – don’t judge), that whatever little extra items you happened to squeeze into a day filled with caring for a needy baby (because all babies are needy) was good enough.  This particular message I feel is very helpful because I feel that a lot of new moms think they should not only be caring for their baby, but cleaning house, checking emails, grocery shopping, etcetera; and if they don’t accomplish all these tasks they somehow are failing.  But, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Sometimes it’s important to one’s sanity to be able to let go and say that your efforts are good enough.  As a Dad/Partner this has been helpful for me too.

One example of something that was particularly hard on the Wife was the idea of getting out of the house.  The first week of Ferris’ arrival aside, because let’s be for real – that first week you don’t even know what time/day it is, let alone if you can go outside and interact with the living –  it was a little bit before we actually tried to venture out as a family.  One particular reason was because our little one was not the best sleeper, which in turn made him very fussy and unpredictable at any given time.  This fussiness weighed on both of us, but probably on the Wife a bit more than me.  When dealing with a fussy baby you can feel trapped indoors at times, simply out of fear of how they will act.  Then to make the feelings worse, some can’t help but fall into the trap of comparing their situation to others around them.  What I mean by that is in this day of social media it’s very easy to see how, and what, everyone else is doing.  The Wife and I would see posts from other couples we know who had babies around the same time we did (we actually know a lot, surprisingly), and some of them were out and about within the first 2 weeks after giving birth gallivanting all over creation with their perfect angel-babies, while Ferris cried in the background.  That kind of stuff, while you know is not your fault, takes its toll on people (more specifically, Moms), and can make you feel like a failure.

While I have always tried to reinforce to the Wife that she was doing a great job every day (because she was/is), even though I could see she felt otherwise, the message of the blog/book has helped me see other ways I can help.  For example, since Ferris arrived, the cleanliness/habitable level of our living accommodations has reached a high of….you guessed it, “good enough.”

When we first brought Ferris home and someone would come to visit (which hasn’t been many people, but that’s a post for another time) I would apologize incessantly saying something to the effect of, “Excuse our mess” or “Sorry our place is so crazy right now.”  But now, when we get the occasional visitor I’m more like, “Eh, it’s not that bad.  We have a baby, what do you expect?”

By no means do I want to infer that the Wife and I have become so overwhelmed by the kid that we are living in squalor.  It’s just that, maybe things don’t get put away as fast as they used to, or maybe the laundry has found a new home on the floor as opposed to being hung up or folded and put away, or maybe our couch has become a catch-all for anything and everything baby related.  I mean seriously, it looks like Baby Mt. Kilimanjaro on our love seat.  As far as the clothes on the floor thing, the Wife will tell you the floor has always been my storage place of choice to begin with….whatever.

This is an actual picture of our couch (at one point in time)….and yes, I have already received glares and threats from the Wife for posting this.

So now, instead of getting frustrated and complaining about the mess around us, thus not adding stress to an already tired and stressed out Mom/Wife, I try and be more understanding, and even take that extra time to maybe pick a few things up here and there, or even pick up some of the Wife’s slack so she can get some extra rest.  This helps us both feel like we’re not complete slobs, and that we’re “actually” riding this crazy wave and managing pretty well.  You’d be amazed how taking just 10 min to fold the kid’s laundry and put it away makes one feel pretty accomplished.

The Wife may not openly agree with my assessment completely, especially not this week since she has returned to work, and thus been exhausted every day after work, but I know deep down she agrees.  Trust me, the couple of times I have managed to get that love seat cleared off so we can actually use it for the purpose it was intended, I see the joy in her eyes, and it makes me pretty happy too.

So, I say all that to say this….as new parents, you have to learn to let go a little.  Not everything is going to be perfect.  Yes, there will be some days where you feel horrible because you can barely function, and it only makes it worse when you compare your situation, or baby, to others around you.  So, is it easy to keep things in perspective when your child is crying and you don’t know why; you’re starving because you haven’t eaten all day; your mouth feels funky because you just realized you haven’t brushed your teeth all weekend, and to top it off you see every picture and cute video the other pregnant couple made of their overachieving baby, laying there so peaceful and serene as they describe “what a good baby they are”…..? No, of course it’s not.

But remember, you’re doing a good job.  It may not be easy, it may not always be fun, and anyone who tells new parents that “awesome” and “fun” is the way it’s always going to be is full of shit; but this too shall pass, and one day your little one will be the cute quite angel.  Trust me, I’m speaking from recent experience.  And you know what; any time I got really overwhelmed I would just stare at Ferris while he slept and smiled because I know I have the cutest angel for a son on this planet….and for me, that’s good enough!

See…I told you he was the most gorgeous kid in the world. Oh, well, I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.

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Step in My Office Bro

Over the past year, which consisted of an almost 9 month pregnancy; and now almost 3 months of dealing with/taking care of what resulted from that pregnancy, the Wife and I have received a lot of “parenting advice.”  And I mean A LOT!!

To be completely honest, most of the advice sucked.  The reason? Most of the advice was vague ramblings from people who clearly just wanted retell their experiences.  The advice I loved the most (sarcasm) came from those wonderful sources of experience also known as people without kids.  But, all joking aside we did get some pretty good advice too.

But even in the barren desert of bullshit parenting advice there have been an oasis or two of good advice providing that refreshing perspective we parents crave. One such nugget we received came from a friend the Wife and I met while attending a wedding this past summer. We’ll call this friend Heather. Being a mother of two crazy young one herself, coupled with her wicked-funny sense of humor we all bonded instantly.

Seeing that we had something cooking in the oven, Heather warned us about all the crap-advice we would hear from the moment Ferris was born, and how it will never stop. Over the weekend we heard many of Heather’s hilarious stories about her two boys and their view on things as both boys seem to be very bright for their young age, and very well traveled as the family has traveled to and lived in places most people will never experience in their lifetime, but those are stories for another time.

The one story that I found the funniest, as well as the most useful as a new parent was one about an event Heather’s family does each year.  And that is, Annual Performance Evaluations.  That’s right, each year the family, like any responsible leader organization, conducts annual performance reviews on each other, and yes, being let go is a possibility.

In the spirit of viewing the Preach family as an organization, our newest member is coming up on his 90 day review.  As I am no dummy, I know I am not the head of this organization of ours; that would be the Wife.  But, if I am not the CEO, I am definitely the VP of Operations.  And like any good manager, I feel it only right that I address our newest employee about his strengths, and areas of opportunities if you will……enjoy:

Dear Son,

With your 90 day evaluation approaching, and as your direct supervisor, I feel it only right that I sit down with you and discuss a few key points of interest before you meet with the CEO (aka your Mother) next week.

All areas are graded on a rating of 1-4, with the ratings such as follows:

4 – Exceeding Expectations

3 – Achieving Expectations

2 – Partially Achieving Expectations

1 – Not Acceptable

Customer Service:                                                                            Rating: 3

Employee understands the importance of customer service and strives to achieve this standard.

Supervisor Comments:  Your job is all customer service based.  And those customers are the people you are around when your mother and I take you out in public.  You are, most times, very well-behaved.  It is very much appreciated.

Initiative:                                                                                            Rating: 2

Anticipates demands and performs tasks without request.

Supervisor Comments: Because we are aware that you are extremely new to not only this organization, but to life in general, we are aware that you may feel intimidated about doing “things” on your own.  And while your mother and I are happy to help you learn, “not knowing something” is no excuse to lie around and do nothing.  Please make sure you are being as productive as possible, at all times.

Teamwork and Working Relationships:                                            Rating: 2

Employee regularly contributes to the efficient operation of the department/unit.  Employee maintains a positive working relationship with co-workers and management.  Accepts directions made by a group.  Builds trust by respecting ideas from others.  Works well with the team.  As appropriate, seeks to understand norms and reasons for change.

Supervisor Comments: Again, we know that this is all new to you, and that, at times, your frustration gets the better of you.  We believe that has resulted in a “fussy attitude.” Working well with your fellow employees (your mother and I) is the cornerstone of what makes this organization succeed.  If we do not succeed together, then we are failing together. The motto around her, while corny, is “Teamwork makes the dream work”.

Attendance and Punctuality:                                                                Rating: 3

Employee reports to work on time and is ready to work as scheduled.  Follows established procedures if delayed or unable to report.

Supervisor Comments: Your ability to be present and accounted for has been excellent to-date.  The only item I would ask you focus some attention on is being more present for your scheduled “nap times.”  It has been reported that you have been blowing off this part of your daily job function, resulting in an uneven sleep schedule, and an overall disruption of the night time process (i.e. mom and dad getting sleep).

Communication Ability:                                                                            Rating: 2

Employee communicates problems and work-related needs to supervisor and co-workers as appropriate.  Communicates honestly and accurately in an open, candid and respectful manner.

Supervisor Comments: There has been some concern with the communication between yourself and your fellow employees (again, your mom and dad).  Employees have expressed concern that they cannot properly give you the tools you need to succeed because, well, all your cries sound the same.  If you could please help communication by being as clear and concise as possible it would be a much better situation for all.

Appearance:                                                                                                Rating: 4

Employee dresses appropriately for work and follows the corporate dress code or as appropriate is in full uniform while at work.

Supervisor Comments: If I have said it once, then I have said it a hundred times; if you were any cuter it would be a crime.

Future Goals:

Employees and supervisor will revisit goals on a semi-annual basis to assess achievement standards:

#1 – Continue to grow big and strong.  Some suggested activities to achieve this goal would be increased tummy-time, learning to roll over from tummy to your back, and taking full advantage of feedings.

#2 – Develop strong sensory skills.  Take advantage of story time with mom and dad, start reaching out for toys during play time, and continue taking notice of everything around you (except at nap/bed time of course).

#3 – Continue to stay as cute as you are.  Management feels this should prove no problem for you, as you are already the cutest baby in the entire world.

Final Manager Comments:

Ferris, you have been with us for almost 3 months now, and while there are some obvious areas of improvement needed for future success (that goes for us too), your mom and I think you are doing a wonderful job.  You have been a wonderful addition to the organization and a blessing to us, and although we may not always convey that emotion, we would never trade you for the world.  We feel you have a bright future here at Preach Inc. and look forward to your rapid growth within the organization.  But, don’t grow up too fast ok buddy; your mom and dad do not want to miss a thing.

Love,

Dad

What do you mean he didn’t come with instructions?

Ferris is almost 3 months, and at this point I can honestly say, I still don’t know the kid.  I mean, of course I know he’s my son, and yes he recognizes me, to a point that is.  Do I think he really knows who I am, no, but he does know that I a person that is around all the time, and, on occasion, will give him his milky goodness he pines for; which warrants me a smile from time to time.

What I mean when I say I don’t know him is that I still don’t know what he wants when he cries….which is all the time.  During the entire pregnancy the Wife and I read numerous articles and book pertaining to babies…..ok, the Wife read the articles and books and she would forward them on to my email; I perused them.  We also attended a birth class.  In all our research and learning we constantly read/heard that from day 1 we, as good parents, should be learning our baby’s “cues” and “signs” for everything he needs (i.e. hunger, being changed, gas etc).  Well, I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t always work like that.  All of his cries look and sound the same.  And on top of that, he’s fussy about 75% of the day.

Don't get any ideas. This is not an actual pic of Ferris

The reality of being responsible for this new life was no more real than the first day we arrived home from the hospital.  If I forget everything about his birth someday (which, will never happen btw, it will be forever burned into my memory), the one thing I know I will always remember is the feeling I had when we got home, and I knew we were on our own for here on out.  I was absolutely paralyzed with fear.  I was afraid to make a decision.  I remember sitting on the couch staring at him asleep in his car seat thinking, “Now what?”

For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be a father.  I have always said how great I would be, and how easy I would make it look.  I now realize how ignorant that way of thinking was, and I have come to regret my ignorance.  So far, being a parent is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and I don’t feel like I’m doing a very good job.

As I mentioned earlier, Ferris is fussy and upset approximately 75% of the day; the other 25% is spent sleeping or eating, and maybe, just maybe a small time of smiling.  This has taken its toll on the Wife and me, from different angles, but the same frustration.  We find ourselves quickly exhausted by the constant crying and saying, “What do you want,” as if we expect him to answer us out of nowhere and clearly articulate his desire.  And, other times, we can’t help be feel defeated because nothing we do to soothe him works.

The more I think back on all of the articles and books we (the Wife) read, and classes we took, my frustration grows even more.  The authors/instructors would always say “how things” would be with our new baby with this air of absolute certainty, but in the end, they would always squeak in this little frustrating disclaimer saying, “Remember, all babies are different, and will figure things out on their own time.”  So, in the end we are left with no sense of certainty what so ever.  Where this may be ok with some parents, it doesn’t really jive with people like the Wife and I; two overly-logical people.

Books such as this piss me off. They give vague ideas of what "could" happen with your baby. And when it doesn't, oh well!!

The Wife and I are the kind of people that in life, everything has its place.  Every problem “should” be able to be solved with a clear, systematic approach, with a logical solution.  Needless to say, Ferris is not of the same thinking.  In the early weeks after Ferris’ arrival, I found myself dumbfounded that the Wife and I could not seem to get much more accomplished in a 24 hour span than brushing our teeth.  We just could not figure it out.  After several failed attempts to pull ourselves together, get the kid dressed, in order to go out and about, I found myself saying, “How is this possible?  How is it, that two, fairly well educated, highly functional adults be so easily defeated by this little person?  How is it that we cannot figure this out?”  As hard as I have felt this time has been on me/us, it has been exponentially harder on the Wife.

The Wife has been home with Ferris from the time he was born, which has been no picnic.  I feel really bad for my Wife.  All she wants is to play with our little guy and enjoy the fruits of happiness that we have heard so many of our other friends with little ones talk about.  Instead, she spends most of her day feeding and dealing with a very fussy baby.   After a while it wears a person out.

When I come home after work, as well as on the weekends, I try and do as much as I can with Ferris so that my Wife can escape for bit and have some space to breathe.  Whether it’s letting her run all the errands (which she is surprisingly ok with now, lol) on the weekends, or encouraging her to leave for a bit and take a yoga class, or even just to take a quick nap; whatever help I can provide.  But, it only helps so much because at the end of the day she still returns home to a fussy baby.  And now, with the Wife soon returning to work, she feels even more defeated because their time was spent this way, and not more enjoyable.

More evidence of our logical-wall getting in the way of being able to “go with the flow” is when other people ask us how we are doing.  The Wife and I are pretty honest people.  We’re not going to sugar-coat the situation for you; you asked, so we’re going to be honest.  Where most people would say they are doing great; never better even, while they look like they have not slept in weeks, the Wife and I shoot you straight.  We tell them is kind of blows, and the Ferris is kind of a dick most days.  This is usually met with shocked and dumbfounded looks.  Because let’s be honest, majority of people out there don’t “really” want to know how you’re doing.  They just want to hear you say you’re doing great, that way they can feel good about themselves for asking.  Listen, people, we’re not saying we don’t love the little booger, because we do with all our hearts.  It’s just sometimes he’s kind of a jerk with the way he acts.

The few people who have been able to move past our brutal honesty have always given us the same advice, which in turns drives me nuts.  And that is, “Oh, I’m sorry he’s so fussy.  Don’t worry; it will get better with time.”  Really?!?  That’s your fucking advice?  It will get better with time?  Wow, thanks, now I feel so much better.  I will always remember that when the boy is screaming in the middle of the night, or when he refuses to go to sleep for more than an hour out of the day.  No more getting frustrated over here because I was given the Buddha-like words of wisdom of, “Don’t worry; it will get better with time.”

Seriously, why could this kid come with an instruction manual?  You get an instructional type manual with every product you buy these days; from the 900 page owner’s guide in a new car that explains what to do if your car acts, feels, or sounds a certain way, to the simplest toy Lego set.  Hell, even our baby monitor came with 2 types of instruction manuals; one big booklet (int 4 different languages) to read, and a 2 page cartoon illustrated dummy guide.  The monitor gets 2, but the object we’re monitoring gets none?  How does that make sense.

Honestly, hospitals should gigantic War and Peace sized owners guides to hand out to every new parent when they are being wheeled out of the hospital, it certainly would make things much easier.  Instead, the dump you on the curb and wish you the best.  They say, “Congratulations and good luck,” but what you really hear is, “Don’t fuck it up.”

No pressure or anything.