Thank you to April Finley for this guest post. Read more about her in the bio below!
I’m a perfectionist.
I remember when that felt like a positive thing: when I was in school, it meant I generally did my best, double-checked my work, and completed my homework moments after it was assigned.
While interviewing for jobs, it was my go-to answer for “what is your biggest weakness?” The classic “positive negative” response that was sure to work in my favor.
But now that I’m a parent, perfectionism is something I fight on a regular basis.
It has its perks, for sure, but in the parenting realm perfectionism tends to haunt me more than help me.
Perfectionism tells me I’m a failure if I lose my temper when I know a loving response is best. It tells me my kids will remember my mistakes more than my successes. Perfectionism says there’s only one way to parent well, that every waking moment needs to be spent playing games on the floor with my kids, and that the meals I serve should always be colorful and nutritious.
For years now, I’ve known these are all lies, but I still feel like they’re true more often than I’d like to admit.
But here’s the thing: while I hate hearing my four-year-old say “remember when you got frustrated, Mom, when I wasn’t listening?” because I do remember and I know I didn’t handle it the way I should have, I also see the merits of these conversations with my children.
Through our mistakes, together, we’re…
- Learning Forgiveness. I often joke that, if nothing else, I’m modeling repentance to my kids and teaching them how to ask for forgiveness, because I have to do it all the time. I joke, but it’s so important to me as an imperfect person and an imperfect parent, and I want to raise children that are bold and humble enough to ask others for forgiveness too.
- Cultivating Open Communication. We talk about the way we’ve messed up. Once we’re removed from the situation and the weight of our emotions, my preschooler tells me with amazing clarity why he thinks I got frustrated and I explain to him how I could have responded better. I usually don’t even have to plan these conversations; as someone who is highly attuned to my emotions, he wants and needs to talk when we’re not seeing eye to eye.
- Finding Ways to Calm Down. My four and two-year-olds do not have the ability, most times, to calm themselves down. If I’m honest, I’m still working on this too! But my four year old knows that he needs my help, and will tell me, “I need you to help me calm down!” This usually means he needs a hug and he needs me to calm down, so together we try different calming techniques. We cuddle, we breathe, we pray, we get silly, or sometimes we give each other a little much-needed space.
- Allowing Ourselves to be Imperfect. I don’t want my kids to be as hard on themselves as I am on myself. And I recognize that that requires me to model grace for them. My son knows that we need to be kind even when we’re frustrated or angry, and he knows I’m still learning to do this myself. It’s not easy to admit to him that I don’t have it all together (something he clearly knows without being told!), but it struck me one day that while I feel like a failure when I don’t meet my own expectations, I never think of my kids as failures, and I’d bet anything they don’t think I’m a failure either.
While I feel like a failure when I don’t meet my own expectations, I never think of my kids as failures, and I’d bet anything they don’t think I’m a failure either.
So I’m a perfectionist, but I’m slowly changing the rules I’ve tried so hard to live by all my life.
Inviting myself and my family to replace perfectionism with the gift of being real, raw, honest, humble, and gracious as together we learn what it means to be – quite simply – human.
Resources to Help You Embrace Imperfection:
April Finley is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom. Her preschooler and toddler now teach her to slow down, enjoy the simple things in life, and always be open to learning something new (like how to be a more intentional parent!). Read more posts from April: 5 Questions to Help Your Unique Child Thrive