The Disease of Perfection

When I first became pregnant, I had this vision of the “perfect” parent… you know, the one who happily plays with their kids the second they wake up, never has to break up a fight — because everyone always gets along — makes 3 healthy meals from scratch, and somehow, manages to keep the house spotless, the cupboards & fridge stocked, the laundry folded & put away, husband satisfied… etc, etc. 
Let’s face it… this is no one’s reality. 
Even if I had that 1950s Donna-Reed-ish vision, I knew that maintaining ALL of the above would require some sick level of insanity… &/or alcohol & drugs. 
I’ve met a few Disney-princess-like moms who look like white-doves dressed them & their kids, but once you start unveiling the layers of these so-called “perfect” moms… you may find that you are a better cook… or… that they actually don’t play with their kids, they just find ways to keep them busy, or hire a sitter just to play with them… or… maybe they are a crappy housekeeper. 
Need I go on?
Look, as much as I wish I could play with my kids all day… I’ve got shit to do. 
Perfection is unobtainable. 
Even if perfection were obtainable… would anyone even believe you if you told them you managed to keep the entire house spotless for more than a half-day with any amount of children under the age of 18 living in your house? 
I just looked out my windows and wondered when I cleaned them last. Nope. No idea. Full of fingerprints and some even have window-crayon drawings on them. 
Thing is, I’m over it. I just don’t care if my windows aren’t clean, or my floors aren’t swept. Hmmm, wonder when I washed the floors last.

We’re all doing the best we can. 
Instead of ripping each other apart fighting over… 
  • Nursing until your kid’s 5 vs. not nursing at all
  • Making baby food vs. feeding your kid hot dogs 
  • Using disposable vs. cloth diapers
  • Playing with your kids all day vs. running errands.
  • Letting your 2yo watch TV vs. no TV until age 5.
  • Letting your kids play on the computer or your iPhone vs. an electronic-free environment.
  • Taking your kids to a restaurant where they may ok, usually throw a massive fit vs. never taking them anywhere.
  • Working in the home vs working out of the home vs. simply staying home and just being a MOM. 
UGH! Can’t we all just get along?! 
Why does everything have to be a competition?

When did Motherhood turn into a blood-sport?!

And where can I get one of those gold medals for Best Parent?
Oh wait… they don’t exist… because there is no such thing

It sickens me that so many parents feel this urge to compete instead of simply enjoying the ride of parenthood. I’ve gotten to the point where I get uncomfortable passing along any nugget of advice because I don’t want the other Momma to think I’m criticizing them. 

Spoiler alert: I’m not. 
If/when I do dish out advice to another Momma, it is because I was SOOOOO utterly clueless with my first child. I wouldn’t have known, for example, where the middle buckle of a carseat was supposed to go without a friend telling me, and then googling it to confirm that – yes, it is supposed to line up with their arm-pits to keep them safe. 

Sure, there are times that I’ve received unsolicited advice and wanted to smack the other Mom… or non-Mom. Now, that’s a deal-breaker. Sorry, but if you haven’t experienced Motherhood, you really have no idea what it’s like to deal with a child you walked the floors with at 3am until you both finally passed out until the next feeding an hour later. The same child who, at age 3, pukes on you, & your carpeted floors at midnight… and 1am… and 3am… and 3:30am… and then refuses to eat for days, sending them to the hospital for dehydration. Good times! Lived it. Survived it. Learned from it!

But unsolicited advice is something I am slowly learning to tune out & deal with — it’s the one-uppers that really tick me off. Oh, your 7yo is reading the first Harry Potter book? Cute. My 6-year old just finished the entire series. Is your 4yo old reading yet? My 3yo is! Now, what I’d really like to say is “Fantastic. Thanks for stomping all over my excitement for my child. I’ll remember not to bring up either of my children in future conversations with you.”

I’ve learned two vital things as I’ve fumbled through the last 8 years of parenthood: 

  1. Every child is unique. 
  2. Every parent is unique. 
The balancing act of parenthood is tough enough. Tossing in the need to be “perfect” does not help any of us. Can we please stop the judgement & competition and simply embrace these all-too-brief moments we have with our children? We’re all doing the best we can… and my definition of “best” will very likely differ from your definition of “best“. 

How do you deal with the “perfect” or “one-upping” parents in your world?

Linking up with Shell at Things I Can’t Say for her Pour Your Heart Out series. Check out other incredible stories, where other writers pour their hearts out today!

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13 Comments

  1. Posted August 29, 2012 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    There’s no perfect, no one solution for all kids/moms. Because we’re all different, our kids are different- even kids in the same family. So there’s rarely a blanket answer for anything.

    We’re all just doing the best we can.

    • Posted August 29, 2012 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Absolutely, Shell. I have 2 daughters — and they are both SO different! Both pregnancies were different, so that was my first clue (even though I thought that meant I was having a boy) I enjoy truly their differences! But, it’s so true: what worked for one, may not work for the other. I don’t think the competitive Mommas striving for perfection realize this, and that frustrates me.

  2. Posted August 29, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    There is no perfect in any family. I’m not a parent but pretty much all my friends around me are popping out kids and I see the competition already and it really makes me sit back and wonder why it gets to be like that.

    Just doing the best you can is the best award to ever receive!

    Stopping by from Shell’s PYHO 🙂

    • Posted August 30, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      It is truly amazing to witness that pointless competition, even from the sidelines, isn’t it? If/when you do become a parent, at least you’ll have the benefit of learning from others’ mistakes!! HA!

      Thanks for stopping by! Cheers!

  3. Posted August 29, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    My mother in law, who had 10 children, had the best attitude about lack of perfection. Any time one of her adult children would tease her about their childhoods, she would reply, “I did my best, and that’s all I could do”. I try my best with my own children, but I know I’m not a perfect mother. No one is.

  4. Posted August 29, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    YES YES YES! Honestly, I am JUST getting to the point where I can let myself and my family’s situation be good enough. I had to literally MAKE myself stop comparing our life to others’. A lady once tried to give me advice when Dean was having an epic meltdown in the store, so I said, “Oh, maybe he should just go home with you then?” She walked away. 🙂

    • Posted August 30, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Jen… you just made my day. I’m totally stealing that the next time I get the stink-eye from some random stranger thinking they can do a better job than I am. Perfectionism is not an easy thing to turn off — especially when you grew up with a very perfectionistic mother! But… I am so glad I’ve gotten past it. Life is way easier without that added level of imperfect-guilt.

  5. Posted August 30, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    A very nice and well thought out piece. I really enjoyed reading you perspective on parenting.

  6. Posted August 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Love every thing you said! I also thought I’d be perfect and my kids would be too. Big Roo is quite talkative and he’s loses stickers from his sticker chart about 1-3 times a week for talking. Of course, we’re trying to work with him on it but I have to remind myself that he could be losing them for worse offenses, like being mean or talking back. We’re all doing the best we can!

    • Posted August 30, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Mel! Yes, doing our best is all we have sometimes! I find so much of parenthood to be trial & error… and perspective.

  7. Posted September 1, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    I have to say, I was blessed with an ability to let that stuff roll off of me. Parenting stuff, that is. It’s the only area of my life I am actually really secure in. I pretty much have anxiety attacks about everything else. I suppose that is good really, because my kids are kind of naughty 🙂 I just look at it this way: most people are not going to change with world in any significant way, and they have no idea how to raise other people who are. So just nod and smile.

    Having said that – I LOVED this post because yes – the whole ‘mommy wars’/’great debates’ are CHEAP. Keep preachin’ the good word, sister!

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    Kelli Williams

    Kelli Williams

    Keeping up with 2 little girls, writing assignments, music gigs, the house, laundry, ETC, backwards, wearing ass kicking boots and a smile, without spilling my beer. Ok, ok, so I spill my beer, but my floors have never been more germ-free since I started putting a little alcohol on them. Who needs ammonia...

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