The danger of ‘Perfect Parenting’

Do you ever have that moment when you realize that some people’s perception on you is so different from reality or the way you see yourself? Two incidences recently made me see how dangerous perceptions can be.

I have been called an Earth Mother, and I guess it is understandable, we are doing the sustainability drive, I use cloth nappies and home school. It is not a title that I would give myself. I am very normal in most aspects, and to me an Earth Mother is so different, she wears tie dye, and only organic flowing clothes, she feeds her kids vegan organic food and colourants are evil, they don’t drink coffee and are even more conscious of their footprint on the earth than I am. They wear crystals, meditate and have no TV. That is just the stereotype picture in my mind of an Earth Mother. I think I am just a regular person trying to find easy ways to be greener.

And while I don’t mind being called an Earth Mom, what I learnt is that people have this idea that because I am more natural, that somehow I am a perfect mom. That being earth conscious makes you calm and never loose your cool. That you have a peaceful home and that somehow parenting is easy for you.

When I admitted to some friends awhile ago that I was having a tough time and just felt like getting in my car and driving far away, the response was not what I expected. There was no empathy or nodding agreement of how tough parenting can be. No, there was joy. Delight, that I am normal and have moments of not coping. They had this picture in their minds that somehow me being natural meant being perfect or always calm. I understand their reaction, because when we perceive others as perfect it highlights to us how much we are failing. We know we are not achieving these same levels of perfection. The problem is that we set them and ourselves up for heartache with these perceptions.

I know my friends did not mean to be unkind and they were just relieved that I was normal too, but in this laughing and joking about their perception of me they forgot that I was sharing something painful, my own feelings of failure as a mother. My own frustrations. The moment past and no one ask how I was. It was just enough I was normal, no one needed or wanted to know any more than that. It was a lesson to me that people’s perception of you can sometimes stand in their way of being able to empathize with you.

The second incident was when I met someone at a home school meet up and she made a passing comment about never having had a moment of not loving being a parent, it was such a blessing to her. My reaction was to politely smile and nod and inside I thought ‘gosh how does she love parenting so much all the time with 3 kids’ It made me feel hugely inadequate as I knew there were time I did not love it.

A few days later however I was angry. I am sure she did not mean to sound perfect and just wanted to convey that she loved motherhood. But to say you love every moment is a lie. I thought either she has some great drugs and I want some of those, or she drugs her kids, or she was trying to compensate for not always being perfect. She was more religious than me ( well more is a silly word to put in there as you can’t get any less religious than me, but you know what I mean) maybe she thought that admitting there are tough times is somehow detraction from the gift and ‘blessing’ that kids are supposed to be. But whatever her reason it was unkind to make yourself sound so perfect.

As mothers we need to think a little before we say these things, trying to convince ourselves that we are perfect means you miss that chance to get support when times are hard. Telling others you love parenting all the times makes them feel bad and you stop them sharing with you if they are finding it hard. And times will be hard, there is no one who can tell me that parenting is wonderful all the time. I don’t believe you. And if you think someone is getting it right and a perfect parent, chances are your perception is wrong and they have moments they mess up just like you do.

I think we can learn a great deal from other parents and the way others do things if we are open to admitting our failures and sharing our sucesses honestly and openly.

So here is my introduction. Hi I am Sally-Jane and I am not a perfect parent.

  • Β I loose my temper, more frequently than I would like.
  • My kids eat sweets.
  • Β There are days when I hate being a mom, I don’t stop loving my kids but I hate how hard and frustrating and difficult some days can be.
  • I don’t really like the baby stage at all.
  • My kids are not always polite
  • Somedays they go to be dirty and I forget to brush their teeth
  • I swore I would never smack them and I try very very hard not to but I have. And then I have said sorry
  • I apologies to my kids and tell them when I mess up, they need to know I am no more perfect than they are
  • I swear more than I should
  • There are days when I just want to send them all to school

 

There are list of other things that I do wrong but to balance these are times of fun, laughter and love than you will never find any other way than having kids. The bad moments pass, but the times that you are living through them are difficult and we need to support each other, not isolate ourselves with ideals of perfection.

 

 

Are there times that you have felt inadequate looking at someone else parent?

Or moments you have had where parenting was hard?

 

11 thoughts on “The danger of ‘Perfect Parenting’

  1. Parenting is damn hard, I don’t think there’s such a thing as perfect parenting.
    I also think a little bit of us will always envy someone else for what we don’t have, but we live with the compromises we make.
    Hang in there Sally, you are doing a great job.

  2. I think people like trying to push you into a box of what they think you should be based on their perceptions of labels attached to you – I struggled with this a lot when we were in business together as people kept trying to make me fit their perception (which were very different to my own) … and of those that applied to you and not me.
    I find the more labels attached to you, the more pressure or expectation they create. The other problem is that labels don’t let you grow and adapt your personal outlook as circumstances and experiences change.

    Honestly I have not YET felt inadequate as a parent, I am quite happy with how I parent. I am not always perfect, my kids are not perfect, but I don’t experience the “I am a bad mother” angst. I am a good mom who has bad moments. I don’t believe there is a perfect parent OR a perfect way to parent.

    I have also said I love being a parent, I will probably always say that as I really do, I would not change it for anything in the world, it is my only ambition realised. How that claim is interpreted is not within my control.
    It does not mean it is always fun OR that I always want to be with my kids or they always want to be with me, it does not mean I have not totally lost control or considered some sort of slow child torture. It means that I love being a parent irrespective of the challenges.

    Hugs – thankfully this ‘perfect pressure’ and constant feeling of comparison and judging does ease off more as kids get bigger – I found it quite intense in the baby stages. It is still there but parents accept differences easier as kids get older.

  3. Your kids are will always be welcome here if you feel the need to run away for a week or two passed direction πŸ˜‰ Wish daily we were closer.

  4. Thank you Sally.

    i think if we were all brave enough to be as honest as you are then us moms wouldn’t be such strung out wrecks, stressed that we’re under achieving or failing at mommyhood!

  5. Really loved this post. (And I’ve always thought of you as an Earth Mother as well)

    Everybody always seems to be sitting in their little boxes, projecting to the outside world that everything is perfect.

    I’ve often looked at the parents at the creche when I’m picking up the kids, and wondered how do they all keep it so together, but you never know what’s going on at home.

    I have a distant friend that seems to be this perfect Mom, wife and business woman. And I’ve always admired her so much, and was shocked recently to discover that she suffered from PND with both kids. It made me so sad that she only shared it freely after she was better, but while she was going through it, and could’ve used everyones support she kept it ‘within the home’.

    • Rene is it amazing how many women that we think have it all together are actually struggling underneath. I am not sure why we feel the need to let everyone think things are okay when we need help. That somehow by needing support or just admitting that it is hard makes us less of a mom or something, well I think the support is more important than the super mom image

  6. Hi, hello, you are in a group of mine on ravelry and I found some of your blog posts interesting and have been reading some tonight- needed a break from normal stuff πŸ˜€

    I wanted to comment on this post and say THANK YOU! I am not perfect nor will I ever be, but to my kids(3 & 5) I am, and I feel at times I, myself, need to be, but I do loose my temper, scream(not at my kids just in the air in the other room) and a few others that you posted, I do let my kids watch two tv shows while I’m trying to wake up πŸ˜‰ I’m not perfect, but I LOVE my kids, they are my life (literally at times) When I mess up I talk to my kids(in sentances they understand) and I say I’m sorry when I’m grumpy and cranky- due to lack of sleep because they keep me up πŸ™‚ (my kids alternate getting up every hour at night…) not to mention they RUN at FULL speed on little sleep!(AAHHH! πŸ˜‰ ):D

    We have issues with our oldest and I think that contributes to some of my grumpyness because we don’t know what to do- we are seeking help because we’ve tried everything we can in-home. Trying school and support groups(sometimes family just doesn’t work all the time, they mean well though) I feel scared and afraid and worried about going, about the judgement, but after reading this I feel a little more courageous about opening up; Knowing that I am not alone, I will keep this in the back of my mind while seeking help(assistance, guidance, suggestions)

    Best part of my day– the hugs and kisses and the “I Love Yous” πŸ˜€
    Thanks again. Best Wishes

    • Hi Monica

      I am glad that it helped. Parenting has been one of the biggest challenges ever and I really think we need more support and less judgment. I really hope you get the help that you and your son need and that someone listens.

      You are a great mom just for being courageous enough to say you are not perfect.

      Let me know how it goes
      Love Pinky

  7. I am very lucky to have to women at work how are open and share how hard it is and when they are struggling. It helps, you realise that you are not alone when you yell at your kids or (as my mom actually did when I was a kid) walk out the door and stomp off down the road.

    Thanks

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