(Long Island, N.Y.) When I was pregnant with my first child, all I wanted, was to be a perfect parent. Then reality set in: 200 dropped binkies, 80 times I wanted to run down the street screaming, 44 muffled curse words (OK, make that 4,400), 15 times I forgot to bring an extra diaper and one tumble off the bed…I realized that there’s just no such thing as perfect. I asked Jessica Carlson, co-creator of THE IMPERFECT PARENT, her take on parent perfection.
Long Island Exchange: Do you think one of the hardest things about being a new mom…is other mothers? If yes, why?
Carlson: One of the hardest things about being a new mom is the figuring out children part, but a close second is the moms who think it’s their place to raise my children. Moms love to extrapolate their own experiences — successes and failures — and ideals onto other family’s situations without considering differing family setups and dynamics. It’s simply not a one-size fits all solution for families out there.
Some moms have to work, other moms are raising their children alone and some families are fortunate enough to have mom stay home — for each family, decisions need to be made based on their individual needs.
Long Island Exchange: So why do you think some moms try so hard to appear “perfect”?
Carlson: It’s like a high school popularity contest all over again, this time the peer pressure is set in a grown-up society, namely internet chat rooms and forums — there seems to be a deep desire for acceptance. Also, with the extreme rise in media exposure, parents are presented more and more with what is supposedly the “ideal” in parenting. Everywhere they turn it’s this study says do this, this study says do that, it’s overwhelming.
Long Island Exchange: I’m not afraid to admit I’ve given my two year old cheese doodles for breakfast, and while you’ll never see a service feature in a national parenting magazine listing “The Top 10 Snacks…To Shut Them UP”, many moms will admit to those moments. So why are our parenting imperfections still so taboo?
Carlson: I think it boils down to political correctness. It’s common to be somewhat insecure in raising children, but some parents, especially mother’s who cannot handle the ambiguity of it all, amplify that and need a very definitive, structured and “correct” way of doing things as a coping mechanism for dealing with the unknown. That insecurity leads to fear of being judged by other moms.
Long Island Exchange: What has been the positive response to The Imperfect Parent?
Carlson: I think it’s great we get a lot of emails saying, “I totally needed this website, I love the concept!” even though we don’t elaborately state what the “concept” is — just the title “The Imperfect Parent” seems to speak volumes, and demonstrates there’s a need out there for a site for frazzled parents to feel normal. I also think it’s important to point out that we get our fair share of criticism. To me the hate mail is a lot more telling, like those criticizing working mothers or parent’s weekly jaunts to fast food land — it emphasizes that parents need a refuge from the wagging fingers of their judgmental neighbors.
Long Island Exchange: There have been times I’ve thought about another mother, Hey, lighten up, lady. Is that your part of your mission? What’s the big picture for The Imperfect Parent?
Carlson: Although moderation and common sense needs to be applied to parenting decisions, it seems to me that there are a lot more tragic crimes (like violence) against children going on than to worry about a Saturday afternoon happy meal on the go. As parents, we do the best we can, with the resources available and what’s right in one situation may require an entirely different solution for another situation. As parents, we should be as unique in our parenting styles as our children’s individuality.
Those who insist on following so called “experts” advice in lock-step may be surprised to find out that their children don’t turn out as perfect as they might have hoped. I think all parents need to do themselves and their children a favor and do what you suggested, “lighten up”. Mothers today certainly didn’t invent motherhood.
So I guess our mission in a nutshell is to tell parents to simply do what they believe in their heart is right, and if their kid whispers “I love you” when they tuck them in at night, then they’re doing a damn good job.
To hook up with other imperfect parents, visit: http://www.imperfectparent.com