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.
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 hard—consumed 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.