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Letting go of perfection helped me be a better mother

We ask so much of ourselves. We ask too much of ourelves.

Letting go of perfection helped me be a better mother

Many of us—myself included—begin the journey of motherhood with 'perfection' being the ultimate goal.

We want to do everything perfectly. We want to minimize (or if possible, entirely avoid) mistakes. Because of the love we have for our children, we want the very best for them. We feel immense pressure to be the creators, the facilitators, the providers of “the absolute best."

We also put an extra heaping of pressure on ourselves to be perfect while accomplishing all of this.

We are quick to crown ourselves as having failed to be perfect when we do perfectly human things—like losing our patience, or feeling overwhelmed, or doing something that we swore we would never, ever, do when we became mothers.

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It's hard to avoid the pressure to be a perfect parent. It comes at us from all angles—external sources and also from within. Decorate the 'perfect' nursery. Bake the 'perfect' healthy muffins. Throw the 'perfect' birthday party. Teach them the 'perfect' manners. Waitlist them at the 'perfect' preschool. Get back to the 'perfect' body weight within moments of giving birth to your 'perfect' baby, who, of course—if you're doing your job as a parent correctly—will never “misbehave" because—you guessed it, you're all doing everything 'perfectly'.

In addition to all that, somehow we also expect to miraculously be the 'perfect' spouse, the 'perfect' daughter, the 'perfect' employee, and the 'perfect' friend. Whatever all of those things really mean.

We ask so much of ourselves.

We ask too much of ourselves.

There is a difference between striving to do our very best for our children, and striving for perfection. And the thing is, if we are putting our all into parenting—the issue is not the effort we're exerting or the ideals we hold as our goal—but rather, the fact that when we fall short of our perfectionist expectations, we come down so hard on ourselves.

Perfection is such an absolute. It is also elusive, unattainable, and means so many different things to different people.

And here's the thing: if our children see us coming down so hard on ourselves when we miss the mark of perfection—you guessed it—we're just perpetuating this exhausting, unrealistic and unhealthy picture of how we are meant to live our lives.

And so, I want you to ask yourself: if I'm trying to raise children who are kind and loving and gentle, isn't it important—no, isn't it necessary—that I model those things towards myself, too?

If I want my children to learn that it's okay to make mistakes, it's okay not to get something the way you wanted it to be the first time, and that the courage and resilience it takes to get back up after you've fallen is what actually gives you strength of character, then isn't it important that when I make a mistake or struggle with something, I am honest and show them that I am not perfect, but that I'm trying, and that I'll keep trying again?

If I want my children to know that, sometimes, perseverance can be hard because you have to confront the fact that you still haven't quite gotten there yet, over and over (and over) again—then don't I need to make sure that they see an example of someone who can come across a stumbling block or a major hurdle or completely screw up altogether, but then have the conviction and confidence to try again?

The beautiful thing is that our children can often be the best teachers when it comes to this.

Those little toddling legs that keep buckling and losing balance, but also keep getting back up? That baby isn't going to give up on walking because she didn't get it perfectly the first time.

That 3-year-old who has been practicing and practicing and practicing at pouring his own glass of milk straight out of the carton? He will leave behind a few drops on the counter or create spills demanding a mountain of paper towels, but he will most likely keep trying to get it right as long as you keep giving him that opportunity to try.

The 5-year-old trying to master riding a bike, the 7-year-old who finds it difficult and scary to make new friends, or the 12-year-old who is really struggling with a subject at school—if that child has seen their own parent come to terms with their own struggle, if that child has seen their own parent be kind to themselves when they've “failed," if they've seen their own parent continue to push on, especially when we really, really think we should just write off our efforts once and for all—then that child will know.

That child will know that resilience and perseverance are an intrinsic part of being human, and that actually, the process of getting to where you want to be, and not just the 'perfect' end result, is where we find true meaning and contentment.

So the next time you lay your head on your pillow at night and start counting the ways you fell short of parenting perfection that day, I want you to stop.

I want you to think about all the weaknesses you confronted, all the things you learned that day and all the future opportunities that you will continue to encounter so that you can keep getting better.

I also want you to remember this: embracing the imperfect and focusing your energies on accepting your humanity, building your resilience and nurturing your perseverance—that? That is one of the greatest gifts you will ever give to your children.

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    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

    $120

    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

    $30

    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

    $100

    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

    $40

    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

    $100

    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

    $45

    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

    $179

    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

    $100

    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $33

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

    $88

    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

    $75

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

    $30

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    Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

    With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

    Minimize smoke exposure.

    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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