Welcome to the Getting Past Perfect Book Club! We’re kicking things off with author of Getting Past Perfect: How to Find Joy and Grace in the Messiness of Motherhood, Kate Wicker.
Q: Kate, congratulations on the publication of Getting Past Perfect. We’re beyond thrilled to have this beautiful book as the latest in our CatholicMom.com Books series. Please briefly introduce yourself and your family to our readers.
I’m thrilled about this online book club and the chance to introduce myself to your readers. My husband Dave and I met on our high school mock trial team, and our claim to fame is that we won the national title.
Fast forward many years later and we launched five children – three girls and two boys – into the world. We also have a fuzzy cat named Fang, a crazy Lab named Daisy, and a tank full of freshwater fish (all with brilliantly clever monikers, of course). We are a loud, sparkly bunch, life is never boring but usually messy.
After dropping out of law school (loved the school part, but I really had no interest in being a lawyer), I started my journalism career as a medical and health writer. These days I write about what I (sort of) know – motherhood, faith, and body image, along with a smattering of fashion, fitness, food, and other miscellany. I also have a monthly guest spot on Relevant Radio’s Morning Air Show, and I enjoy speaking and making people laugh and helping them find grace in the trenches of life.
Q: I loved Getting Past Perfect from the moment I heard the concept from you! How would you describe this book to a reader who hasn’t yet heard about it?
This is a book carved from an imperfect mom’s heart – a mom who at times takes on the nickname “tsu-mommy” because she crashes through the clutter and chaos in her home like a raging tsunami; a mom who feels like there surely must be a Bermuda Triangle for shoes because her kids can never find theirs despite Mom’s heroic attempts to set up shoe organizing stations; and a mom who has at different points in her mothering journey felt overwhelmed, overextended, and guilt-plagued.
I’ve wanted a book that encouraged moms without sugarcoating the role of motherhood. When I was a new mom, I tried desperately hard to get EVERYTHING right (perfect) ALL OF THE TIME. This wasn’t only impossible; it was exhausting and soul-crushing as well as unfair to my family. What a relief it’s been for my kids to see that Mom isn’t perfect because that means they don’t have to be perfect either!
Getting Past Perfect shares the wisdom and truth – most of which is Spirit-led – that I’ve discovered in my own quest to be an authentic, “good enough,” and imperfect mom who has managed to find joy in the messiness of life and motherhood.
Each chapter begins with an evil earworm such as “Being a mother is the most important thing a Catholic woman can do” that’s countered by an unvarnished truth: “Motherhood actually is not your highest calling. Being a daughter of God is.”
Q: Why is perfectionism even more of a curse in today’s digital age than it was in the past? Is there any hope in today’s “pinterest perfect” world that we can measure up to what’s expected of us?
Once upon a time mothers used to only compare themselves to the women in their immediate circles. Now the grass doesn’t only seem greener in the neighbor’s yard but in thousands of strangers’ “yards,” too. Our social media feeds are frequently filled with moms who craft or piece together chic fashion ensembles, cook gourmet meals, and/or run marathons in their spare time.
But these are just glimpses, and often carefully-curated and filtered ones, into the lives of others. Yet, we take what we see as proof that we’re not doing enough or we could be doing more or what we are doing is subpar. But here’s the truth: The only grass that’s truly greener is God’s.
Another factor is that as American women today, we are blessed to have so many freedoms and choices. The digital age makes us increasingly aware of these choices because we have easy access to all sorts of women doing incredible things.
But with all these choices and options comes the pressure to juggle multiple balls in the air all at once – to be a great mom, a humanitarian, career woman, throw elaborate birthday parties, etc. Instead of liberating us, we feel a crushing sense of pressure to do it all and at the same time, which just isn’t humanly possible.
Finally, without making too many sweeping generalizations, most women are just programmed to be people-pleasers. Perfectionism is rooted in a need for affirmation and approval from others. Social media provides an outlet for affirmation. How many likes can we glean from a post? How many Instagram followers can we capture?
Social media can be a great tool for encouragement as well as for spreading the Good News; however, if it’s making you feel inadequate, overwhelmed, or provoking any other negative emotion, then maybe it’s time to click away – at least for awhile. I did this during a bout of clinical depression and anxiety because looking at others’ happy images was really crushing me and making me wonder why I couldn’t be a better, more joyful mom, Catholic, and person.
So my advice to moms out there is to take a step away from the virtual world if you find the images don’t edify, inspire, make you laugh, or engender another positive emotion. You can always return to social media, as I did, once you’re in a happier, more peaceful place.
Q: How can a vibrant (and realistic) faith life be a balm to a crazy mom?
Nothing has taught me more about relinquishing control than being a mom. I can’t make my kids eat the food I cook. I can’t force them to poop on the potty.
Case in point: One tenacious child held her poop in for 15 days even on an adult dosage of Miralax despite my daily commitment to being her poop doula. This complete lack of control has been tough for a control freak like myself, but my faith has given me a lot of peace and strength during those times when I have felt frazzled or have found myself wheeling for control.
Sometimes all I can muster is a quick prayer like “Give me grace in this moment,” or “Jesus, I trust in you,” but it’s enough to settle things down a bit.
Likewise, my Catholic faith has revealed something very important. My children were not created to fulfill my own will or even their own will. They are here in this world to fulfill God’s will.
As moms, we can do everything “right,” and our kids still may not turn out the way we had hoped or planned. As moms, we will never give up on our children, but sometimes we do have to give them up to God. This takes a faithful heart, and spending time with the Word, participating in the Sacraments, and just showing up to pray (like everything else, it doesn’t have to be perfect prayer for God to listen) will help us grow in that faith.
And remember, if the story doesn’t have a happy ending yet, maybe that’s because God has finished it.
Q: You experienced an unexpected (and phenomenal) “surprise” during your writing project. How has the birth of Wicker baby #5 blessed your mothering and how did it impact the writing of this book?
I wish I could have included the joy I’ve experienced in having Charlie in a postscript for the book. Admittedly, I felt overwhelmed and uncertain when I discovered I was pregnant with my fifth baby.
A few years earlier I’d been really pining for a baby, but it just didn’t seem like it was going to happen and so I accepted my family’s size and also proceeded to give away all of our baby paraphernalia.
Several years went by and then I discovered I was pregnant again. I questioned God’s plan right away. I was terribly sick throughout the pregnancy just couldn’t wrap my limited, human mind around the fact that I was going to add another baby to our busy life and what’s more, I was considered a mom of “advanced maternal age.” (Whatever. My kids are the best age-defying goods ever; they keep me young!)
Yet, even during my pregnancy God began to cloak me in love and told me, often through the help and kindness of others, “I’ve got this and so do you with My help and grace.”
Still, I didn’t fully believe any of this until Charlie was in my arms.
I questioned. I doubted.
Then I looked into the eyes of this precious gift that wasn’t a part of MY limited plan, and all my fears melted away. This isn’t to say we won’t have rough moments ahead. I had my first troubles with breastfeeding in this postpartum period, in fact, and had to get help for painful, cracked nipples.
But all in all – and I almost feel guilty sharing this – this has been the most blissful postpartum experience (please don’t feel badly or like something is wrong with you or your baby if you have or have had a less than rosy postpartum experience; I’ve had one of those, too!).
I delight in holding Charlie and snuggling with him, and I can’t imagine my life or family without him. I know full well how fleeting this precious newborn and little baby period is. I am content to love on with my baby, and I give thanks to God for giving me the best surprise of my life. I’ve prayed to God and told Him I’ll no longer question His will or plan for me; yet, I know I probably won’t live up to this promise. But for now I’m soaking up all things Charlie as well as God’s goodness.
As I told a friend, you’ll never regret the child you have, but you might regret the one you didn’t.
As for the writing process, I wanted to be very honest about some of mixed feelings about the pregnancy. As a passionately pro-life Catholic, it can feel wrong to admit that you’re not over the moon about a pregnancy. But I think we need to be authentic and share what’s on our heart.
Just because we’re scared or unsure doesn’t mean we don’t love our babies. Likewise, what can feel scary and like a source of anxiety often transforms into a blessing. Charlie is tangible evidence of this. Getting past perfect is really about getting past the fear of not being in control. To do that, you have to surrender to God and to lean on Him more. I was trying to live this message with my pregnancy while writing the book.
Q: For moms who feel too overwhelmed to even think about picking up a parenting book for fear that they are too far gone, why is Getting Past Perfect a promise of hope?
I’m so glad you mention hope. This is such a beautiful virtue and one I keep close and have had to embrace to during my most difficult moments. In my book, I open up for the first time about a bout with severe clinical depression. It was such a scary, difficult time for me, and it could have ended very badly. However, somehow – even when joy seemed elusive – I clung to shreds of hope. I am so grateful God made me aware of this virtue when I was so mired in darkness.
Although not all moms will suffer from a mental health disease, motherhood—and just being a human being in this broken world—requires a hopeful heart. It requires the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness, that there is a point to all this—if simply to love the best we know how and to trust that God’s grace will fill in the cavernous gaps.
Hope also reminds mamas of a phrase that’s become a regular mantra of mine when I’m facing a particularly rough patch as a parent: This too shall pass. Newborn babies grow up and won’t always be feeding constantly or in constant need of mama’s soothing arms.
When I learned that my son’s preschool teachers had to remove all the toy kitchen utensils because he was turning them into weapons, I held my feisty, one hundred percent, testosterone-fueled boy close and allowed my heart to whisper, “This too shall pass. His weapons one day will be faith, love, kindness, and given all of his giggles, a sense of humor in the wake of life’s disappointments.”
I encourage other moms to remind themselves of the hope for an easier future, if not in this world then in the next.
Q: What are your hopes for those who will be joining out Getting Past Perfect book club and sharing this book in the weeks ahead?
Moms want to know they’re not alone – that there are other moms out there who struggle, who sometimes find their kids ridiculously annoying, who grapple with loneliness, frustration, and fears. This is what my hope is for moms who read my book – not only that they can “get past perfect” and focus on the wisdom of the only Perfect Parent there is, but that they will also know they’re not the only ones who have discovered both joy and hardship as a mother.
Sometimes parenting is tough and exhausting. Sometimes it’s lovely and fun. Every single day it brings me to my knees in prayer, asking for patience, endurance, a moment’s peace, or on a really tough day, just to make it to bed without completely losing my mind or my temper. We learn the most as moms when we stop pretending and when we don’t buy into the idea that there’s some magical formula to raise happy kids and to be a holy mother.
“Perfect love casts out all fear.” 1 John 4:18
I used to think this verse meant that I had to deliver perfect love in order to free myself and my family from fear and anxiety. In my spiritual maturity and as I’ve grown into my mothering shoes, I realize I had it all wrong. My love isn’t perfect, but imperfect love is still love.
What crowds out the fear and helps me rise and meet the many challenges of motherhood and of life is to focus on God’s perfect love. That’s where the peace rests – in Him and only Him. Hopefully, this book club will help bring mamas closer to more peaceful mothering.
Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?
I just want to thank you for having me and including my book as a selection for the Catholic Mom Book Club. Also, Ave Maria Press and I are hosting a social media campaign right now that ends on March 27th. We’re encouraging moms to share their #gettingpastperfect moments on social media such as the collapsed birthday cakes, the messy faces and counters, the sibling squabbles, etc. all for a chance to win some great prices. More details can be found here.
God bless you all in your mothering journeys!
Next week, we’ll cover the Foreword, Introduction, and Chapter 1. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Getting Past Perfect Book Club page.
Copyright 2017 Lisa M. Hendey