The Quest for Perfection

My husband and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. Over the years, we’ve often quoted my father-in-law, who said the following as part of a larger speech wishing us all the best at our wedding ceremony:

A couple was having a fight. It was getting pretty heated, and one of them said to the other, “The problem with our marriage is that I’m a perfectionist and you’re not.” To which the other person replied, “That’s why I married you and you married me.”

Makes you think, right? 

While the perfectionist could have been either the husband or the wife in that story, I do believe that working moms who are perfectionists are setting themselves up for failure. There is no such thing as perfect leadership or perfect parenting, and it’s the imperfections that help build resiliency in our teams and in our kids.

I was recently contacted by an assistant to the President of Barnard College, Debora Spar. She saw a strong connection between my blog, my support of women in leadership, and Debora Spar’s new book “Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection.” Here’s a brief snippet, from Debora’s blog:

“Today, women are regularly trapped in an astounding set of contradicting expectations:  to be the perfect mother and manager, the comforting spouse and competent boss. Not only do we strive to be the perfect person, and the perfect leader, but we blithely assume we will achieve it all.  And when, inevitably, we don’t, we don’t blame the media, or our mothers, or the clamoring voices of others.  We blame ourselves.”

Individually, parenting and leadership are immense responsibilities. Now imagine doing both at the same time, along with the goal of being perfect. The results aren’t going to be, well, perfect. 

You can read more about Debora and her book on


© 2013 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.

The Power of Imperfection

“Perfect parenting does not exist, and it is the imperfections that lead to resilient children.”  

The Most Reverend Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori spoke these words at Maria Shriver’s Women’s Conference in 2010. She was on a panel about leadership, and the conversation touched on the stress that working parents often feel.

When I heard Dr. Schori’s comment, I remember feeling an immediate sense of relief. I know I’m not perfect, but I had never before thought about the benefits of making mistakes. Every parent wants what is best for their child, to protect them from harm, and to unconditionally love them. However, we are humans and we make mistakes; we might forget to send our child to school with their lunch, we might drop them off at a soccer practice without making sure that the coach is there, we might forget that the fuel tank is approaching empty when we let our newly licensed child drive it for the first time, and so on. Each of these mistakes can provide learning opportunities for our children.

Just as perfect parenting does not exist, the same holds true for perfect leadership. As leaders, we strive to do our best, but we should accept the imperfections in our leadership. These shortcomings can help our team learn, become resilient, and develop their own leadership style.

I’m not advocating that parents or leaders should try to make mistakes; instead, I believe that we should be comfortable with the fact that we are not perfect. Chances are, our children and our staff are more resilient as a result.

Do you agree?


© 2012 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.