Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My kind of Perfect

I used to know it all about parenting. Then I had a kid.

As a first time mom, I tend to get a lot of parenting advice. Sometimes I've asked for it, but lots of times it's unsolicited.

Some of the well meaning advice comes from other mothers who only see things from their own rocking chair. They assume their own trials, successes, and failures will be exactly the same as mine, without considering that our family is different from theirs. My child is not the same as theirs. I have a different personality than they do. I get frustrated with their assumption that their way is the fix all solution.

Other moms seem to have a superiority complex and feel the need to critique. I often wonder how these parents find the time and knowledge to solve every problem, rise to avert any crisis, never lose their cool, always look put together in public, snap their kid into submission with a mere frowny nod, provide a daily cornucopia of educational experiences, have a wealth of knowledge in child development and all things medical, or where they gather that endless energy and organizational skills that it takes to be that perfect parent while not wearing spit on their shirt. Even June Cleaver threw up her hands in exasperation at the Beaver from time to time.

Then there's the media. It seems like every other day there's a new study that says this is harmful, and a contradictory study that says it's fine. This study says to do this. That study says to do that. Seriously, it's overwhelming. How can you not feel like a failure when half the products you use or the choices you make are deemed harmful or bad for development in one study or another?

Whether it's from here or there, there's no lack of information telling me how I can be better, more efficient, more perfect. It makes it hard not to doubt yourself. “Wasn't I doing okay? I try really hard.” As a working mom I have a lot of pressure already. I have to simultaneously perform well at my job and be a good wife while managing the household duties, and raising our child. There's enough of a challenge to juggle life in the fast lane without having to feel the need to be perfect in the eyes of others too.

In order to maintain some sense of sanity, I try to remind myself is that "perfect" is a relative term. What's perfect to me is not going to be perfect for the next person, and I don't need to live up to their definition of perfect. Only my own. If I try to live up to their perfect, then I'm just going to feel like a failure time after time.

For me to be the best mom possible, I feel like it's my job to develop my own parenting philosophy based on the needs of my family and learn to be flexible as those needs change. I have the privilege of knowing my child better than anyone else, which gives me a pretty good edge in deciding what philosophy will work for her. What works for a lot of people, may not work for us and that's okay. I hope you won't judge me for loving my child and parenting to her unique needs. If I do the best that I can, with the resources available in any given situation while keeping my child's best interest in mind, then in my book I have achieved perfection. ...or at least my kind of perfect.

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