Monday, January 9, 2012

Not a Perfect Parent

I have not ordered any cod liver oil
Maybe not first chair... but really cute!
I have not ordered any cod liver oil. I cannot stand the idea of giving my children cod liver oil.  I am sure there are bunches of articles that say that I should be; all of the best parents give their children cod liver oil.  The smell reminds me of a horrible roommate I had in college and I refuse to let it into my house.

I would like to think of myself as one of those greenie, crunchy, but bookish, attachment, Waldorf parents. I have always liked to research the right way to do things. I will admit it, I like being right. From the time I found out I was pregnant for the first time, I bought books, canvassed my friends and peers, did the homework, and was so sure that I was doing everything right. In the last 5 years, I have found that perfection is overrated and I simply cannot (and will not) keep up.

            Yes, I nursed my son until three.  I will likely nurse my daughter that long. I think the breastfeeding, and child led weaning is a healthy, normal and important part of childhood (not motherhood). I also realize that some people do not agree with me, and frankly I am sure that just because a baby has formula that their mother loves them any less. I know it does not make her an unworthy mother because she was unwilling to sacrifice her income, sanity, body, wardrobe, social standing, or long held beliefs.

Mother does not mean martyr, notice how the words are different?
There is a baseline for competent parenting, you do not abuse your children, and you are probably really really really unthinkably far from that baseline.  The problem is that when moms strive to be perfect parents we start to think that what we are doing is the only way to be that perfect parent.  It is divisive and only serves to keep women from connecting with and supporting each other. It does not make any sense.  Stop judging.

            I am largely surrounded my smart, educated, middle class mothers.Who all want to bring the same kind of excellence to motherhood that they brought to their careers, and relationships. They are top educators, artist, and engineers. Did you see the beauty, precision, and hand made centerpieces at her wedding? The thing is that measurable parenting outcomes are 18 or more years away. As the mother, you only are blamed for the catastrophes and never given credit the triumphs. Mom is always interviewed at the capitol murder trial never the Noble Prize Awards.  It is easy to pin your own self-worth on a kindergartner’s ability to play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on a 9” violin. I can tell you from personal experience, the two are not connected. LET IT GO.
            When I say I strive to be a mediocre parent I mean that I will do what I fully believe is the best for me children, MOST of the time. I also realize that I have to put on the metaphorical oxygen mask first, if I am going to help anyone else. There are no selfless martyrs here. I also have to accept my children for who they are, imperfect just like me. I want them to grow up to be healthy, content, contributors to society, but I have to accept that there is no way for me to know what that is going to be. So I have to take care of the physical needs, give them lots and lots of hugs, make sure they get an education and a chance to try out a few things. There are no prodigies here. If there are, it is not because I am a perfect parent.

            Once when I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I were going to take a walk, and our 83-year-old neighbor called down from the porch, “Where you headed.”  I replied, “To the book store to get some a few books on writing a birth plan.”  She laughed aloud, “I had four babies, each different, heck I had my third one right in the bathroom upstairs.  You can plan all you want, but it’s up to God and that baby.”  I’m glad heard that wisdom in the moment. I ended up with a half page ‘birthing wish-list’ instead of a plan. I was much better prepared to deal with how reality was different from my perfect picture birth. Over time, I realized that love does not require a whole like of research. Sure, I still look things up, I want my kids to have a great childhood, but I will never be the perfect parent, just mediocre. How do you deal with the pressure to be a Perfect Mom?

            There is no cod liver oil in my kids’ future, and in order to post this blog they watched a solid hour of PBS-Kids.

1 comment:

Sabrina said...

Good for you Sis! Some Moms need to hear this as I'm sure there is anxiety.

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