January 14, 2014

Mindful Parenting: The Illusion of the Perfect Parent.

Ward and June Cleaver, Mike and Carol Brady, Cliff and Clair Huxtable, Bob and Amy Duncan:

No matter what generation you come from, there has always been the iconic “perfect parent.”

While a positive role model portrayed in the media is admirable and definitely a great influence, attempting to live up to a fictional character can be unrealistic. I know, because my inner critic is constantly whispering in my ear and telling me how much I have fallen short of the ideal.

I am amazed at times at the parents who seem to glide effortlessly through life, occasionally messing up without a beat and picking right back where they left off unfazed. I shake my head and wonder how they do it. For me, I constantly assess and re-assess every choice, action and discussion that involves my children. This can be good because I rarely regret the decisions I make, but it can also leave me stuck in limbo and unable to move forward—kind of like a website that will not load and keeps spinning.

The fact is, life is not a half hour sitcom or Lifetime movie, and no amount of crafting Pinterest projects is going to change that.

We all have images in our heads of what our ideal family would look like. Perhaps your children running through a warm, sunny field dressed in cream LL Bean sweaters with smiles on their faces and your Yellow Lab chasing after you is a dream scenario. Maybe it’s everyone seated around a table full of home-cooked meals with all of the backpacks lined up on neat little hooks that display calligraphy names for each child.

All of these ideas and images are wonderful, but let’s face it—most nights we are probably scolding one or all of the kids to hang up their jackets and stop bickering while we’re burning dinner. (Maybe that’s just me?)

So how can we find that balance between striving to do our best and forgiving ourselves when we land on our faces?

Early to Bed

I love sleep. I love, love, love sleep. Sometimes during the day at work I find myself daydreaming about my bed. Is that sad, or what? Yes, it is but it’s true. I am fortunate to be one of these people that hit the pillow and fall almost instantly in a deep slumber. Someone once told me that is probably because I don’t get enough sleep, but that’s another story for another day.

Getting plenty of zzz’s recharges us all—you and your kids. This sets us up for being able to handles stress better and improves our immune system. When we are stressed out or sick it’s easy to fall prey to cutting corners and procrastinating what needs done. This is an endless cycle of getting behind, attempting to catch up, doing what needs done right now and feeling overwhelmed. Start tonight. Get to bed early so you can feel more energized in the morning.

Early to Rise

There is nothing better than staying in bed under the warm covers. However, I notice when I linger too long in the morning, I suffer for it the rest of the day. When I get up on time—or better yet early—I feel like I get things accomplished. When I can check off things on my list, I feel more empowered to handle the rest of the day.

Granted, if you have an infant or young child, waking up before them may be impossible. I swear when my children were babies they sensed when I planned on getting up and would wake up a half hour before that. It didn’t matter what time I set my alarm for, they always woke up before. If this happens, don’t fret over it. Before long, (sooner than you think) they will be at the age of sleeping in till noon and you will remember the early mornings spent together fondly. I promise.

We All Need Recess

I know I have heard this at least 1,000 times and I’m sure we all have, but it’s true. Children grow so quickly. Savor this time. When you look back after your children have grown, are you going to be upset that you occasionally ate dinner too late or will you wish you wouldn’t have been so stressed out? Life is too short to worry about the small things. Put on music and dance while you cook dinner. Stop and practice cartwheels while weeding the garden. Stop dusting and try to kick your son’s butt at MarioKart.

We all need time to play, you won’t regret it.

Don’t Go to Bed or Say Goodbye Angry

This can be easier said than done, sometimes. Conflict is going to happen and most likely it will occur at an inconvenient time. Expect it will happen and deal with it as it comes. Sometimes we are simply not able to resolve an issue right then and there because this isn’t a television show. That’s okay. Remind your child that you love him/her and say we can talk more about it tomorrow/in the morning/when we are home. Maybe the two of you just need a little space anyway, and a solution will come to light later. Just don’t leave things heated and full of anger if possible.

Parenting is not about putting on a show or a certain image. Parenting is work—and an honorable job. We are given the gift of raising little humans into adult humans and this task can be overwhelming at times because we aren’t perfect. Enjoy it, learn from it, accept it and forgive.

The perfect parent is the one that knows that’s it’s all the moments—good and bad, clean and messy, funny and serious—that make up a perfect life.


Like this? Here is the first Mindful Parenting article in this series:

Mindful Parenting: Harnessing the Ego. 

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo Credit: Pixoto/Martin Marthadinata

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