There’s No Such Thing as a Perfect Parent

My Perfectly Imperfect Mom Life isn’t just the name of this column. It’s an acknowledgment that perfect is never the goal.

As I look around me at what’s happening in the world and see how hard we’re working to get life right every day — especially parents — I feel like this is the perfect moment to send out a reminder that it’s OK if we don’t.

It’s not even possible to get everything right 100 percent of the time.

So stop putting that kind of crazy pressure on yourself to achieve the unachievable.

The irony is, what’s really important is that we give ourselves permission to screw things up along the way.

Yep, even as parents. Because contrary to the narrative that most humans have been taught about the importance of being “perfect,” it’s actually a myth. And the sooner we debunk that myth and embrace our perfect imperfectness, the sooner we’ll unlock our true potential and really thrive.

The truth is, we’re all afraid of screwing up on some level, myself included. Because no one wants to look or feel incompetent, inept, or foolish. Especially a parent.

But the reality is, none of us are going to nail everything every time. And we’re not going to have all the answers.

We’re going to say and do the wrong thing a lot, but that’s OK. Like, it’s really OK.

So, do yourself a favor sooner than later and replace that nagging voice in your head that says mistakes are bad with a stronger, more empowered voice that says mistakes are actually the gateway to change and success and greatness.

Because when we believe that and model that — and ultimately teach that — to our kids, that’s what changes the game.

I think British writer Neil Gaiman said it best:

…if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

And all that holds true in parenthood.

And even though I know that both consciously and subconsciously we all strive to be the perfect parents and raise the perfect kids, it’s just not possible.

Let them make mistakes

So, instead, here’s a simple suggestion from a mom of two 20-something daughters who’s been at this parenting thing for over two decades: It’s OK to give ourselves, as parents, the green light to make mistakes in the very same way we should give our kids permission to do the same. Because that’s the fundamental way that we all learn to persevere.

From my vantage point as a parent, a former teacher, a parenting author, a columnist, and a radio show host, I see a world filled with anxious kids, many who are navigating their way through life under the very false assumption that in order to get ahead in this world, they need to be perfect, play for the varsity team, be in all AP classes, and ace their SATs.

And guess who they’re picking that up from? Guess who’s setting that bar unachievably high?

It’s us. We’re the ones helping our kids write that story and it’s crippling them because it’s an antiquated and impossible way of thinking that only sets our kids up to shatter when they hit the ground.

Look, we all want the best for our kids. Obviously. We want them to succeed and thrive and excel, but they’re not going to do that according to someone else’s pace — they’re only going to do it when they’re ready. Trying to force it only creates animosity between you and them.

To set unfair expectations according to how other kids develop is just unrealistic and sets an awful precedent. Which is exactly why we need to embrace our kids exactly where they are. (And do the same for ourselves.)

We need to let our children feel our support and our patience, because when they know they have that, that’s when they start blossoming. And when they think they don’t have our support and acceptance, that’s when they wilt.

It’s when our kids start paying too much attention to what everyone around them is doing that the big-time inferiority complex usually surfaces. And the very same can be said for us as parents.

It’s not just the kids who need reminding

The other thing we need to avoid that’s just as important as not measuring our kids against other kids, is not measuring ourselves against other parents. Because believe me, you’ll want to. A lot.

Especially once your kids get to school and you’re exposed to all types of parents. Resist that urge, because it will make you second-guess every decision you make. Not to mention that comparing yourself to other parents will never make you a better parent.

And it’s hard, I know, because when you start interacting with other moms and dads and kids on a day-to-day basis, the temptation is high to measure yourself and your own parenting style against all the other parents you meet.

You learn just how many different types of parents and styles of parenting there are out there, which inevitably leads you to question how you parent your own kids.

You’ll catch yourself trying to adapt all the approaches other parents use, expecting that you’ll have the same results.

And while some will work, others will be epic fails — guaranteed. And that can lead to making bad parenting decisions based only on how something worked for someone else, which is just plain dumb. This is why you need to resist the urge to follow along.

So, remember, as you set out on this long and beautiful and always challenging journey, the learning curve for us as parents is almost as broad as it is for our kids.

Because there’s no perfect path, no perfect kid, and definitely no perfect parent.

That’s why I stand firmly behind the idea that the greatest thing any of us can do as parents (and humans) is allow ourselves the slack to take risks and to fall down and to fail.

Because that, friends, is exactly how we learn how to get back up, keep moving forward, and nail it the next time around.

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