At 38, I have come to realize that I am a recovering perfect parent.
My story began nine years ago after having my first child. I found myself surrounded by a certain community of moms that, well, had a high standard of parenting. Moms who tsk-tsked fast food, signed their kids up for expensive classes and shopped primarily at organic grocery stores.
Naturally, I tried to keep up. There was a certain standard and lifestyle of parenting that I sought to attain. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was trying. so. hard.
Had I heard Westshire Academy is now offering a preschool enrichment program? Oh, um, no. Was I planning to offer an alternative snack at my playdate because Claire isn’t allowed to eat doughnuts? Oh, um, sure. Was I planning to attend the children’s boutique clothing show featuring the newest collection? Oh, um, ok.
To be sure, these were (and are) wonderful moms. Don’t get me wrong. I just wish that during those first years of motherhood, when I was so new to it all and looking outward for examples and guidance, that I realized there is more than one way to do it.
Three and half years later, my husband and I moved to a different community and we had two more children. Meanwhile, I immersed myself in moms groups, MOPS meetings, meetup events and playdates. And I talked with mom after mom after mom after mom. (Did I mention I talked with a few moms?)
And here is where my road to recovery began. I listened as these moms shared G –rated versions of their dirty little secrets. And little by little I began to be liberated from this high standard of “perfect parenting” that I had been trying so hard to achieve.
I learned that – gasp – some moms let their kids watch TV. And sometimes a lot of it, just to get a few things done. I learned that some moms let their kids eat things that have ingredients that are hard to pronounce. I learned that some moms have houses that look like the toy box threw up – every single day. And, my favorite one of all – I learned that some (actually, many) moms don’t get this power surge after the kids are in bed and stay up until 1 a.m. to get all their projects done. Nope. Many plop themselves on the couch, turn on HGTV, and zone out for 30 minutes – if they can make it that long - before falling asleep.
And, I learned that all of us are looking around at each other. And often we are feeling sub-par. We have read one too many blog entries and seen one too many Facebook posts. We think Lindsey, Amy, and Kristin really are domestic goddesses with kids that read books all day and look like they just stepped out of a Crew Cuts catalog. And then we feel bad because we are not perfect like them.
In the middle of all of these conversations, I also observed. I saw that these Cheez-It-offering moms adored their kids. They got them to preschool and back and made sure they had food in their bellies each day and gave affection in the form of tickles and hugs. These were great moms.
Slowly, my parenting worldview changed, and with it came an acceptance of myself and my parenting job performance. Success no longer meant baths every day and 45 minutes of floor time with my toddler. I think now in much more general terms, and I give a heck of a lot more grace to myself. And it’s been rather liberating.
Here’s the way I function these days. I ask myself: Did I get a few healthy foods into my kids today? Did homework get done? Are everybody’s bellies full? Did I set some limits on screen time? Did I provide some sort of playtime environment for them? Did I give them physical affection and verbal affirmation?
If the answer is primarily yes, then I’ve done a good job. Maybe not a perfect one, but certainly a good one. So what if they’ve carb loaded for two days and I sent my son to school with toothpaste on his forehead because we were running late for the bus? At least he got a hug on his way out the door.
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