Scene: You’re standing in the checkout line at the grocery store and the poor mom in front of you has a 6 month old strapped to her who’s been up since the 5am feeding and a toddler losing his mind over not being able to eat the entire container of puffs you have yet to pay for…
That was me behind that frazzled mama 4+ years ago…my pre-pregnancy self, standing there all rested and organized thinking about which store I could breeze through without wrestling a toddler in and out of a car seat, fishing for a bag of emergency snacks and hauling a 45 lb. diaper bag. In that moment anyone not that mother had thoughts in their head: “I would never let….”I would be….”, “she needs to…”
Our society is something the world has never experienced before; we overshare, we harshly judge, and we obsessively care what people think. And at the center of it all is parenting, kids, and being perfect. We can’t help it; I believe it is a byproduct of the internet age which isn’t stopping anytime soon.
How many times in your life were you told to clean up your toys or to put your clothes away? There are countless times we can think back to where an adult in our life was helping to shape us into the people we are today. Do more of “this” and less of “that”. As we developed and learned right from wrong, there’s a sense of perfection, I contend, we all have within us. This sense of perfection we strive for is different for each person. Most of us work hard at our job, relationships, finances, fitness level or other goals to achieve some level of perfection. While some might not acknowledge it, there are people we all know who want perfection in every area of their life. Society even created a word for “these people” called perfectionists. In some instances, that phrase is used with a positive connotation and in others it can be negative. Whether you strive to be a perfectionist, wear the badge proudly or even suppress our innate desire for perfection, you’ve probably wanted to be the perfect parent to your child.
In our minds we all hope for similar things for our children when they’re born. We take time to read books on raising kids, ask for advice from people who’ve been through it, prepare our homes for this perfect little human that you’ll soon be bringing home and go to classes to learn how to keep them safe. We look around at other parents and can see methods we know we will use in raising our child and look at others and think, “I’ll never do that as a parent”. We read parenting magazines, blog posts and research the best products for our kids. Somewhere deep inside of us, there is a need to be the perfect parent. Seeing your child for the first time changes you and makes you realize what’s important in life. It overwhelms you with emotion and an amazing sense of selflessness. It naturally makes you seek perfection in raising your child because they’re the most special person on earth. However, as a parent of a toddler, I’ve realized that my daughter doesn’t need the perfect parents. She needs ones that thrive on imperfection. This is why I have come up with 5 reasons why I don’t want to be the perfect parent.
- Embracing Clutter – My husband and I were one of the last siblings to have children, so experiencing our siblings transitioning their homes from young married couple to parents was full of “when we have children…” discussions regarding toys and lifestyle. Let me just tell you now. If you are a parent, at some point in your life there will be no escaping the clutter. Kids require stuff. Like a lot of stuff. And in our quest to be the perfect parents we have do what works best for our families. No matter how strict you try to be regarding the amount of toys you provide your children, there will still be grandparents and holidays to wreak havoc on your “simplicity plans.” The big infant equipment will eventually disappear and toddlers will learn responsibility and organization, but in the mean time don’t sweat it. I don’t know one parent who doesn’t have at least one room in their house dedicated to toys, so embrace the clutter and chaos and know one day you will miss tripping on toys and the noise of fun being had from your little ones as they grow. The organizational state of your house does not define your patenting abilities.
- Always late – BC (before children), I was never late. I always looked at it as being rude and considering your time more important than someone else’s time, and simply put…selfish (so naive pre kids). Flash forward two kids later and even if I give myself two hours to get out of the house the baby will still poop as soon as you put him in the car seat and your toddler will inevitably have a tantrum about their outfit choice and NEED to finish that coloring project before putting their shoes on. Do the best you can, but I promise that most people are either currently in your stage of life or have already been there done that. People understand how kids put a different twist on the logistics of getting out of the house, so maybe milk that excuse for all it’s worth- ha!
- Technology - Every other day there is an article about kids and screen time. What seems like a lot of screen time to one parent will seem very minimal to another. The fact is, if it’s been a rough day with your kids and you need to nurse the baby/fold laundry/or just breathe, it’s going be OK if you turn on a quick show for your kids so you can regroup. You are not a bad parent for letting your kid watch Peppa Pig in the carseat while you bring in the groceries, I promise! Everything in moderation; some days my toddler watches a movie and a show or two and then she will go two days running errands with me or playing outside without watching anything. There are seasons, and we just have to go with the flow. Not using the TV/iPad as a negotiation tactic does not make you the perfect parent.
- Strict schedules/routines – This one was hard for me because I am a type A person always with a plan in my head. I get derailed pretty easily when things don’t go the way I had planned, so becoming a mother of a child who didn’t nap regularly was a huge adjustment. I would waste the whole day trying to get her to nap, thinking, ‘once she naps then we can run to the store’…and then it would be 4PM and she still didn’t nap and I accomplished nothing. I finally realized, if she’s not miserable, then we can skip a nap here and there and try again tomorrow. By the time she was two we agreed planning around her naps wasn’t worth it because they were so unpredictable and most of the time it was skipped and she had an early bedtime. I remember the first year with our daughter was like having a different child every 3 weeks. Phases flew by and we were constantly adjusting to the new mood/schedule/milestone development. Moral of the story, kids go thru phases some good, some bad, but nothing lasts forever. Don’t miss out on making memories because it doesn’t fit to your kids nap schedule.
- Flexibility with milestones – This one is so hard for parents, especially when everything is shared on social media. We compare our behind the scenes to everyone’s highlight reel. Every child is so different, and every child develops at their own pace. Don’t get all caught up on comparing your baby/kid to your friends’ kids. Embrace their strengths and let them explore and work out their weaknesses. As long as we are rising our children to be kind and respectful humans in our society, it’s not going to matter if they walked at a year or potty trained by 2.
Parenting is hard, and wonderful, and messy all at the same time. Do what works best for your family and try to thrive (and survive really – haha) on the imperfection that is parenting. None of us are perfect, we are all trying our best. And to be honest, none of us know what we are doing…So when you see a mom or dad having a tough time, throw them a smile and a friendly nod saying “I get it; it’s going to be OK; you’re doing a good job.”