Just recently I sat in a room full of mommas, observing the variations in our parenting. Some moms read stories every night at tuck-in time. Some volunteer in their children’s classrooms. Some homeschool their kids. Some make their kids’ lunches every day. Some give money to buy lunch in the cafeteria, and on and on and on. I left there feeling prideful in the areas that I knew I was rocking as a parent and discouraged in areas where I apparently wasn’t living up to another momma’s standard.
I’m nailing the talks about sex with my kids, but I refuse to make lunches anymore. I am over volunteering in the classroom, but I give my kids vitamins every day. Leaving that gathering, I saw success in some areas and failure in others—or I should say that I perceived success in some areas and perceived failure in others.
Social Media and Pursuing Perfection
As parents, we are keenly aware of how other parents are raising their kids—not just from one-on-one conversations with friends about parenting, but from the world of social media. This is not the part where I tell you how awful social media is. But I am going to say this: Social media is the formulated portrayal of life as we think it should look. Social media is curated and crafted to represent something, and usually, that something is perfect, be it the perfect photo, the perfect lighting, the perfect afternoon, the perfect dinner, or even the perfect parent.
The solution is not to divert our eyes from all social media, but rather, to understand what we’re viewing and compare it to the truth. For example, I love seeing pictures of my sweet momma friends packing their kids’ lunches every day. Those adorable lunch boxes and cute notes they put inside bring me so much joy. But I need to know deep down, and remember in that moment, that not doing this for my own kids doesn’t make me a less-than-perfect parent, and it surely doesn’t make them perfect parents. Remember when viewing social media that you are only seeing a glimpse, and it isn’t the whole picture. The truth is that each parent has different skills, bandwidth, talents, time, and values. You are not a bad parent because you don’t put a note in your kid’s lunch. The truth is that you are a different parent, and that is not a bad thing.
Deep down we all want to be the perfect parent. So we’re looking around—to friends, social media, etc.—to see if there’s a way to define what a perfect parent is. Does a perfect parent make lunches every day, say yes to every demand their kids make, volunteer in the classroom, work in or outside the home, or do all of their kids’ laundry? The list can go on and on, and even if we answered these questions, we would still be trying to figure out the actual definition of a perfect parent.
Before I share with you what striving to be this perfect parent can do to your soul, I want to let you in on a little secret. Lean in close and listen carefully…there is no such thing as a perfect parent. It’s a myth, a legend. Perfection is not attainable. (Whew! Breathe deep, and give yourself a break!)
There Is No Perfect Parent
There are two major emotions that consume our hearts when striving for the unattainable goal of being the perfect parent, and it all depends on whether you see yourself succeeding or failing in this endeavor.
The first feeling is discouragement, and this one starts to bubble up when you look around and (wrongly) observe that everyone seems to be doing this parenting thing better than you. No one else seems to struggle in their parenting. Everyone around you seems to have the kind of confidence that you couldn’t even begin to muster up, and therefore, you must be the worst parent on the face of the earth. (Am I the only one who has thought this before? Please tell me I’m not alone here!)
When we look around and perceive that everyone else is succeeding, we come to believe that we must be failing. Friends, this will bring so much disappointment to you and to your parenting. God gave you kids and made you a parent. He has and will continue to equip you for the hard and worthy task of parenting. Comparing yourself to those around you instead of trusting God’s call on your life to be a parent will always lead to a discouraged soul. Trust Him—He placed your children in your home to be loved and parented by you!
Now, this striving for parental perfection is also dangerous when you perceive or believe that you are indeed the perfect parent and that if everyone would just be more like you, the world would surely be a better place. We have all met this parent, and frankly, some of us are this parent or have been for a season. The trouble with believing that you are a perfect parent is that you’re believing a lie. Not one of us is perfect, and we never will be until Jesus returns and makes all things new.
Believing that you are the perfect parent leads to pride in your heart, a disconnect from other parents (because, frankly, no one will want to be your friend!), and a big wake-up call when your kids mess up. The false sense of security that perfection brings is dangerous to our souls when things don’t go as we thought they should. The pride that we display when we believe our perfect parenting is a result of our own striving and work ethic is so far from the truth of Scripture, which proclaims that all good and perfect gifts are from God. Any display of “good parenting” in us comes from Him and Him alone.
Here’s my challenge to us all: Let’s get rid of the idea of the “perfect parent,” because it doesn’t and can’t exist. It’s a standard that we could strive for our entire lives and never attain. Because of Jesus and Jesus alone, you can be the best parent for your kids. Jesus lived the perfect life that we never could! And the Holy Spirit is inside of each of us teaching and molding our hearts and minds, giving us His power and strength to be the parents we are called to be. Will we still make mistakes? For sure. Will we sometimes be awesome parents? For sure, as well.
This is such good news for us as parents! Your success as a parent isn’t determined by whether you make your kids’ lunches every day (with a note included, of course!) or you send them with money for the cafeteria. We have peace in knowing that as we love our kids well and point them to Jesus in all that we do, we are being the very best parents we can be.
Want to read more from Jamie Ivey? Check out some of her other LifeWay Voices post.