Perfect Parents- Why They Don’t Need to Exist

There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.”
~Jill Churchill

Last week my niece had a baby girl. I went to visit and thoroughly enjoyemother holding newbornd holding the baby in my arms. My niece said to me, “You look so comfortable and happy with her.” If only my niece could have seen me 25 years ago when I had my first child. I was not at all comfortable and happy – I was nervous and jerky. I wanted to be the perfect mom and I constantly questioned how I was going to be everything this child needed me to be. I regret that my quest for perfection took a lot of the joy out of parenting. If only I knew back then that a child does not need a mom who does everything “right.”

Here are a few ways parents can be more comfortable and happy and not focus on perfection in themselves or their children:

  1. Listen to Aristotle – He says, “Happiness is self-contentedness.” If you can be happy in your own skin, your contentedness will rub off on your children.
  2. Heed D. W. Winnicott – The English pediatrician and psychoanalyst said, “Ordinary potential will be realized” when “the environmental provision is adequate.”  Translation: parents need not be perfect; just “ordinarily devoted” or “good enough” – what a concept!
  3. Read more old proverbs – “Laughter is the best medicine” (Old Proverb) – Laugh, kid and joke more. In the appropriate setting, humor can diffuse even the most painful situation.
  4. Listen to Captain Kirk – “Fate gives you the finger and you accept.” – William Shatner (okay, okay, it’s the actor who played Captain Kirk).  Celebrate the child you have, not the child you thought you’d have. When it comes to your children, make this your mantra, Accept, accept, accept. Probably one of the hardest parenting rules ever.
  5. Follow Confucius – “The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.” I don’t think Confucius meant perfection is possible. We are, after all, only human. I think he meant any skill, including parenting, is a learning process and the more tools you have in your tool belt that are well-honed, the more self-confident and competent you will become.


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