River District Counselling & Wellness

The Perfect Parent Illusion

Before Pinterest ever came along, we only knew how to achieve perfection through House and Home magazines that you get from the check out stands while you are waiting to pay for your groceries. You probably saw the cover of that magazine with the perfectly polished living space with the perfectly spaced sofa and pillows. Admit it, we knew NOTHING then. How many hours now might you spend on Wayfair searching for the thousands of items they have that could make your home just perfect? I’d like to admit here that it’s been A LOT. After I had found out I was pregnant, I had decided to drive to a furniture store because I NEEDED a new sofa. From there on out – it spiraled out of control with lights, a rug, ottoman and the list goes on. My headspace had morphed into this desire to replace everything that did not seem functional. Everything in my space suddenly seemed like it wasn’t suitable even thought I had been using it for years.

New parents nests in their own way to prepare their space for their new arrival. For me, it looked like trips to the donation bins where I discarded items I had been holding on to for ten years. It looked like me opening every under bed storage space, closet and cupboard to sort, organize and make space only to be filled with something else I had moved from another shelf. I had touch and re-touched items in my closets that I’d obsess over because it might have been not turned in the right direction. I could not figure it out WHY I was acting obsessively.

Then it hit me. What was I wanting from this extreme nesting? I was wanting everything to look, feel and be perfect. Perfection is unrealistic, an illusion and unattainable. I knew this because it is something I constantly talk about with my clients. Yet, here I was trying to attain perfection in so many different ways. I wanted to be the “Perfect Parent”. The Perfect Parent starts with perfectly folded sleepers and it then begins to trickle to everything else around you.

Through my experiences working with parents, I have come to understand that perfection is this internal drive to provide their children with everything that they did not have growing up. It requires parents to search for different experiences and opportunities to present to their children in hopes that these will create a more “diversely” experienced individual. This idea however has created distance in the relationships and connection that are so important between parent and child. The concept of “I’ve done everything for you” suddenly has been equated to the activities and material things that they have been bought and given. What is actually needed is the emotional connection, validation, and understanding of what your child is experiencing, because how often do you hear them say “You don’t get it Dad!”  It is about entering into their world without hesitation and listening to all the things that you have no interest in – like the latest video game they are playing or conflict between their friends. It is about not fixing the problem or offering the solution to them, but allowing them to experience everything for themselves, no matter how painful it is for you to watch.

The “Perfect Parent” is an illusion that has been built over time and become worse with the access we all have to social media. It is our own anxieties filling us with the desire to do what works best “as suggested” by the latest mommy blogger or influencer. It is the comparisons of what others have and us feeling like we need to step onto this path instead of keeping the path that we are on because we have convinced ourselves that this is what will make our lives and our children’s life or family life better.

Look within yourself to begin understanding of what you are trying to accomplish by being perfect. It is something that requires reflection of self in order to understand that you are trying to control that feels out of control. I have come to realize that instead of trying to be perfect, surrender to those flaws that make you human. Surrender to the idea that not everything is going to be clean and tidy. Surrender to the messiness of the day and allow yourself to run towards imperfection without guilt and shame.

Until next time,