Many adults set out to become the absolute best parent they can be for their kids. While their intentions are noble, the outcome is usually miserable for themselves and their families. Here are 6 outrageous lies about being the perfect parent.
Lie #1: I really can be a Perfect Parent
We have all heard the old adage that “Nobody is perfect.” And while we know in our mind that we cannot be perfect, sometimes our hearts still chase after becoming the ideal parent. We find those other moms and dads that seem to have it all together and may begin to second-guess our appearance or even our parenting decisions.
Yet, have you ever stopped to think about what it really means to parent without making any mistakes? What does it look like? How do they act? What parenting blogs and podcasts do they follow? There is no single answer to these questions because while I may meet my standards of perfection, I will not meet others’ definitions.
Lie #2: My family needs me to do everything right.
Sometimes as parents, we can convince ourselves that our family needs us to be a perfect parent. We need to dress better than we can afford, cook the healthiest meals from scratch and never lose our cool with our children. Our home must be immaculate and tidy, toys are in their proper place, and laundry is neatly folded and ironed. If we fail to keep all these plates spinning, life will come shattering down.
How stressful! Think back to your own childhood. What were the fondest memories you have? I can think of better things for which I want to be remembered than a clean house and ironed clothes, like taking the time to play blocks on the floor while the laundry is overflowing on the couch. Or settling that the house cleaning is “good enough” and we are having take-out for dinner while I listen to how their school day went today. More often than not, I’d bet your memories involved interacting with your family rather than worrying about how many dishes were piled in the kitchen sink.
Lie # 3: The best people in the world all had the perfect parents
Walk into any bookstore and browse the parenting section or do a quick internet search. You are likely to be bombarded with different opinions on parenting styles and remedies for common behavioral issues—many how-tos on maintaining a healthy parent-child relationship. But read the fine print, and you will notice one thing will probably be missing: the money-back guarantee. Why? Because there usually isn’t one.
I am grateful there are a lot of resources available to parents today. Yet, the reality is we can aspire to influence our children, but we cannot live their lives for them. As they become adults, they will make their own choices just as we have done with our parents. We can offer unconditional love and instill a healthy sense of self and moral compass. We can lay down the groundwork of premises, but they get to choose their own practical application and implementation. We can serve as a listening ear and positive-sounding board for their future decisions. And honestly, what a relief to know that I do not need to live their lives for them!
Lie #4: Only perfect parents are significant
Parenting can be a tricky game of balancing an authentic self-identity and an image we put on to make ourselves feel good about ourselves. Some may base their importance and value on being a perfect parent. That is, “I’m a really a good person because my kid is the star athlete, high achieving academic or accomplished musician.” Others may find it in receiving the approval of other parents. Meanwhile, the parents of the last one that crosse the finish line or needs tutoring to get an average grade can be left feeling inadequate and a failure. Don’t believe the lie!
It is pretty tempting to accept invitations to The Perfect Parents Club during those times when everything is going well in parenting utopia. But what about the next time we just want to survive the next toddler or teenage meltdown? Do we need other parents’ approval then? Of course not! The truth is you are an essential part of your children’s lives regardless of how many cupcakes you make or the accolades you receive from your friends.
Lie #5: A Perfect Parent must have The Perfect Life
You see her dressed to the nines in the kitchen with makeup like a runway model. She has just finished gathering fresh oranges from the orchard to make juice that will pair nicely with the vegan Belgian waffles and homemade syrup. Her family is cheerfully getting ready for the day, gleefully listening to Vivaldi in the background. They enjoy their meal while discussing the day’s events before leaving with 20 minutes to spare to get to school and work on time. They start to kiss her goodbye, and then you wake to a sobbing little one that has been up all night with the flu and the cold nose of the family dog demanding to go out.
Have you ever had one of those dreams of a blissful family only to have it interrupted by reality? We can all agree that cooking for your family and looking and dressing well are great things. Yet, there is a difference between “needing” such things to feel significant and “preferring” them to give yourself a little boost. Yet, have you ever considered the stress it takes to “keep it all together?”
Here’s the truth: Great parents are found in all religions, nationalities, social statuses, and accomplishments. So are absent parents. The best parenting is grounded in motivation and intention rather than environment.
Lie #6: If I can’t be the ideal, then I’d might as well not even try.
One of the biggest detriments our society and culture have given to adults is a constant stream of social media likes to being a perfect parent: what we should look like, dress like, talk like, act like, cook like, parent like, exercise like and what to do to be liked. As the scales get taller, we feel smaller, and our excitement is replaced by disappointment.
So what’s a mom or dad to do? Become an honest parent instead of a perfect one. Read the books and blogs, listen to the podcasts, and hang out with friends for enjoyment rather than self-judgment. Let’s have self-improvement goals but do not define ourselves by them. We can bravely embrace and even laugh at our mistakes to learn from them rather than getting stuck in them. For, in the end, our children don’t want a perfect parent. They want someone to love them, encourage them and have fun with.
Someone like you!