I understand that the little bundles of joy we bring home from the hospital are the sunshine of our lives. There are no words to describe how precious our children are to us and we want to be the best parents possible so they can live happy, healthy, and successful lives.
But what does it really mean to be the ‘best parents’? I’ve heard eager mothers state with pride, “I’m going to be the perfect parent.” I smile because I love their enthusiasm, but the idea of a ‘perfect parenting’ is a myth. There’s no such thing.
Sure, our society pushes for ‘Supermums’ and ‘Mr. Dads’ who provide the best toys, discipline methods, schools, and unconditional love for their children. Yes, other parents tend to parade their early developed toddler riding a bicycle or reading four levels ahead of peers. But the reality remains that there is no such thing as perfect parenting because there is no such thing as a perfect person.
I understand you want to be the best parent you can be for your children. That is a worthy goal, but I want you to realize that things won’t always go as planned and you won’t always feel like the world’s greatest parent. Sometimes your children will upset you, you’ll do things you said you wouldn’t or they’ll do things you thought they wouldn’t. Sometimes you’ll get tired, overwhelmed, and sometimes you may even feel like you’ve failed them.
It happens to the best of us parents because the reality is life shows up in unexpected ways and children don’t always do what we think they should. Your children will develop emotionally, intellectually, and physically at different rates. Joey doesn’t have to be doing the same thing as Monica at 3 years of age. The temper tantrums don’t always go away after two years of age. Potty training might take what seems like forever.
Relax. Take many deep breaths. As a parent, you will encounter times of stress. It’s guaranteed. Parenting won’t always go as planned. I want you to know that’s alright and it’s not a definition of whether you are a good parent or not. There’s no formal book stating things must go a certain way. Your child has a temperament, as do you. They may differ. Your parenting style may be different than your best friend’s or the latest Hollywood parent’s. It’s not as big of an issue as you might think.
The truth is that everyone is different, because we all have different styles of living and ways of doing things. This is the beauty of life. It doesn’t need to all be the same.
You’re not a bad parent
We need to let go of some of our harsh judgments of good versus bad parenting. The reality is that there may be some days when you think you’ve got it all down pat, whereas other days you may feel like a bad parent – days in which you want to throw in the towel and hide your head in shame. It is those days that I want you to think about why you’re beating yourself up. Are you afraid that your child will turn out badly? That she is missing out on something? Do you feel inadequate or worth-less?
If so, look at what your thought process is behind such feelings and fears? If you’re battling anxiety or depression about parenting, take a further look at your perception of life. Do you think that you’re not doing a good enough job? Perhaps you are comparing your parenting against what your parents did, or didn’t do? Is someone putting pressure on you to do something different or the same way as them?
Your emotions are a direct result of your beliefs. If you feel like you have to be a perfect parent, you’re bound to end up feeling anxious and/or depressed because it is impossible to be perfect. It’s important for you to know that you are not a bad parent. Your children are getting what they need for their learning and they will be alright. It’s all about learning and growing. When you don’t know what you’re doing, all it means is that there’s something to learn and an opportunity for you to improve on the area you are struggling with. That’s all.
Tell a new story
Now that you’re aware that perfect parenting is a myth, begin parenting based upon a new story. Sometimes fiction writers will begin a story with just an idea in their head. They won’t know what one chapter from the next will entail. They simply write and let the story take its own lead. There’s no right and no wrong; it just flows.
In the same way, you have an idea of what parenting ought to look like. You know the basics of loving unconditionally, setting boundaries, teaching respect, and so on. Allow the basics to create your parenting story as life comes day by day. Don’t stress about the “what ifs”, “I need to” and “I should have’s”. If you don’t know how to do something, just learn it.
If negative emotions arise and you feel stressed, angry, fearful, depressed, etc. take a few moments and gauge your thoughts to see why you are feeling this way. See if your thoughts are unrealistic. (If Johnny gets angry and pushes the neighbour’s little girl down, it doesn’t mean he’s going to abuse his future wife.) Stress-free parenting begins with the ability to monitor and change your thoughts that aren’t serving you and to keep your thinking in alignment with reality.
You are a parent that adores your children. We know that. You need to give yourself permission to parent as such day in and day out – stress free.
If you are feeling overly anxious or depressed that you are not living up to your ideal as a parent and feel like you need extra help, why not head over to our health and happiness page to find out how to learn to feel differently about parenting and overcome parental stress, depression and anxiety.