Perspective changes everything.
Now that my kids are grown and there’s 20 years between me and the hectic days of raising four young children, I realize that the everyday struggles of parenting that I thought were so important back then weren’t really so critical after all. Mealtime, for instance, was always a struggle in our house. My oldest was the pickiest eater on Earth. Looking back, I wish I had realized that it’s not the end of the world if the broccoli doesn’t get eaten. (That’s what vitamins are for.) As parents, we made mistakes, as all parents do, but years later we realize that, overall, we did the best we could, and that was just what our kids needed.
Raising infants, toddlers and preschoolers is challenging, and like a lot of parents, I was determined to be “the perfect parent.” That unrealistic aspiration plagues today’s parents more than ever. In a recent national survey of millennial mothers, nearly 80% said it’s important to be “the perfect mom.”
The myth of being the perfect parent comes from both internal and external pressures. Our own need for approval from others, paired with the idealized versions of parenting that we see in the media, and especially on social media, all play a role in parents creating unrealistic expectations of both themselves and their young children.
I modeled the first family resource center I ran after my own parenting challenges. If I had all these questions and insecurities, then I imagined that others did, too. For years I worked with families of all backgrounds and income levels, and they all shared a similar struggle: trying to live up to this idea of the perfect parent.
Now, with the gift of years of perspective and years of experience working with families of all types, I can say for sure that there really is no such thing.
My advice to today’s parents of young kids is this: I encourage you to find support in your community – whether it’s at a family resource center, in your faith community or a parent support group. There’s value in knowing that there are others who are feeling the same pressures you are. And maybe think about taking a break from social media once in a while. Remember, everyone is showing you the good stuff and not the challenges that all parents face every day.