As parents, we always try to do the best we can for our kids. We want them to be healthy, happy, successful. We also want to be at our best so we can set a good example. But sometimes our good intentions go sideways. Sometimes our goal of being a great parent turns into trying to be a perfect parent. And our goal of raising great kids turns into trying to raise perfect kids.
Do you know what happens when you try to be a perfect parent and/or try to raise perfect kids? The result is a feeling of failure and shame. Which, ironically, is exactly what you were trying to avoid with your striving for perfection.
Perfectionism is driven by feelings of fear, shame an unworthiness. Moms seem particularly susceptible to feeling judged and criticized as mothers. You feel guilty if you don't breastfeed or use daycare. Perfectionist moms think that if they can do things just right and be the epitome of a perfect mother, they'll be happy, respected, and validated. So, you make homemade, organic baby food, limit screen time, and go to church every Sunday. You're driven. You get your toddler into the best preschool in town. You drill your kiddo to practice piano for an hour every night. You drive her to swim meets clear across the state. You expect perfection from yourself and nothing less from your kids. You're going to the best mom and you're kids are going to succeed even if it kills you!
Father's aren't exempt from perfectionism either. I think as Dads have become more active participants in child rearing, they've also fallen prey to competition and comparison among parents. And, of course, they too can set unrealistically high expectations for their kids.
What is the price for perfectionism in parenting?
Whenever you're taking care of someone else, it's essential to take care of yourself first. As parents, we must remember to make time for rest, fun, and relationships. Pushing yourself too hard, staying up too late, and being self-critical are not conducive to healthy parenting. You need to cut yourself some slack. You don't need to throw the most elaborate birthday parties or have kids on the honor roll to prove you're a good parent. Knowing you're a good parent(not perfect, but good) comes from within. It's not something that you know because you compare yourself to other moms and dads or have other people validate for you. Feeling worthy must come from within. And it's from this place of worthiness that we can love our kids unconditionally and teach them that they are worthy just as they are, not because of their accomplishments.
We make mistakes as parents. And our kids make mistakes. We need to help our kids understand that it's normal to screw up sometimes. Our kids are not more likely to become successful, well-adjusted, high-achieving adults when we're harsh, demanding, and unforgiving. In fact, perfectionism puts you and your kids at risk for depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. We want to teach them to aim high, practice hard, learn from their mistakes, and to be kind and forgiving towards themselves and others.
Are you a Mom or Dad who struggles with perfectionism?
Last week I had the privilege of being interviewed by Dr. Christina Hibbert, host of the Web Talk Radio program Motherhood, all about perfectionism.
I'd love for you to head over to WebTalkRadio.net to listen to our conversation: There's No Such Thing as a Perfect Mother. And although we focus on mothers, I think fathers will find the episode supportive, as well.
The episode addresses:
- What is perfectionism?
- How is perfectionism different than striving for excellence?
- What’s wrong with being a perfectionist?
- What kinds of problems does it cause?
- How does perfectionism develop?
- How can we accept ourselves more fully?
- How can we help our children learn that it’s OK to make mistakes and promote self-acceptance?
I am confident that perfectionism in parenting comes from a loving place. I hope that we can work on loving ourselves more and supporting each other through the stresses of parenting with empathy and grace and practical help.
Thank you so much for taking the time to listen and read. To find out more about overcoming perfectionism, please join my free e-newsletter by signing up here.
This post was originally published on the Happily Imperfect Blog on PsychCentral.