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A simple—and effective—way to lessen the mental load of motherhood

Perfectionism is the pressure we often put on ourselves to do things extremely well. True perfectionists tend to judge their performance in the starkest of terms: Either they've done things brilliantly or they're a complete disaster. In some settings—a life transition or a challenging work environment—this drive can serve us well and earn us praise.

But when applied to parenting, perfectionism can sap the joy from everything you do, lead you to work yourself to the bone, and crush your ability to be present as you obsess about whether you did or will do a good enough job in each of your endeavors. It increases your mental load and can make you feel like you're failing before you even try.

Bottom line: Unbridled perfectionism will disrupt your capacity to experience contentment and joy.

Let it go

Freeing yourself from the logistical burden and psychological paralysis of perfectionism liberates you to manage the wide scope and scale of everything you need to do and helps you stay grounded over the long haul. It prevents you from expanding an already difficult job into an impossibly ginormous one, so that you can handle the workload with more ease and agility.

Furthermore, one of the best things you can do especially as a parent, for your kids and peers, is demonstrate in your own actions that you don't have to be perfect to be good or likeable or successful. In the age of illusory social media profiles, if we were all more open about sharing the things we struggle with, we might be able to disrupt the culture of the perfect parent. Who doesn't prefer someone who's accessible and real, anyway?

How to overcome it: Think max-min-mod

As a parent, with so many things to do every day, it's easy to lose perspective and always think you have to do things par excellence. Perfection is a drive for safety, not fear of criticism or wrongdoing. MAX-MIN-MOD is a tactical handbrake that slows you down enough to ask yourself, "Before I do this, what am I trying to achieve?" Then you can consider, "What's a good enough job?"

Here's how it works. For any task or activity that threatens to swallow you whole—or that you're procrastinating about because it's so overwhelming to complete to perfection—define three levels of performance: Maximum (MAX), Moderate (MOD), and Minimum (MIN).

First, MAX. What is the maximum I can do? What does truly perfect look like? Write down, very specifically, all the actions you envision that would add up to the most stellar job.

Next, ask what is the minimum I could do? (Yes, skip moderate until the end.) Imagine you have run out of time, you can't skip out on the task, but you need to do the most basic version that will still get the job done.

Then, define MOD. What is something above the bare minimum, if you have a little more time to make it special but not go crazy? Here are a few examples.

Let's say you are going to send a cake to school for your kid's birthday.

  • MAX: Bake a cake, from scratch, in the shape of your child's favorite character, with individualized party favors for every child.
  • MIN: Buy cupcakes at the supermarket.
  • MOD: Bake cupcakes from a boxed mix with frosting from a can. Top your child's cupcake with a little figurine of his favorite character.

Plan to have friends over for dinner.

  • MAX: Cook a huge pot of yummy stew, a gorgeous salad, and your famous cornbread that everyone loves.
  • MIN: Order takeout, have everyone chip in, and serve it in pretty serving bowls.
  • MOD: Assign each of your friends a dish to bring, pot-luck style, and make a batch of your famous cornbread.

Clean up your house before friends come over for dinner.

  • MAX: Completely declutter the front hall and closet (finally!); deep clean the kitchen and bathroom; vacuum, sweep, dust, and put a pot of orange slices and cinnamon sticks on the stove to make the house smell festive.
  • MIN: Toss all the clutter in some reusable shopping bags and cart them to the back bedroom, and spray the house with cinnamon-scented potpourri.
  • MOD: Grab a few coats out of the front-hall closet to make room for guests' jackets, stash kids' toys in their assigned bins, wipe down the bathroom, and light a scented candle.

Once you've defined three levels of performance, you can choose the one that's most appropriate for the circumstances, the time you have available, and what else you have on your plate. Sometimes you'll choose MAX, sometimes MOD, sometimes MIN. The muscle is breaking the all-or-nothing thinking that leads to overwork or paralysis, and recognizing you have options.

Excerpted from TIME TO PARENT: Organizing Your Life to Bring Out the Best in Your Child and You by Julie Morgenstern published September 4, 2018 by Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Copyright © byJulie Morgenstern. All rights reserved.

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Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

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