You ever look through your social media pages and see status updates that make you sigh because they seem so...perfect? You know the ones, especially from other parents--they're doing this thing and that thing and their kids are so smart and so well-behaved. Sometimes it seems impossible to keep up and can leave you feeling inadequate.
Here's the thing about that, though: there are no perfect parents. There are also no perfect children, perfect families, or perfect lives, so when you're tempted to judge yourself harshly because of a status message or a pic, here are some things to remember about being a perfectly imperfect parent.
Step 1: Just Say No to Comparison
It's so easy to compare ourselves to others, especially when it comes to parenting, but you have to remember that you're not seeing the whole picture. You're seeing a snapshot, and chances are, you have some pretty awesome snapshots of your own!
Even in the same family, no two children are exactly alike, and it's unreasonable to compare yourself or your kiddos against others. Focus on the good things that happen with you and your children and don't worry too much about what other people are up to.
Step 2: Accept Mistakes
Ahhhh, this one's really hard. No one likes making mistakes. That feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you feel like you've messed up; it's not good. However, it is normal. It's also good--it means you're learning (yeah, even moms and dads have a few things to learn!).
Everyone makes mistakes, including (and maybe especially) parents. But children are resilient and forgiving; the trick is learning to forgive yourself as readily as your kids will.
As for handling mistakes? Accepting and admitting when you've messed up to and in front of your children is one of the best life lessons you can give them: teach them how to handle their own mishaps with dignity and class by setting the example.
Step 3: Remember That You're Not Just a Parent
It's a little too easy to get caught up in being a parent and forget that you're a person outside of that role--just like you're not only a significant other, you're not only an employee, you're also not only a parent.
Plugging into those things that give you passion and happiness and encouragement outside of the role of parenting is a huge boost to your personal morale and growth, and will show itself in huge dividends when you're with your kids. It's so much easier to be centered when you've got places to explore your own interests.
If you've lost some of that, start thinking about the things you did before children that drove you or made you smile. Art? Reading? Running? Music? Dig back into that a little, discover that individual passion again. Take care of your soul, and you'll be better equipped to be a perfectly imperfect parent!
Step 4: Trust Your Instincts
At the end of the day, you probably know your children better than anyone, and often your instincts will lead you in the right direction. If you can't get a nagging thought out of your head, take a look at it, see if it's worth exploring.
Feeling overwhelmed, afraid, angry, frustrated, inadequate--these are all extremely normal feelings to have as a parent. Don't be afraid to deal with those emotions!
And if you feel like something's wrong or there's something you just can't handle on your own, it's never weakness to seek help. Parenting support groups, teachers, counselors, doctors--there are a lot of places to get a hand when things just aren't clicking.
There's no such thing as perfect, so just be the best imperfect you can be. Parenting isn't easy and it isn't all sunshine and rainbows--but there's little pots of gold all along the way!