Hi! My name is Roxanne and I am a recovering Perfect Parent. [Welcome Roxanne!]
Before my twins were born and threw my life into an absolute whirl of chaos, I was the perfect parent. No really. I was. I didn’t need to experience the challenges of a high risk pregnancy, or to pull an all-nighter with screaming babies to figure it all out. I KNEW exactly what I needed to do to get the job done! Here’s why I thought that:
No Point of Reference
I had zero idea what it felt like to try to make a coherent decision armed with only 15 minutes of sleep. All the parenting choices I made for other people’s children were made after a full night’s sleep and a complete breakfast after a 30 minute hot shower. I was primed to make good decisions! After weeks of no sleep I can remember calling our doctor at 3:00 a.m. begging her to tell me what to do with a baby that just would not stop screaming. I had read all the books about how to soothe a baby and how to attend to their needs. None of them worked. I gave into panic and drove my newborn to the ER. It turned out nothing was wrong. I was so tired and worn out that the ER seemed like the best idea. Before having my own children I thought I knew exhaustion. I thought I knew everything about getting a baby to sleep because I had done it a thousand times. However, I never had to do it in the middle of the night with a teething babe.
The Struggles Are Real
I remember my niece was a super picky eater growing up. To the point we were all convinced she would never learn to eat a proper meal in her life if we didn’t constantly intervene. I scoured the Internet for recipes and sent printed copies to my brother and sister in-law insisting this would be the recipe that changed their lives! (Yes, I see now how obnoxious that was). What I didn’t know is having a picky eater is painful. I now have two very picky eaters who are healthy and doing well. But it is a grueling process making food you can only hope they will take even JUST ONE bite before rejecting it. I hear other parents and non-parents say all the time, “well when I was a kid we either ate or went without,” or “no child ever starved themselves, they’ll get the message.” Ehem. Mine haven’t. They have literally made themselves vomit because they’ve refused my offerings and I have refused to let them have an alternative. That is a very real struggle in my house.
Life Under a Microscope
When I was a perfect parent I had no idea how much input other people would like to have in my parenting choices. I had no idea how many times a day strangers approach parents with their two cents and values on child rearing. I had no idea I was even one of those people. Well, I never approached strangers. But I certainly had all the answers for my sister. I was the fun, cool aunt who never had to raise her voice. What a false sense of parenting that gave me. I remember telling my sister specifically, “it’s simple all you have to do is,” and before I could even finish she shot back with, “you don’t even have a clue what it’s like to be a parent. You’ve only ever read about it in books.” That stung my ego pretty deep. Now as a parent I completely understand her irritation with my know it all attempt to “fix” her problem.
I Knew Kids at Their Best
I worked with kids of all ages in a school setting. I knew how to keep kids busy. I knew how to make them laugh and I knew how to make the shy kid feel like part of the class. The time I spent in the classroom was approximately 4-6 hours per day. Just enough time to enjoy kids at their best. I spent years baby sitting and really enjoying a positive connection with my nieces and nephews. They stayed with me every summer for vacation. I had experienced it all right? Nope. I did not experience kids at their worst when they are melting down and fighting bedtime. I had never experienced the heartache a parent feels when their child is sick through the night. As a perfect parent I was able to just crawl into my bed at any hour of the night. I’d pull my covers up tight before I drifted off for that luxurious 8 hours of slumber. Perfect parents you enjoy that sleep while you can. Once you become one of us imperfect parents you will never sleep as luxuriously again.
What I Know Now
What I know now is that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. There is no such thing as a once size fits all approach to parenting. Every kid is different. Every family has its own set of struggles. What works for one family may not work for another. It’s safe to say, “I can relate to your struggles and if it helps here’s what worked for me.” But to offer adamant advice or suggestion on how a parent should approach their struggles is guaranteed to piss off any parent, and put them on the defense. That defensiveness is guaranteed to bruise someone’s ego or feelings for trying to help.
So to perfect parents everywhere, we respect you may know a lot about taking care of kids and understand how to have fun with them. But you are not the experts in our struggles. And to all of my fellow imperfect parents let’s cut the perfect ones some slack. We know they mean well just like we did when we had this parenting thing all figured out … you know before we became actual parents.
The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy.