We all know at least one perfect parent. They have cute kids who they love on unreservedly with unlimited patience, they are always put together and their house is spotless. Or they are so effortlessly laid back, and their kids dress themselves in adorably un-self-conscious outfits, and nothing ruffles them. Or they make it to every Mommy & Me class with unspilled coffee in hand. You go over for dinner and both parents and relaxed and happy, they both help each other equally and the kids are polite and look bathed recently.
You know these parents.
You are actually these parents to someone.
When we idealize these parents, we are over-crediting those things we find difficult to do. I have never been a hair and makeup girl, so when I see a mom nicely done up, I am always wowed. It doesn’t matter if it’s a swipe of lipstick and a 5-minute blow-out. It represents something that is so far out of my reach as to appear mythical.
But the reality is that my priorities are different. Not better or worse, just different. And when I see these other moms, I add what I see from them to my own mental checklist, instead of replacing something on my checklist.
Additionally, we under-value the things we do ourselves. Cooking at home a few times a week is something we are in the habit of doing. We get HelloFresh so we don’t have to think about meals, but to a mom who has valued something else over home cooking (like getting to every soccer practice this season), the very thought of adding an hour or more of cooking to her evening agenda is overwhelming.
It’s easy to forget that parents are facing the same challenges, and often many others that are unique to their own family. Spending all day with children (and all evening and all night) is precious, rewarding, mind-numbingly boring time that we will never get back.
Wait, what was that last one?
I’ll say it again. Being around kids constantly can end up being both fantastic and really repetitive. Kids learn through repetition. They adore repeating anecdotes that make them laugh, they like to play the same games, they make the same mistakes… Over and over and over until you’re ready to tear your hair out.
The perfect parents you hold up have these days too. I know. I’m a perfect parent. Just yesterday, I only swore one time in frustration. Just once! On that very same day, I changed my baby out of a blow-out poop diaper and had a spare onesie in my bag to put on him! I later went a step further and didn’t throw out the pooped on onesie (instead I dyed it pink in the wash, although I’ll admit that was unintentional). Today I put on Wall-E because my kids love it and I love them (and there is no dialogue for the first 40 minutes). I am also married to a perfect parent. He mows the lawn, takes the kids to sporting events and the pool, and is a “fun dad” (you all know fun dads). Every night after the kids are in bed, we lie on separate couches and watch Game of Thrones, eyes partly open, possibly drooling slightly, bathed in the reassurance that winter is coming. This is what perfect parents do.
We make a real effort to do a lot of fun things with our kids. And it’s an effort. They’re base ingrates, for one. For another, someone always needs to pee or poop or have a drink of water. And when we are doing these fun things (which are almost always fun and completely worth it), we are patently not cleaning the house or doing the dishes or weeding the yard or making sure the kids have coordinating outfits or clean clothes at all in the correct sizes.
The thing about all the perfect parents you know is that they prioritize the things you wish you prioritized, but don’t for various reasons. Maybe you don’t because it’s too expensive to send your daughter to cello lessons. Or because your day is too busy to pick up coordinating outfits. Or maybe you don’t because you are on your own and just getting everyone through the day without a trip to the ER is a victory. For whatever the reasons, accept them and forgive yourself. You are a perfect parent because you are patient enough to play CandyLand 8 times in a row even when your kids bicker and try to cheat. You are perfect because you care that your children know how to behave in a polite setting. You are perfect because you kiss your baby after she has fallen asleep on you even if she made you cry three times today because colic is not something you can fix.
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to turn off the movie…and turn on some video games.