The Perfect Parent

I read an article on HuffPost today. An underlying theme really resonated with me… even when we feel like we are doing a horrible job as parents we are often still achieving amazing things that are easy to overlook. Sometimes the act of just holding it together (albeit with duct tape and a prayer) when you want to fall apart is a huge accomplishment.

A lady in one of my groups mentioned that she often felt “like the worst mom ever”, particularly on the mornings when she would show up to drop her oldest off at school while pulling a defiant, half-dressed preschooler along with one hand and trying to steer a carriage containing a wailing infant with the other hand. She felt judged by every other parent there, with their pristine, non-vomit stained jackets and immaculately dressed, well-behaved children with their perfectly brushed hair and Pinterest-inspired organic, locally-grown lunches that looked like edible art.

I reminded her that as a teacher, the most amazing and loving parents I have met are usually the ones who are constantly worrying that they are screwing up their kids. The ones who care enough to read all of the very articles and books that make them feel like they are not doing enough. The ones who seek out support from professionals to make sure that their own dysfunctional childhood will not negatively impact their children. The ones who compare themselves with every parent they see on social media or in real life, never feeling like they can be as patient, loving, kind, or creative as they “should” be.

Parents who have lived through infertility, loss or the adoption process often feel even more pressure to be “perfect” parents, since we have worked so hard to have a family. The stakes are high. Some of us will only be blessed with one shot at this parenting gig, and there are no do-overs. Some of the mommas in my support groups have felt compelled to hide severe postpartum depression from friends and family, afraid that they would seem “ungrateful” for their miracle babies.

Repeat after me: there is no such thing as a perfect parent or a perfect family. Maybe Princess Pinterest has an abusive alcoholic spouse. Maybe Franny Facebook is battling a severe chronic illness and only has enough energy to interact with her kids from behind the lens of her iPhone. Maybe that perfectly coiffed mom standing in line to drop off her equally perfect offspring at dance class is crying herself to sleep every night.

Parenting is messy. It’s beautiful, challenging, and full of surprises. It’s heart-wrenching work that can bring out the best and worst in people. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s not. Let’s not make it any harder for each other by adding judgmental comments and unsolicited advice. Instead, let’s share a knowing smile or nod, or offer a bit of assistance when it is needed.

To all of the mommas feeling like they are “less than”, I say… Pat yourself on the back today. You do enough. You ARE enough. You are magical. You are a miracle. You are Mom.

Let’s all forget about being perfect and just agree to put the “fun” back in dysfunctional, shall we?

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