I used to think that in order to live a happy life, everything needed to be perfect.
I’ve always been driven. And at some point, I internalized that in order to be successful I had to be perfect.
In my second year of graduate school, I birthed my first daughter into the world. Then continued right on with my schooling, returning back to class just a week after with my baby wrapped on my chest. Little did I know that my biggest insights, would be coming to me in the form of this 7lb 13oz bundle of love.
Motherhood hit me hard.
All of the sudden, I went from designer shoes and manicured toes to comfy yoga pants, spit stained t-shirts, and chipped toenails. And my sense of control over my schedule and life went right out the window too. It almost goes with out saying that “me time”, regular sleep schedules, and only thinking of myself all went to the wind.
Being a first time mom was no joke. There were days where all I could do was be grateful that I made it through another day. Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time wishing the moments away because I was just so overwhelmed with trying to be perfect in all areas of my life.
It wasn’t until the birth of my second daughter, that I really took a step back and started savoring the little moments. Like just now, when I wanted more than anything to just finish up this post but instead my youngest wanted to be put to sleep. Sure, I could have just let her hum herself to sleep (which I also love to just sit and listen to) in her swing and finished up my writing. Instead, I took a break and laid with her kissing her face all over until she fell asleep. And then I also spent 10 minutes laying there just soaking in all her love.
I’d be lying if I told you I have it all under control. In fact, something I have taken from this journey, is to release my white knuckled grip on life. And now, it makes me laugh when I hear people talk about ‘perfect parenting’.
Parenting isn’t about perfection. It’s about love. Opening up fully so that we are able to give and receive it. We are not robots, we all have feelings and triggers. And in the beginning we all start out unconscious in our parenting style.
Your kids don’t need a super-parent, they just need you. Not the perfect version of you.
If you’re a fellow imperfect parent looking for ways to embrace it, here are some ideas:
Play. Be goofy, tell jokes, sit on the floor and learn how to play Barbies or make a LEGO machine. Sure, it might be uncomfortable at first, but your kids will appreciate your effort.
Say “I’m Sorry”. Apologize for your part in an argument or misunderstanding. Model the type of apology you’d like to receive from your child: “I overreacted, I’m sorry.”
Make mistakes. Model the saying “everyone makes mistakes” by pointing out your own: “Oops, I poured too much milk” or “I interrupted you, please continue.”
Take it slow. Your kids are learning every day, and you can be learning too! You don’t have to master every parenting skill right now. Focus on one or two things at a time.
Be intentional. Positive self-talk or a mantra can help you stay focused on a goal. Even though it will not be true 100% of the time, use it to get back on track.
Seek help. If parenting is too much for you right now, it’s okay to find support. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It shows that you want to make changes for the good of your family.
Be the light. Chances are, there are other parents around you who could use some support. Instead of giving advice, encourage them, listen and find ways to help each other.
I am still learning everyday…
But I no longer aim to be a perfect parent (or even person); instead a present one. I no longer embrace that I should always know the answers, I sit with the questions. Instead of always screaming when the clutter overtakes my house, and ignoring my kids as I remedy the situation, I now try to stop and play. It takes diligence to ground myself in the dissonant rhythms of my life, but my reward is that I am living fully, messily, and joyfully.
With a Grateful Heart,