Parenting authentically will look different for every mama.
Some nice words that describe my personality are: self-disciplined, productive, focused, structured, driven. Some less-nice words that describe my personality are: controlling, rigid, impatient, perfectionistic.
On the Enneagram framework, I’m a type 1, which is literally called ‘The Perfectionist.’ I’m about as far on the J side of the Judging-Perceiving spectrum on Myers-Briggs as one can get. I crave productivity, I thrive on routine, I am motivated by the pursuit of —so much so that sometimes I believe perfection is a real, achievable thing. (Go ahead, moms. You can laugh. ?)
But honestly, if you saw me on a normal day of , you’d think I was the most loosey-goosey parent this side of Lake Michigan. I do prioritize a few things that ground our day—my daughter wakes at 7:00, takes a nap around 12:15, and goes to bed at 7:15 most nights. But sandwiched between those sleep cycles, anything goes.
Sometimes my daughter watches too much TV. Sometimes she’ll entertain herself in her play kitchen for hours. Sometimes we go to the park.
Sometimes we bounce from toy to toy, with me desperately trying to keep her from . Sometimes I hold out when she asks for snacks when I know she’s actually just bored, and sometimes I cave because it’s not a battle I have the energy to fight, and also, I’m on a work deadline.
We don’t do art projects, I don’t scour Pinterest for sensory activities and we rarely venture to the library for story time. (And I’m a former elementary school teacher!) I don’t have a specific discipline model I follow step-by-step, and my parenting philosophy is basically just to treat my child with respect, set limits that help her to be safe and kind, and hope she turns out to be a good human.
When I was nearing the end of my pregnancy with my daughter Selah, I imagined that my perfectionism would have to die a slow and painful death. And it did, kind of.
For her first year, I was hyperfocused on her sleep schedule, feeding times and play routines, but I felt my perfectionism slipping in other areas—the cleanliness of my house, the squishiness of my mom-bod, the amount of writing I could get done in a week.
After she turned one, the rest of it began to slip, too. Selah went and suddenly we had a whole lot more time to fill—but I was still working full-time, often from home. She began throwing tantrums like I’d never seen before and I quickly realized that the real work of parenting had begun. An extra nursing session and some time in the Solly wrap couldn’t calm her anymore.
My perfection died the slow and painful death I’d been predicting, and at first—I didn’t even miss it. (The freedom! The flexibility!) But now, several years into this parenting gig, I think I’ve swung the pendulum too far.
I’m not saying I don’t set limits (I do), or that I let Selah run wild (I don’t), or that I cave to her every demand (far from it). But I am saying that I don't always feel like I'm being my authentic self when I have no plan for how I want our days to go and no long-term vision I’m reaching toward.
As much as I've been told throughout my life that I should loosen up, I actually appreciate some of the orderly pieces of my personality, and I miss them.
It’s not great to chase perfection and be inflexible, and we all know this is impossible with children anyway. But I also believe that my ability to bring order to chaos and make intentional use of my time is a strength, and one that can serve me and my family well, especially in this season of life.
Throwing out the rulebook for awhile served a healthy purpose: I learned who my daughter is and what she needs and what she responds to and how she connects with me. But now I’m ready to reconnect with who I am as a person and who I’d like to be as a parent. For right now, parenting authentically looks like trying to find the balance in who I am (a perfectionist planner), who I became (a bit too passive), and who I want to be (a purposeful mom).
Rather than a parenting rulebook, I’m playing with the idea of creating a family manifesto—a vision for who we are as individuals, what we collectively want for the good of , and how we plan to use our collective strength for the good of each other and the world.