Tuesday, November 12, 2013

in defense of the not perfect parent

I'm really tired of trying to be the perfect mom.

I'm worn out. I wake up from a lovely night spent with my 8 month old, achy and anxious because the lack of sleep is sending my mom hormones into overdrive and I feel like I can't slow down. Like if I don't sit with Rhett at breakfast he'll end up a terrorist (a little dramatic I know...again, the hormones). If I don't narrate unloading the dishwasher to Rad he will have a super limited vocabulary and never get a scholarship and end up with massive amounts of student loans (HORMONES.....). I worry that if I don't check everything off my to-do list my children will live in a home of chaos, or heaven forbid pick up all my kids toys without asking for their help and that they will never learn to be independent and hard workers even though I personally needed that room clean fast or else I might trip and die over the million action figures we own.


I can't win. I cannot do it all; despite all the blog posts and articles and yada yada that fill my Facebook page daily telling me how to be a better parent in 5 steps, or how to best teach values, and how to get a picky eater to eat, and why I should put my iPhone down, and how to have more patience and to not give my kids everything or make them the center of my world because that is a huge injustice for them and I don't feel like I have the slightest clue how to actually accomplish all that.

To some extent I really do appreciate every good article and every bit of advice. Seriously. You bring a baby home with no instructions and you bring an Ikea bookshelf home and they give you 5 manuals in 10 languages. I mean my degree is in Family and Child Development so I have read more than my share of articles on parenting.

And so since I have read a lot of parenting stuff and have a degree in it and have had numerous jobs working with children of all ages, some with disabilities, some from broken homes and am a whopping 3 years into raising my own two boys, I think it's time to make my thesis statement.

It is better for my children that I do not try to be the perfect mom (parent). Being a "good enough" mom is right for my family. 

And here is my defense for my thesis.

1. Being a good enough parent does not mean being mediocre. Mediocre by definition means "of only moderate quality; not very good. - Websters By good enough I mean that I have given my best effort for the circumstance. Because really, isn't that all we can ask of anyone? To give their best effort? Maybe some days my best effort is 99% and some days it's 7.4%, but either way I did my best.

2. It is better to do more with less, then to do more with more.

I think this falls into the whole quality vs. quantity thought process. Here's a confession to rock your socks. We don't have dinner as a family. We don't. I wish desperately that we did and we try, but my husband's work schedule is super irregular, my 3 year old is the world's pickiest eater and so eating with him is so unenjoyable and cooking dinner every night is super stressful for me. Now I know that each of these reasons could be picked apart to death, that if we made it a priority it would happen, that dinner together might help introduce new foods to my son, and that I'm sure there are a million ways to meal plan that make cooking dinner easy peasy. But I've just come to the conclusion that for this time in our life, it's OK not to have dinner together. I beat myself up about it nightly. And I'm tired of feeling like a lame mom. But then one night when we were putting the boys to bed it hit me. We have a kick-butt bed time routine. It rocks. We laugh and wrestle and sing and pray and snuggle and list multiple reasons why we love each of our boys. We do a congo line to the boys rooms and talk about the day. We love our bedtime routine. So yeah. Right now dinner time kind of blows. But I really feel that one day that will change. And right now our bed time is awesome and it makes up for not having dinner together.

3. It is important that my boys see me fail because then I can show them how to try again.

One of my parenting skills that I really try to work on is speaking kindly to my boys. To avoid yelling. To at all costs avoid demeaning them. I don't mean that when they need to be corrected I don't correct. I just chose not to yell and scream.

But clearly, I mess up. And yesterday I raised my voice more than I wanted to. And it clearly hurt my son. So I had the amazing chance to apologize to him. And we talked about it as much as you can with all the tangents a 3 year old inserts into a conversation and we worked it out.

If I was "perfect" that chance would have been missed.

4. Who in this world is perfect? No one.

I assume that one day my boys will go out into the world and start dating. They will look for a spouse, someone to grow with, someone to experience life with, someone to start a family with.

I think the world and society do a good enough job promoting the idea of "perfectionism." If I raise them with the idea that I am some super women/mom who is "perfect" I really think I would hinder them in looking for a spouse, or even a friend. They will be disappointed by those they love. They will never find the "perfect" woman. I want them to know that perfect means trying to progress. Perfect means getting better and better in incremental measurements.

5. You are your child's parent. You know best what they need.

I think we've all heard that you're not supposed to be your child's friend. OK. Really in a lot of ways that makes sense. But what if your child needs a friend desperately at the moment? My point is, if your child needs something and you think the best way to fulfill that need is not the norm, or the perfect ideal, that's OK. You are the parent and you know your child best. I love this thought from Thomas S. Monson, "Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved."

6. They don't care what you did, just that you were there.

This is my last point. The other night I was bathing the boys and Rhett was done and was just hanging out in the bathroom with me and Rad. I don't even know how the game got started, but soon he was running back and forth as I waved those party favor hand clappers around making that clapping noise pretending to get him. It was not an educational game. It was not Pinterest inspired. It was not planned out. But yet Rhett ran back and forth saying "this is my favorite game!" This game was good enough.

I know I have so much room for improvement in motherhood. One of my biggest fears is failing my little boys. Failing to teach them to be good men. Failing to teach them to serve others. Failing to instill confidence in themselves. But we have four principles that we feel are the most important to teach our boys. 1. That we will always love them unconditionally. 2. To chose the right. 3. To learn to see a need and to fill it. and 4. To find joy in small things and share it. And these four lessons are good enough for our family.

Everything else will fall into place or "be perfect" if we just are good enough with what we can do well.

So if you're like me and are tired of being the "perfect" parent, that's OK.

Chances are you're probably doing an awesomely imperfect job.

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  1. The folks I consider to be "perfect" are also the most boring people I know. Here's to imperfection and being interesting! Cheers!

  2. Well Julia, I am not a parent but I'd hazard a guess that you're probably doing a pretty damn good job of it just as you are. There are no '5 easy ways' to do anything that matters in this world, so throw that one right out the window and just 'be'. Your boys look happy and that is what counts in the end. Excellent post.

  3. Uhm. I actually think you're one of the most perfect moms I know. On a side note- I just let Noah eat four cookies so I could get through your blog post without hearing the phrase "MOM WHERE'S MY SPECIAL TREAT" 700 more times... Clearly I am mother of the year- but someday you might get up to my level ;) xoxo

  4. I have six children, I have fostered, I have babysat countless children. What I have learned is that kids grow up and they remember if you loved them. And you do. That's all that matters. Most of the other stuff is just window dressing. There are no perfect parents, perfect families, perfect houses. We are a society that is competitive and extremely hard on each other. It is so wrong. You love your boys, you are there, period. I think that anyone who tries to pretend they live their lives like a television show is lying. Your bedtime routine sounds amazing!!! That is something they will remember. There will be years to have dinner together, that is so not important right now. Stop worrying and just enjoy motherhood. The fact that you care enough to worry shows what a wonderful mother you really are. Step back and enjoy the moments that make you smile. They are the ones that matter.

  5. My kids are now old enough that the proof is in the pudding. I don't have to wonder any more if I did a good job, I can see I did. That is a huge relief. FYI, every picky eater I know grew to be handsome or beautiful in spite of living off all the wrong foods for a year of their life! In spite of every article that told me the importance of a balanced diet!

  6. Thanks for this post Julia! I really needed to hear it. I always feel guilty because I work full time from home and the TV has to be Lincoln's babysitter most of the day. I always tell myself, this is how it has to be right now. It might not be ideal, but I am doing my best. Plus, I do mke up for it with our awesome bedtime routine! He is one happy, well adjusted boy who knows he is loved even if I am not a perfect parent. Yay to doing our best!

  7. I think you are awesome, Julia.
    Thank you for being you! x

  8. My sister had a picky three year old eater as well- but they always say down to eat dinner together- AND IT WAS A DISASTER!
    He would never eat, always in time out, her food was cold, and by the end of the meal we were all tired and stressed out.
    Do what works for you! You are an amazing mom and are doing a wonderful job raising two adorable little men :)

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I really appreciate all of your thoughts and comments! They bring a smile to my face!