Lots of mothers and fathers grapple with the goal of being a perfect parent. Perfect parenting is an illusion. A myth that traps us in a web of guilt about not doing enough.
I’ve been on a bit of a journey over the last couple of years. I’ve been pondering what it means to be a working mother, and how I can do both of those roles well. Oh, and be a decent wife, daughter, sister and friend.
In the past I’ve struggled with not being good at most of these duties. But in the last couple of months, I’ve learned to be a bit kinder to myself and focus so much on being perfect.
Lots of mothers and fathers grapple with the goal of being a perfect parent. But what if our children and teenagers didn’t need that?
I’ve been on a bit of a journey over the last couple of years. I’ve been pondering what it means to be a working mother, and how I can do both of those roles well. Oh, and be a decent wife, daughter, sister and friend. In the past I’ve struggled with not being good at most of these duties. But in the last couple of months, I’ve learned to be a bit kinder to myself and focus so much on being perfect.
We seem to have hung onto the parenting ideals of the 1950’s. A time when the mother’s place was in the home. They cooked and cleaned and cared for their families like angels. They were the backbone of the community with their volunteering too.
But in the 21st Century, there seems to be an expectation that mothers can still do these things and work as well.
Fathers can get on the act too. There’s plenty expecting that they’ll be more involved in their kids’ lives. Just at a time when having a job for life has evaporated, so there’s no slacking off when the kids are young. The reality of modern life is that we’re all expected to do more in less time. And juggling extra roles with fewer resources.
With all this busy-ness, we need to let go of the idea that we can be perfect parents.
Our children don’t need restaurant quality meals or a spotless home. Nor do they need a neat schedule to develop into functional adults. What they do need is a home that provides them with a sense of peace and restores them at the end of their day. They need a collection of people who get them. Who love them despite what they might say or do. And they need space to dream about their future and plot out ways to reach it.
How can we let go of perfect parenting?
If we’re willing to let go of being a perfect parent, then what is the alternative?
It’s about being a “good enough” parent.
You don’t need to do a great job of raising kids every minute or every day. You just need to get it right 51 percent of the time to be good enough. That means when things are getting stressful or busy, it’s all right to stop by the Golden Arches for dinner. Or let the dust settle on your timber floors for another week.
Our children find comfort in knowing that we don’t always have it together. It gives them a model to follow of to cope with the unexpected, or with things that overwhelm them. My friend used to be a Cultural Care Au Pair for a family who thought that everything had to be perfect all the time but this led to stress building up and if my friend wasn’t helping them then they wouldn’t have been able to cope.
I think we also need so see ourselves as a complete whole. We have just one bucket of time.
The world tells us that we need to separate our different roles: worker, partner, parent, child, friend and so on. But we’re still just one person.
If something is not going well in one of these roles, it’s likely to be spilling over into how we do another. We need to resist the pressure to have different versions of our self that we send out of the house. Keeping track of just one self, makes life easier to manage.
If we see our time being in just one bucket, we can also work out all our priorities together. Not trying to juggle the top priorities from our different roles.
Is it more important for you to finish that report than go to the end of term band concert? Will it make a difference if you take another day to submit your tax when the kids want to go to the beach and the sun is shining? Only you can decide these things, but looking at them all in context with one another iwill make the decision easier. It’ll save your sanity in the long run.
Living life as a “good enough” parent
Are you willing to cast off being a perfect parent? Here are seven things to help you to be the sort of parent who raises great kids:
- Ttechnology allows you to automate and coordinate things. How can you use it to make life easier? We have a family calendar online. It’s been a great way to cut down on the problem of having to be in two places at once for us as parents. We use an app called Cozi, which also has a handy shopping list option. Now everyone can things on the list when they run out.
- Create systems and routines. Everyone can help keep the house tidy and follow routines. You can read more about my thoughts on how to share the burden of maintaining a house in my article on chores. We have a similar approach to the morning routine and when we go on holidays.
- Foster a slower lifestyle. Ease back on the throttle to focus on the quality of relationships. You’ll find you can enjoy those little moments that flit by all too quick. I have been slow to learn this skill! Not feeling the pressure to rush has helped me realise how much time I have to do things. I now spend my time in the car listening to podcasts or thinking through new articles in my head. While something is uploading, I’ll jump up and get another task done. I’m much more productive than I’ve ever been.
- Be nice to other parents. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have. It looks different for us all. But with others on the sidelines cheering us on, there’s little doubt our kids will turn out just fine.
- Take time to be grateful. We live in a world obsessed with negativity and a sense of missing out. Spend time counting your blessings. You’ll find that everyone develops a greater sense of contentment.
- Connect with parents doing a great job. Parents used to mix more with people further along the path. They were mentors you could look up to and ask advice of. These days, we tend to meet parents who are at the same stage as us. I’ve had a few friends whose youngest children are the same age as my eldest. It’s been handy to have them on hand when I get stumped.
- Pinpoint values important to your family. Talk about them all the time. Make them part of everyday life. Why are they special? What stories can you tell about them? How do those values make life good for you all?
There’s one for every day of the week there.
This game of parenting is a long slow one. It’s not about getting it right on the day, but getting it right in the end. If you focus on creating quality relationships with your kids, you’ll look back and feel you’ve done a good enough job. Trust me!
What do you think? Are you happy to be a “good enough” parent or does the perfect parent still call to you? I’d love to know what tricks you’ve used to make life work for you.
The image I’ve used for this article is not my own work. I wanted a 1950’s advertisement of the perfect family and found this image on Google after not being able to find a suitable illustration for sale. The image I have used was posted by El Hallador on their blog PicturePhoto1 in 2012. I haven’t been able to identify or acknowledge the original artist.