First of all, the perfect mom does not exist. She’s a total sham. No one can do it all - especially while also rocking perfect hair, a spotless house, a rewarding marriage, a meaningful social life, and a self care routine that goes beyond actually remembering to floss.
But beyond the fact that striving for perfection is a lost cause, it’s a major disservice to our children.
Wait, what? We’re trying to do it all FOR our children! Why would setting the bar so high be BAD for them? Well…
Studies show that our example is the most influential factor in our children’s development. What we say barely matters when compared to what we DO. And they’re always watching.
“As children develop, their brains "mirror" their parent's brain. In other words, the parent's own growth and development, or lack of those, impact the child's brain. As parents become more aware and emotionally healthy, their children reap the rewards and move toward health as well.” ― Daniel J. Siegel, The Whole-Brain Child
Our children see how we value other people’s opinion of ourselves over our own (which is a big perfectionist motivator when you get right down to it). They see how you burn yourself out and melt down when things don’t go as planned, how you neglect yourself in the name of helping everyone else, and how you are stressed out more than you are at ease. They see how you handle yourself when you mess up, choose poorly, or regret something. And they definitely see you grumpily running around trying to make their birthday party Pinterest-worthy instead of being present and spending time celebrating with them.
They see you set yourself on fire to keep others warm - and even though its our children we're often setting ourselves on fire for, the message is loud and clear: self care isn't important.
And if that’s all they see you do, that’s eventually what they will do too. You’re their example. You’re their everything, and they’re looking to you for lessons on how to live. Teaching them to strive for perfection over authenticity is not what you want them to learn from you, trust me.
When you value perfection and keeping up with the Jones's, they’ll see that impressing others is what life is all about. They’ll start looking outside of themselves for validation and worthiness because you’ve accidentally taught them that their value is in how others perceive them or how much they accomplish.
Imagine your children as adults burning the candle at both ends day after day. Imagine them ignoring their body’s signals to slow down and take care of themselves. Imagine your children stuffing their true feelings or needs deep down inside because they don't want to upset anyone with their authenticity or show the world that they could use some help. Imagine them judging the success of their birthday by how many likes they got on her Instagram photos of it instead of the love and support they felt from the loved ones that chose to come celebrate with them.
And then there’s this: imagine your children pulling away from you or hiding their true messy, imperfect selves because they know you value perfection over authenticity. And then imagine them judging themselves on your behalf because they aren’t able to do it all like you did when they were kids. After all, you were perfect, but they aren’t. Clearly they’re not good enough, right?
You see, even if you manage to pull off the illusion of perfection and effectively hide the toll it’s taking on your well-being, you’re setting the bar way too high. But your kids won’t realize your example was a sham. And they’ll fail trying to fill your shoes. And they’ll be ashamed. Or they’ll rebel, close off, hide.
One of my greatest fears as a parent is having a strained relationship with my children. It is so incredibly important to me to be a positive example of how to be vulnerable, authentic, and imperfect with as much grace as I can muster.
I want my children to see when I fall short, mess up, choose poorly, and fall on my face. I want them to see how I get up and try again. I want them to see a mother who’s not afraid to apologize, make amends, take responsibility, and keep moving forward. I want them to know that I’ll understand when they mess up… because they will, of course. And hopefully after witnessing me pick up the pieces time after time, they’ll see me as a wise ally ready to greet them with a giant empathetic hug and maybe some insight (if they want it, of course).
“Authenticity is a practice, and you choose it every day — sometimes every hour of every day” - Brené Brown