Menu

I tried kids. I really did. I tried my hardest to be the perfect parent.


One that feeds you only organic, homemade meals. One that never exposes you to TV or gives you sugar in any form. One that is always fun, fair and firm. One who is consistent with discipline and rules, balanced with love and encouragement—never giving into stressful situations or moments of frustration.

This was my grand plan.

Sounds good, right?

No, it sounds ignorant. If anything, it resembles a bad instruction manual from someone who has never parented a day in her life. The “rules” of perfect parenting remind me of those annoying instances when your boss tells you how to do a job he’s never done himself.

FEATURED VIDEO

In my early days of being a parent, I was too naïve to know any better.

I strictly adhered to all the guidelines to ensure we were raising our children "the right way." Are they watching too much TV? Are they eating healthy enough? Are they hitting their age-appropriate milestones? Are they getting enough socialization? Are they learning the basic principles of being a good person?

I was the definition of a mom who was parenting too hardconsumed with trying to fit our family into this perfect mold.

Why was I allowing this unrelenting pressure to get in the way of being the parent I wanted to be? I was spending way too much energy attempting to be this ridiculous, unattainable notion of a “perfect” parent.

But then I realized—I was missing out.

I was missing out on the beautiful, spontaneous moments that happen when you learn to let go and embrace the chaos.

As a mom of three children under four, I'm completely familiar with a life of chaos and unpredictability. Throughout the craziness, I've learned the importance of flexibility, compromise, and moderation. If life isn't black and white—especially with three very little ones—why should we parent like it is?

Some days we will have more screen time than the latest and greatest recommendation dictates, especially when a much-needed distraction is required.

When time is in short supply, or I'm just too exhausted and depleted of energy, we will have a hot dog for breakfast or dinners comprised of dinosaur chicken nuggets and french fries. (In those moments, I'll just be happy my boys are consuming something other than crackers.?)

I pick my battles when necessary, while understanding my children's limitations, character and temperaments.

When my children are tired, cranky and overdue for a nap, I'm not pressing the need to pick up their toys.

If I'm desperate to get through an experience that's excruciating for a toddler—AKA grocery shopping—I may call upon a sugary bribe.

On a night when there isn’t an urgent need for a bath, it might not be worth the battle to get them in the tub.

If allowing them to bring their favorite toys gets us out the door when we’re in a rush, then I guess the whole chest of dinosaurs is coming along for the ride.

When they wander into our room at night asking to sleep with us, I might agree —even if we usually say no—because we’re all in need of an extra hour or two of sleep.

To embody this notion of a perfect parent, you'd have to be a robot with no human emotion and insurmountable patience and resources. No consideration is had for the unexpected nature of children, and life itself, with its constant, intense demands and struggles.

This ideal just doesn't exist, yet many of us are subjected to feeling an unbelievable amount of pressure to fulfill this unattainable goal. You'd have to have a perfect life with perfect kids—neither of which exists.

Every child is different and individual, just as each parent is. You take the approach that best aligns with your morals, values, and attitudes, and adapt it to coincide best with your child's unique personality and disposition.

My approach isn't the same as another parent's, but neither is wrong. We are all in this together trying to raise our children to the best of our abilities.

Living in the real world of understanding and compromise, I'm content being “the world's okay-est” mom. In addition to keeping my sanity, I'll have the relief of knowing I'll be able to look back on this time and remember the moments filled with laughs and smiles—not thinking about how well balanced my kids’ diet was, or how well they cleaned up their toys.

Sometimes the feeling that I should try to be a perfect parent returns— but I quickly snap out of it when I remember how much fun my children and I have when we don't follow the rules.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

FEATURED VIDEO

The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!

Keep reading Show less
Life