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Parenting in the modern day is not easy. The pressure to be perfect is enormous. You only have to scroll through your Instagram feed for 45 seconds to feel grossly inadequate. If I see another perfectly styled kid’s bedroom, I think I’ll scream. Where are all the toys, books, craft, trinkets and Beanie Boos?! Speaking of which, I don’t care for those odd-looking creatures with big eyes. Why do the kids love them so much?
In the real world, no life is perfect just as no parent is perfect, and yet we are bombarded with images of perfection every day. The perfect mum gives birth naturally, breastfeeds with ease, feeds her kids organic home-made food, sacrifices without complaint, and the list goes on. What a load of rubbish. This unrealistic image of the perfect parent creates anxiety, guilt and self-doubt for parents, particularly in the First Thousand Days. No other role in life is as scrutinised as motherhood. And new mums are easy targets.
I am eight years into this parenting gig and while there are many things I am unsure about, there is one thing I know for sure. The “perfect” parent is a great, big myth. Let’s not buy into the narrative of the “perfect parent”. Instead, let’s shift the focus and acknowledge that we are all doing our best. And that best is pretty darn good!
How to be a perfectly imperfect parent
Just as no two children are the same, no two parenting journeys are the same. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t measure your happiness against what you think you see. Remember, you are rarely seeing the complete picture. Avoid comparisons; they are never helpful.
The enjoyment of parenthood is often eclipsed by pressure and expectation. So, do what works for you. Do what works for your family. Block out the parenting “noise” and trust your own judgement.
Cut yourself some slack
When the going gets tough, cut some corners and cut yourself some slack. Simply decide what matters, and what doesn’t. I assure you many of the things you worry about fall into the latter category.
Instead of focussing on your shortcomings, acknowledge all the stuff you’re doing well. Celebrate the small steps, unexpected victories, and the mothering milestones. Pat yourself on the back and go easy on yourself when the times are tough.
It is a stressful time to be a parent. There is a lot of “advice” on how we could be parenting better to help our kids flourish. Often this advice is conflicting and so parents could be excused for getting a bit freaked out. As you navigate the sometimes-rocky path of motherhood, don’t be afraid to trust your instincts.
I always remember the words of Dr Spock. In his famous book, The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, the opening line is: “Trust yourself, you know more than you think you do.” These words are so simple, and yet so powerful. How often to we overcomplicate things? Well, I know I certainly do. And I am pretty sure I am not the only over thinker!
When well-meaning friends, and complete strangers, offer “advice”, do not be burdened by their intrusions. Try not to concern yourself with what others may be doing. Instead, focus on what works for you. Learn to insulate yourself from the “noise” that pervades the parental landscape.
Aim for Good Enough
Long-time followers of my blog know I am a staunch supporter of “good-enough” parenting. This is pretty simple. Embrace the few things that really matter, and let go of the many things that don’t. Does it really matter if your kids eat fish fingers two nights in a row? Will your friends care if your home shows evidence of children living there, rather than presenting as a display home? Will anyone notice the mess? Will it matter if you do school pick up wearing baby vomit?
Rather than looking to fit the criteria of a perfect parent, accept that you’re a flawed human being and that you are going to be mixed bag of goof stuff and other stuff. Understand that along the way, things are going to go a bit pear-shaped; your child is going to struggle here and there, but that these struggles aren’t the end of the world.
Raising four human beings is still the most challenging thing I do. I know I don’t get it right all the time, but I think I get it right most of the time. I don’t expect or chase perfection. Instead, I strive to find joy in perfect imperfection. Besides, my kids think I am pretty close to perfect, so in that sense I am achieving.
Do you feel there’s a lot of pressure on parents today to be “perfect”? How do you cope with these pressures?
For more guidance and support in navigating the First Thousand Days, click here.