Passing on Perfection: Why Being a 'Good Enough' Parent Is Great
Yesterday morning, I got home after my 5:30 a.m. boot camp to find my husband of 16 years had locked one of the cats in the closet, and she had pooped in his favorite carry-on bag.
Neither of the children was up, and the bath I ask him to draw every morning was ice cold. That meant the cranky son wouldn't want to wash his hair in it (and our water pressure doesn't allow us to run the bath and shower at the same time). This was a surefire combination for a sibling battle and just another day in the life of a Good Enough Mother.
I'm René Syler. Welcome to my world! I bet it looks a lot like yours. Three years ago, I wrote "Good Enough Mother: The Perfectly Imperfect Book of Parenting," which outlined my philosophy on parenting and life in general. Back then, I had a high-powered job as a network news anchor, a husband and two beautiful kids -- my daughter, Casey, and son, Cole. I was trying to do it all.
Like so many of my girlfriends, I was running myself ragged trying to provide my precious babies with a perfect childhood when it hit me: I didn't have a perfect childhood, and, yet, I survived. I was so tired of living up to an absolutely unattainable standard of parenthood that left me tired, frustrated and overall unfulfilled.
It was then I decided good enough was going to be perfect. Now, that doesn't mean we don't try to be perfect parents, but we do get to cut ourselves some slack when we fail. And failing, my friends, is a given.
One of the stories mentioned in "Good Enough Mother" was about my son's grade school birthday party. He wanted donuts in the shape of an "8," just like his best friend had. I searched high and low and found a well-known chain that would do just that. So, after working eight hours, I drove to the donut store, only to find the pubescent kid behind the counter had given my 8s to another mother.
The only thing left were 9s. He was completely oblivious to my panic. For a split second, I thought about scrapping the donut plan altogether and getting cupcakes, but there wasn't time for that. So, off I went, mulling over what explanation I was going to give to my crest-fallen 8-year-old boy as to why he didn't have his special donuts.
When I got there, guess what? He didn't care. You know why? Because it was his special day, they got to eat donuts in class and his mom was there to help him celebrate.
That was a big lesson for me. I realized that, even with my faults, which are way too numerous to count, what my children really wanted was me. So, now I preach the gospel of imperfection.
I have screwed up more playdates than I can remember, forgotten permission slips and am a really lousy cook. But I give my kids what they really want, which is my time, love and attention and, with a fair amount of frequency, breakfast for dinner.
Want to be a Good Enough Mother? Try these tips:
- Lower the expectation: Forget perfection altogether. Understand that you will do your best, and your best will have to do.
- Enough with the competitive parenting: Do what works for you and your family. Remember, you are parenting for your children, not your mother-in-law, neighbor, sister or best friend.
- Keep your own hopes and dreams alive: Just because all of these people came into your life, does not mean you have to give up ALL of yourself.
- Take time to nurture yourself: That means not always putting yourself at the bottom of a long to-do list. How can you possibly take care of others if you don't do the same for yourself?
I didn't have all the answers then and still do not. But I am smart enough to figure it out. So are you.
Remember, imperfection is the new black!
This article originally appeared on PBSParents and was written by Rene Syler. René is the daughter of two breast cancer survivors. Due to her parents' diagnoses and her own pre-cancerous condition, which led to her own mastectomy, René has made it her mission to help educate and eradicate breast cancer. She travels the country as an ambassador for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. She was also awarded the prestigious Gracie Allen award for her television series on breast cancer.
René lives in Westchester, New York with her husband, Buff Parham and children, Casey and Cole. As much as she loves them, she admits part of the attraction speaking to groups across the country is the opportunity to sleep in a bed without three other people in it and not having to answer the question that strikes fear into the hearts of exhausted mothers everywhere: "What's for dinner?"
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.