We’re thrilled to share Gladys Simen’s perspective on imperfect parenting with you. Over the past year we’ve gotten more desperate pleas from parents than in the previous 10 years. So many say they feel like they’re not doing enough, or that they know they’re the ones putting perfection pressure on themselves but they don’t know how to stop.
My answers are far from perfect, but I always try to think about a time when I’ve felt the same as the parent I’m talking with. It’s not hard to come up with a time I either failed at mothering or felt like a failure. Then I realized that of course we’re not going to be perfect at parenting. We’ve never done it before.
As part of a new series to help you deal with parenting burnout, I hope Gladys’ reassuring words give you permission to embrace imperfect parenting and trust that you’re doing it beautifully, even on the days you can’t see it.
Why We Should Embrace Imperfect Parenting
There is an immense pressure on parents to do everything perfectly for their children. The sheer amount of parenting information available is overwhelming… and that’s not counting advice from well intentioned family, friends, neighbors, and even perfect strangers weighing in on how you parent.
Here is a revolutionary idea for you: It’s okay not to be perfect.
That statement may feel freeing for some. It may stir up really uncomfortable feelings for others. Perfectionism can be a trauma response due to childhood conditioning, psychological and emotional trauma, or abuse. (source) So it makes sense that challenging your beliefs might be triggering.
The truth is: Aiming for perfection can make you frustrated, discouraged, stressed, and likely to experience feelings of failure. Constantly trying to meet unreasonable standards is the quickest road to burnout.
It’s worth letting go of some of those expectations to allow yourself the time and emotional freedom to enjoy your family more. Some examples of allowing yourself to be a good enough parent are:
- Overriding your home-cooked meal plan if your day turns crazy
- Using disposable diapers for travel
- Occasionally using a screen as a babysitter
- Receiving support when someone offers
- Leaving the dishes / housework until later
- Ignoring a minor behavior issue when you don’t have the energy to handle it positively
Imperfect parenting doesn’t mean you compromise on any of your core beliefs. If you really want to commit to something impactful like breastfeeding or following a gentle discipline philosophy, do it. And always look for ways (support, short-cuts) to help you realistically stick to it.
Here are four sanity checks that have worked for many of the parents I’ve had the pleasure of coaching over the years.
Tune into your instincts first
As parents, we are never in short supply of opinions or parenting techniques, some requested and many unsolicited. While this advice generally comes from a good place, what matters most is what you feel is right for your child. There really is something to be said for motherly (and fatherly) instinct, so when you’re overwhelmed by hearing different advice all around you, stop and tune into your instincts.
You know when something isn’t right with your child. Trust your gut and parent your child the way that feels right for you and your family.
Don’t get too caught up in “expert advice”
Parenting advice has become an industry, While having access to endless books, blogs, and articles can be helpful sometimes, all of this information can be overwhelming.
Most of the time our children don’t behave by the book, which can lead us to overthinking and questioning our techniques or even our children. I got out of that vicious circle by reminding myself that until I had my child, no book was ever written about them specifically. I’d like to think that parenting, is like writing a customized book for each child. And imperfect parenting means we make plenty of edits in that book.
You can still be YOU
Being a parent is mostly a very positive experience for many. My coaching clients have described it as positive, fulfilling, encompassing, and all-consuming. However, I always encourage parents to still be themselves. You know – the person inside of you who still has dreams and aspirations that don’t solely revolve around parenthood.
That person is at the core of you, no matter how many hats you wear on a given day. Even if you’re caring for small children, try to maintain at least one activity that makes you feel like yourself. Take five minutes at night to meditate or take time to journal your feelings from the day. Make a list of things you want to do the next time you have free time. Recharge your batteries so you can model self-love and mindfulness.
Ask for help
This might feel like the hardest step for some of us. However, asking for support and accepting it is one of the most courageous actions you can take.
We might have bought into the myth of “it’s possible to have it all, with a smile” where parents maintain a spotless home with well-behaved kids as they cook healthy meals from scratch every day. Well, that certainly isn’t my reality or that of my coaching clients. We acknowledge and embrace our good and not so good days and our not always cooperative children. And we accept that this imperfection is still creating experiences and memories to look back on fondly.
As a working parent, you need support both at work and at home – even if the type of support doesn’t exactly meet your standards. As long as your child is safe and loved, you can look the other way for a little while. Ask and accept help when you need it. If you work outside the home, maintain an open dialogue with your organization. Surround yourself with people and create processes that support you.
Mindful delegation can be a working parent’s superpower.
Parenting is a very personal process, and no one is doing it 100% “right”. It’s time to let go of the notion that the perfect parent exists and embrace the beauty of imperfect parenting.