My kids are complete opposites from one another. Can any of you relate? You feel like you have kind of got things figured out with child number one and then child number two comes along and you’re starting at ground level again. The feedback we get from teachers, coaches, music instructors, family, etc. is that one child needs to participate more/talk more and the other needs to talk less/listen more. That’s just one of many examples. These differences can definitely make parenting and motherhood quite challenging, as what works for one kid will almost never work for the other.
On top of all that, I’m a recovering perfectionist, and my default mode is to try to be the best wife, the best mom, the best friend, etc. that the world has ever seen. I know at an intellectual level that it’s ridiculous and that the nature of perfectionism is that what ever you’re focusing on will never be good enough, perfect enough, etc. So, how do you know when enough is enough and to just stop there?
Part of ending the perfectionistic parenting cycle is to focus on the present moment, the one that you’re current experiencing. A daily meditation routine can help with this, either a quiet or guided one (for guided meditations, check out the Calm and 10% Happier Apps). Also, if you feel like you’re spending too much time focused on the thoughts in your head, grounding exercises like focusing on your five senses can also help. Another idea is journaling and focusing on gratitude and the positive aspects of your life.
There’s a great saying that I first heard in one of my early postpartum depression/postpartum anxiety trainings in Flower Mound, Texas, “It’s not what you did, it’s what you do after what you did.” (Feel free to read that again if need be!). One of the reasons I love this quote so much is that it assumes none of us are perfect. It assumes that we’re all going to make mistakes in our lives. So, if this is the case, then you can acknowledge that you made a mistake and then take steps to make things better.
As moms, how often do we snap at our kids at the end of a long day when we’re all tired and grumpy or occasionally arrive late for after school pickup because we were trying to complete one more task at work or we’ve completely forgotten about something our child asked us to do (and so on and so forth)? No mom is perfect, even if she presents that way to the world at large. Let me say that again, no mom is perfect! But, the things listed above, as well as others, can be fixed with an “I’m sorry” and an explanation when appropriate. We can’t just stick our heads in the sand and act like these things didn’t happen; simply sweep them under the rug and they’re gone forever, right? Wrong! Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. But, acknowledging what we did something wrong and then apologizing, that goes a long way. This also models for our kids that we’re not perfect and don’t expect them to be perfect either. It shows them that there are ways to fix the things we do wrong, the mistakes we make, etc.
How will your children react? You can’t make them (or anyone for that matter) accept your apology. They still get to feel how they are feeling towards you, be it mad or sad or even scared, but at least with things out in the open, you can talk about them and process them to make things better between you and your child. Author Rachel May Stafford talks a lot about this concept in her motherhood book entitled Hand’s Free Mama. She openly writes about her perfectionism and how this affected her relationship with her young daughters, as well as how she overcame her perfectionistic tendencies to become a much better version of herself.
It can also help to take this concept a step further and apply it to your own parents. What would it be like to forgive them for their faults? To know that they did the best they could with the tools they were given in life. To know that they weren’t perfect, but that they tried their best.
Finally, what would it be like to forgive yourself as a parent/as a mom? To know you’re doing the best you can with the tools you’ve been given. To know you aren’t perfect but are trying your best. To know that you’re enough, exactly where you are in life!