Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The myth of the perfect parent

Somehow even with being home with just Zoey, I haven’t found much time to post.  It’s partly a lack of sleep and not being able to focus on much that requires coherence and partly trying to finish up some photo projects that I want to get done before I go back to work.  Ugh.  Just the thought of it is starting to give me anxiety.

I knew it was going to be harder coming to grips with returning to work after Zoey than it was with Tera.  It’s mostly because I have a lot less time with Zoey (with Tera I had close to six months because of summer), but a lot of it is that more of that time than I had ever wanted was spent with her in the hospital; it’s just not quite the same thing. 

So right now I’m dealing with the anxiety surrounding my return to full time working mom, and also about a million other emotions.  I find my days now, busy, but not packed.  Our evenings exhausting (mostly due to lack of sleep), but not overwhelming.  Our weekends almost completely enjoyable because so much of what NEEDS to be taken care of is done so during the week.  When I go back to work, that all changes.  In the mornings, we’ll have to get both Tera and Zoey ready and out the door at a reasonable time.  After work we’ll be trying to fit in workouts, a somewhat healthy dinner, more than likely work that didn’t get done during the day, preparing for the next day, and hopefully at some point enjoying some time with the girls.  The weekends fortunately during the late fall and winter are a little less hectic as far as plans, but will still have to include grocery shopping, other extraneous errands, and all the other stuff we won’t have time for during the week.  We’ll make it work, we always do, but I’ll be more stressed that I’m missing out on quality time with my family and trying to balance work and home responsibilities.

I’ve come across a few articles recently, since I actually have some time to read right now, about being the perfect parent.  With Tera I was always worried that we weren’t working on enough strategies or that I wasn’t researching enough about new alternative ways to help with her development and/or health.  I still think about it.  But now with Zoey, for some reason I feel calmer.  I worry that we’ll be overwhelmed when we’re both working, I worry that money will be too tight with them both in daycare, I worry about them getting sick since I’m using up all my sick time being on maternity leave, and I worry about a million other things like most moms.  But still, in the midst of that, I feel calmer.  And the weirdest thing?  For all my musings on how I could never really believe that I was a mom with Tera, now that we have both Tera and Zoey, I feel like a real mom.  But am I a good enough mom?

It is definitely a struggle to feel even adequate when you can’t help but be bombarded by social media’s portrayal of all the things you COULD be doing as a parent to make sure your kids are geniuses and healthy both physically and emotionally.  A perfect example: I love Pinterest.  I know it’s not all realistic, but I love it.  When Zoey came home I had all these great ideas saved for siblings pictures.  We have a really nice camera and a new lighting kit courtesy of a great friend, and I just wanted to capture these once in a lifetime pictures of Tera as the big sister and Zoey as the infant baby sister.  The problem? Tera doesn’t sit still.  She doesn’t smile on command.  Zoey is past the point of being pose-able because she’s not actually a newborn, but she’s nowhere near capable of holding her head up or anything even close to that.  And Tera is too unsteady, and let’s face it, she’s three, to hold Zoey without one of us right next to her.  So while we got a few really great ones of the two of them, I have to come to grips with the fact that most if not all of the ideas that I saved won’t happen.  It’s just not realistic. 

And so when I came across this article, it struck home.  Tera has finally started watching TV and movies and you know what? It’s amazing.  I know we should be reading or creating something incredibly crafty with her, but the kid is at daycare from 7am until about 4pm and in between those hours she spends two and a half hours at preschool.  She’s getting plenty of stimulation.  On top of that we’re almost always sitting with her.  There are many weeks when her dinners consist of either peanut butter and jelly or chicken nuggets, but she always has at least one vegetable and/or fruit.  When we go to Starbucks with her, she gets a donut, but she’s never had candy (at least not with us) and we don’t give her cereal.  Half the time we have to bribe her with vegetables to get her to eat meat.   We use Tera’s iPad as an incentive to get her to follow her morning and nighttime routine, and sometimes to go potty.  Oh well.  If you want to judge me, you come on over and see what it’s like to get her to take a bath, comb her hair, and brush her teeth. 

But, we love our kids.  They’re well taken care of, we eat healthy but also allow Tera to have treats. They will always know they’re loved but will learn to understand that our undivided attention all the time isn’t realistic.  We will spoil them because we can, but when they are old enough to understand, they will have responsibilities that will be completed without promise of a reward.  We will always support them, but they will have to do their best even in difficult situations.  It will be hard watching them deal with disappointment, but I’ll be damned if they don’t learn how to do it with grace and dignity.  Do I think any of these things will be easy? Probably not.  But we chose to bring them into this world and if we are going to expect them to give their all, then we owe them the same. 

I didn’t have a perfect childhood, few people do.  But I always knew, unquestionably, that I was loved and even when my parents didn’t agree with me, they supported me.  All I can hope is that when they look back on their childhoods my daughters can say the same.  


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