A post-script to International Women’s Day

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My Type A senior daughter is having a hard time with my recovery as a Former Perfectionist.  I pretend I don’t hear the tuts as her perfectly made up, whipped-into-shape-eyebrows scan the slightly grubby windows, the shaggy pile floor (not carpeted but unswept in dog hairs), and the belching basket of laundry.

She keeps asking when I’m going to fall off the wagon and start being a ‘proper mum’ again. I say,”hopefully never,” and she runs away screaming for the hoover.  When I was growing up, my mum would mutter as she restocked the dishwasher I had just packed,  “If you want something done, do it yourself.” 

As I grew into a Very Busy Person I also understood the saying “if you want something done, ask a busy person.” I celebrated that I was one of Those People Who Got Stuff Done. After I fell flat on my face when Having It All really meant Doing It All, I realised that being a perfectionist was not serving me. 

As a perfectionist EVERYTHING had to be done to a VERY HIGH STANDARD.   Now I’m a single parent, the simple physics of that means Perfectionism = Death by Overwhelm.

So now I do things like ask my daughters to sort out the laundry basket.  Do they do it ‘perfectly’? Do they fuck.

Do I end up occasionally trying to get half-awake legs into Age 9 knickers and in blind panic wonder has my Doritos consumption just added three stone to my weight overnight? Hell yes!  But has the hideous job of sifting through 203 white trainer socks in four, only slightly tangibly different sizes, been done by someone other than me? Yes. Pass the Gin!

I occasionally ask one of them to hoover the upstairs while I make the dinner/send an email/do the on-line food shop. Do they do the skirting boards? In fact does the hoover even hover anywhere near the edges of the carpet, rather than just a broad sweep of the middle of the room? Of course not. Do I care anymore?  No. Even if I get to those parts every third hoover, it’s clean enough for this Hair Blowing in the Wind, Head Thrown Back Laughing Recovering Perfectionist, baby. 

All this is by way of explaining that I was meant to post this last Friday as part of International Women’s Day – the global gluttony of high-fiving, celebration of the fairer sex (ironically not paid fairly).

When this Day first started having prominence, I wondered if it was a bit icky. But now I think it’s great.  I went to see Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speak last year, and she spoke about how it’s not enough to talk about equality – you have to name the deficit, otherwise you can’t change it.  So I’m all in favour, and it was really uplifting to see so many incredible events, speakers, memes, and discussions take place.

But – and this is not a but where the previous part of the sentence is rendered meaningless, so perhaps I should say, also –  Also, I believe that while celebrating the role models is great, it’s also pretty important to celebrate the every day non-models for whom, some days, just getting to the end of that day without their head exploding is an achievement, as they hang on by the fingernails of one hand on the Brink of Overwhelm, while ball juggling with the other.

As The MidLife Coach, I’m coaching women in off this windowledge, and they are wonderful feisty, falling apart, holding it all together kind of women. Recently, I was reading about celebrating our failures, and I’m all for that.

Rather than always holding up these inspirational women as aspirations on International Women’s Day, we should also pat a few hunched-over backs of ‘ordinary’ women, because let’s face it.  Most of us are still trying to work out how we wear all the hats we need to wear, (without getting a flat hair head) and why, oh why our Benefit lip balm is always the last fecking thing we pull out of the dark pit of our handbags, after the spare tea bag, the wet wipe from Burger King, 13 sandless emery boards, a freely handed out condom (optimism), 3 loose Nurofen tabs (pessimism), a mini book on Buddhism (covering all bases) and a mini light your daughter gave you to help find things in handbag now your eyesight is diminishing faster than a tub of Haagen Daz on a Saturday night Netflix binge. (Or is that just me?)

I celebrate the role models, the groundbreakers, the paradigm shifters, the campaigners, the glass ceiling shatterers, the stereotype smashers, the women using their voices, taking up their space, and in doing so creating an audience and a place for us all.

But I also celebrate the women who are doing the best they can and getting through the day; who are giving out love, affection, support, tissues, Gin, hugs, encouragement while delivering on deadlines and expectations, juggling balls, picking up dirty laundry from the floor, taking time out to maybe get their nails done, finding five minutes to read a good book and then ringing a friend to share the recommendation.

I was meant to write this for International Woman’s Day but as a recovering perfectionist I’m ok with it going 6 days late. Because every day is women’s day as long as we celebrate the achieving, the striving and the just surviving ones too.

About Grin & Tonic by Alana Kirk

Bouncing into middle age armed with courage, ambition and a pair of tweezers (chin hairs for anyone over the age of 45 reading this) I am a writer with a mission: to redefine this midway point in my life when the last thing I want to do is hang up my high heels and become invisible. This is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end. A single mum to 3 fabulous girls, an author, and a fundraising consultant, both ends of my candle are on fire. As I enter this new stage of my life, I want to explore what it means for 'mid-aged' women today, who were promised they could have it all, ended up doing it all, and just do not identify with the traditional image of middle age.
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