Dispelling The Myth of the Perfect Parent
Parenting by Jessica Begley
I am writing this article to let my readers in on a little secret. You should know that, get ready for it… I am not a perfect parent.
Gasp! Shock! Disbelief, I know!
I’ve been asked on numerous occasions if I, too, make embarrassing parenting mistakes, raise my voice and loose my cool, or if I am ever at a loss for an appropriate response during a critical parenting moment.
My answer is a resounding Yes, to all of the above!
And it occurs multiple times on a daily basis.
Now don’t worry, this is not going to read as my version of the unpleasantly bad mommy diaries. On the contrary, I do not believe that I am a bad mom. But I do make poor parenting choices on a frequent basis.
In fact, some of my best parenting moments are when I’m writing articles for this column. After finishing my article and putting it to bed, I tend to review more closely the parenting events of my day. And that evening I vow to have a better day tomorrow.
So, how does a fallible parent like me feel inclined to write a parenting column?
Well it takes a lot of encouragement from my husband, tons of experience with kids, parents, and family dynamics through my counseling background, and an entrepreneurial spirit.
I was a preschool teacher, mother’s day out director, schoolteacher and counselor for nearly 11 years before choosing to stay at home with my two young daughters. Those years teaching and counseling gave me a rare window into parenting that illuminated many frequently encountered parenting struggles. I, too, have my own share of these trials and tribulations and recognize this as an inevitable for ALL parents.
So, let’s discuss, brainstorm, and support one another through these parenting moments, instead of judging and second-guessing one another. NO one parent is alone in his or her parenting struggles. So let’s voice our concerns and help rebuild the village.
And when in doubt or beating yourself up for being what you perceive as such an inadequate parent, remember this… Even the most thoughtful, calm and tolerant parents have bad parenting moments.
Relieved yet? Well, if not there’s a few more things I have to share that might do the trick!
Accept and honor yourself for who you are. Don’t compare yourself with any other parents. Just as your child is unique and special, so are you! Value your strengths, abilities, and resources and honor them.
Be patient with yourself. As you are trying to be patient with your children, you must learn to also be patient with yourself. Expect to make mistakes and to make them more than once.
Work on your own growth. If you want your children to be calm, you must be calm and model that behavior. If you don’t want your children to lose their temper, you must learn to control yours. Children learn from observing you, not from listening to you. Remember that you are still a work in progress too and that’s okay.
Celebrate those small victories. The ultimate goal of parenting is to see your children grow into mature, responsible and independent adults. It’s hard to always know if you are doing the “right thing” and sometimes you won’t know until years later. Whenever things are going well and you see the fruits of your loving labor, celebrate it! After all, you deserve it!
Stop being critical. As parents, most of us are brutally critical of ourselves. We blame ourselves for our kids’ shortcomings and imperfections and yet assume that their strengths and abilities must come from someplace or someone else.
Often we admire other parents who seem to have “perfect” children. The kids that never seem to misbehave at the supermarket, never interrupt adult conversations, always make their beds, and pick up their toys. Their parents combine discipline and forgiveness with complete confidence. And they never appear to feel self-doubt. Ah, if only we could be like those parents instead of the poor imitation of competent parents that we seem to be.
There it is! And so rages the myth of the perfect parent!
But, instead we are all in the same boat. From the moment our little ones are born, we are filled with anxiety, insecurities, and self-doubt. We are afraid that we will not live up to our own self-inflicted unattainably high standards.
How can we ever face the challenges of parenthood with the perfect parent myth still looming? By dispelling it, that’s how! We have to get real and be honest with one another. None of us are PERFECT and that is A-OKAY!
Jessica L. Begley, MFT lives in Southlake with her husband, two daughters and their golden retrievers. Jessica is a Marriage and Family Therapist and Child Development Specialist.