How to be the perfect parent

I know that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. And yet. And yet, I seem to always expect it of myself and beat myself up relentlessly over it whenever I am anything less than, well, perfect.

My husband and I often debrief at the very end of the day, reviewing the top best things that happened to us in the day. While the focus is supposed to be on the positives, I find I end up reviewing all the things I didn’t do, again highlighting how bad of a mother I am because I didn’t play a game with the girls, or didn’t cuddle, or didn’t listen to Maya play piano, or didn’t follow through with a million other promises I had made the girls, or, or, or. And oh, how bad I feel. And oh, how bad I berate myself. And oh, how bad I put myself down. I would never, ever dare to speak about anyone the way I speak to myself. It’s amazing how mean we can be to ourselves. My husband often becomes exasperated with me, and will sometimes helplessly say things like, “you’ve got to give yourself a break, you’ve got so much going on, you can’t do it all.” I’ll nod silently, but continue my self-deprecation in my mind. He’ll turn off the lights and I’ll try to go to sleep, fighting the tears in my eyes, feeling like my heart is being ripped apart from the guilt. Rinse and repeat day after day.

When I am in a somewhat more rational state of mind, I am able to see a little more clearly. In my work with parents, we focus a lot on being a “good enough” parent, and I never expect anything more than that from them (so why should it be any different for me? – still trying to figure that one out). I also start to think about all of the children I have worked with who have been severely abused or neglected. Despite the trauma they have experienced and the significant let-downs they have had at the hands of their mothers, I am always struck by how much they all love their mama bear so deeply. Coupled with my understanding of how resilient children are, I usually soften and feel a bit better. Knowing that I do offer my girls so much love and support to my very best.

One thing that has really stuck in my mind is the woman from Flashdance. At the end of the movie, the woman, an ex-stripper with no formal dance experience, auditions for a strict panel of judges in consideration for acceptance to an elite dance academy. In this clip, she puts on an amazing performance, flawlessly integrating a variety of dance styles. And, she looks beautiful throughout to boot. Perfect. However, what many might not realize is that it actually took five different people (four women and one man) to actually put that performance together. Several different professional dancers to put together one perfect show. Plus the magic of Hollywood makeup, hairstyling, and editing to go along with it, of course. It was not one woman who made the magic happen.  It was a team of people. I can use this analogy to motherhood. Why would I expect one person to do everything? To be perfect? The only way we might have a chance in being perfect is if we can, like in Flashdance, find four or five replicas of ourselves, each with a different skillset, to do our work as a parent. I do believe in the comment that it takes a village to raise a child. So, more realistically, eliciting that support, giving myself a break, acknowledging that I am doing the very best I can possibly do, and letting go so I can spend my time and energy loving my children (rather than using it all to beat myself up) is the best way to be the perfect mother.

I know this is certainly easier said than done, as always. But now, I have that vision of Flashdance to help ground myself back in reality. And that helps motivate me to smile and know that I rock as a mom. (And you know, when I am able to relax a bit, I am actually better able to do one small thing for/with my girls than when I am worrying about all the things I am not doing).

You know, as I type these words, I have realized that my shift for the next week or so, especially since I am going to be gone for a couple of weeks from the girls, is to shift my top five things from my day to focus on the top five reasons why I am an awesome mom