Imperfect Parenting and Managing the Endless Lists of "Shoulds"Nov 11, 2021
Do you keep running lists of all the things that you think you should be doing? You know, that list in your head about all the “right” ways to do things. The list of things that you think you need to do to finally be a good parent, spouse, partner, friend, daughter, employee, or more.
The list might cover exactly how you should feed your child (maybe all homemade food with a certain amount of veggies and fruit), what your child should wear, how much you should be reading to them, and what type of activities you should enroll them in.
Once they’re in school it might include monitoring school work, volunteering at school, the PTO, coaching one of their team sports, reciprocating every playdate and arranging the perfect birthday parties.
And don’t even get me started on the holidays! Getting the perfect picture for the holiday card, presents for the kids, parents, in-laws, teacher gifts, and plans for where you’re spending which holidays.
If you are like most of the parents I coach, I’m guessing that you likely have multiple lists! Can you relate? How many lists do you have? I probably had a minimum of at least 7 back in the day!
The issue that most of my clients face — and that I myself didn’t realize for such a long time, is that the lists aren’t reasonable. In most cases they’re not even humanly possible, and when you stop to think about it, you really don’t want to be doing everything on the list!
But when you don’t stop and become aware of what is on the list, you may end up feeling as if you are either not doing a good job or flat out failing because you can't possibly do everything on the so-called list. I know, it seems crazy when we actually think about it.
So where do I start coaching my clients on their lists? We start by shedding light on them. In a coaching session we list out everything on the list that they think they should be doing. We make it really detailed. What are ALL the things you think you need to do to be a good parent?
Then we start asking questions. Do you think that everyone needs to do all of these things to parent well? That answer is typically no - we would never expect anyone else to do all of this because it’s just too much!
What are the benefits of doing everything on this list?
There are certainly benefits to getting various things done on your list. But when we talk about getting everything done on the list, there is usually just one — and that is that you would finally FEEL like you are doing a good job.
What are the consequences or cost of doing everything on the list?
This list is longer, but the main one is that if you did everything on the list you wouldn’t have time to spend with the people that you are doing it FOR - your family.
We cover more in a coaching session, but I think you get the idea. My clients walk away with so much more awareness around their list and awareness is the first step to change. Because what if you just decided that you were already a good parent, without having to do everything on the list? Did you even know that was an option?
Because it is. You can give yourself permission to decide what it means to be a good parent, and you can come up with a list that you can actually achieve. One that you may have already even met.
I’ve met and interacted with more parents than I can count over the years, and I have yet to meet any “perfect parents”. Personally, I don’t think they exist. So I believe that it’s time to stop trying to live up to “perfection”, and instead have grace and compassion for our imperfections and mistakes. Know that they will happen and see them as the lessons and opportunities for growth and learning that they are.
The goal of life isn’t perfection, the goal is growth. We were put on the planet to experience life, and we typically learn and grow more from our mistakes than our successes. Consider that you can be both a masterpiece and work in progress at the same time!
Imagine dropping the unattainable standard of perfection that makes you feel like a failure, and imagine feeling confident and successful now. Because that’s possible for you too…
I share all of this from a place of knowing because I am an imperfect parent doing this work. I can’t say that the lists are completely gone, but they have decreased significantly and I’m continuing to work on them. I’m deciding on my own version of success, and finding grace and compassion for myself and my mistakes. I have to remind myself often there’s no such thing as a perfect parent.
Each day I continue to work on becoming better, and trust that my kids are learning from me that it’s possible to learn, change, evolve, and to become a better version of yourself — even as an adult and parent. I want to show them what it’s like to accept where I’m at while I continue the work of becoming better.
If this resonates with you, I would love to have you join my world!
You can sign up for my Mindful Parenting Circle where I share inspiration and tips, as well as notifications of my upcoming workshops and programs. To get the circle right in your mailbox you can sign up here: https://www.melpeirce.com/signup. You can also join us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/mindfulparentcircle
I hope to see you on the inside soon!
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