Perfectly Imperfect Parenting

Perfectly Imperfect Parenting

My twins are at “Camp Grandparents” for two weeks, and they seem to be having a blast. At home, though, the house has definitely been too quiet! There haven’t been nearly as many giggles and squeals, dinnertime is a lot less lively, and it seems that summer just isn’t as much fun without five year-olds around to coerce you into running through a sprinkler or having a picnic at the park.   While I think spending time with grandparents that live farther away than we all would like is a fantastic experience for everyone (kids, grandparents, AND parents), every year I inevitably miss my twins terribly and begin to plan on being a “perfect parent” upon their return.

The “perfect parent plan” involves no more yelling, Zen-like patience, and a healthy and wholesome family meal each evening followed by lots of engaging and enriching Pinterest-inspired activities.   More realistically, though, it will probably take no time at all for me to forget my “no yelling” oath (most likely when my patience is worn thin over having to ask them to put their shoes on… again), and for dinner to be a pizza followed by yet another viewing of Frozen. This glimpse into our home during weeks also filled with work, day camp, and seemingly endless appointments and errands, is decidedly NOT perfect. The thing is, though, I am more than okay with that.

parentsmomdad8My penchant to strive for parenting perfection, and to vow to do everything the “right” way, is not new. Ten years ago my husband and I began to realize that sometimes the “baby in the baby carriage” doesn’t immediately follow love and marriage. We were married for seven years before we finally became parents. In those years there were lots of tears, and even more pleas and proclamations. If we could just have a baby we promised that we would be the best parents ever, we bargained that we would give up almost anything and would never be selfish, or ungrateful, or dismissive, like so many parents who we judged ruthlessly. We were so ignorant…and in for a rude awakening.

Fast forward to actually parenting newborn twins. We remained shockingly naïve, but even worse became consumed by guilt. I had toyed with the idea of trying to find a way to stay home with the twins longer than the eight weeks I was allotted from my job, and felt incredibly guilty when I came to the realization that I like working, and that even if we could’ve found a solution for family insurance, and necessary income, my decision would probably still be to go back to work.

imperfect parentingLater on, when the twins were about four months old, my husband found me in their nursery, rocking two colicky babies, crying uncontrollably. When he asked me what was wrong, I unleashed pent up worries and stress from the previous months. I told him that I wanted (and in hindsight, definitely needed) a break, but that I couldn’t leave the kids with a sitter because I felt like that would mean I was being unappreciative of the gift I had been given of having two babies to rock and soothe.

We did get out of the house for a night to ourselves shortly after that, and I spent the entire time questioning whether a “good” parent, a “grateful” parent would have left babies so young to “selfishly” enjoy time together. I even wondered if we were horrible parents because we were eating at a restaurant when that money could definitely have been spent on more prudent things at the time – like diapers or formula.

I think our struggle with infertility was at the root of the stress and anguish, and is still a reason for the guilt that I sometimes feel to this day. I know, firsthand, how heart-wrenching it is to want a baby, a child, a family so much that your every thought, desire and dream is about becoming a parent. I know that when you are in the throes of infertility you see other parents and think that they cannot possibly understand how blessed and fortunate they are. I know that it is easy to declare (to God, doctors, family) that you will be a different kind of parent – one that is appreciative and faultless – if only you are given the chance.

imperfect parentingThe truth is, however, nobody is perfect. That mom who sends perfectly portioned, organic, lovingly made lunches to school with her child everyday is not perfect. The dad who walks through the store in a superhero costume with his similarly dressed child is not perfect. The parents who seem to equally share parenting responsibilities and make it look so easy, are not perfect. There is nothing wrong with trying to be the best parent you can be, but there is also absolutely nothing wrong with realizing that the pursuit of perfection is pretty pointless once you become a parent.

In this “mommy wars” world it is easy to condemn or praise your own parenting choices and judge those of everyone else, too. My sometimes nagging desire to implement grand parenting style changes may partially be a result of getting caught up in the parenting scorecard so many of us seem to adhere to these days. I can honestly say, though, that I am no longer trying to pass some mythical test of my parenting skills required because of promises made while in the infertility trenches. I really am okay with my less than perfect life these days. I am blessed beyond measure and try to remember that every day. I think that using the “perfect parent plan” as a guide — because yelling directives at the kids does seem to be an utter fail, and time in the pool just can’t always be a good substitute for a bath — rather than a goal, is a much better idea for our perfectly imperfect family.

shellieShellie Fossick is “mom” to 5 year old boy/girl twins who started Kindergarten this year!  She is also the Development Director for a non-profit organization that provides high quality early care and education for more than 400 low-income children in Middle Tennessee.  She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband and two children.

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