Parenting alone can be the most challenging and lonely thing you’ve ever done. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, even panicked, by the thought of holding yourself together enough to raise a child who is happy, healthy, smart and balanced. Take heart, Mom. The details don’t matter nearly as much as you think they do. It’s the big, over-arcing spirit of your home that counts when it comes to raising children. Maybe you have to work late sometimes, maybe you make mistakes; you’re still Mom, you still love your child and that’s still all that really matters.
Remember this when you’re covered in spit-up or Play Dough goo, you’ve just served peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner again, or you know you really can’t afford to throw your child an extravagant birthday party like all her friends seem to have–perfect is not the goal. Perfect does not exist except in a falsely based assumptions about the lives of other people. It’s easy to look from the outside and think your friends, family, neighbors have it together and your the only one struggling. Nothing could more untrue. Let go of perfect. Hanging on to some idealized, unrealistic version of life will keep you from enjoying the life you have. Start reveling in imperfection, instead. Perfect is a pipe dream and real life is happening now, waiting for you to jump into it and enjoy.
Know What Matters
You may not be able to give your kids everything you wish you could. Maybe your budget is tight as you strive to make it on a single income. Maybe your time is limited as you juggle work and all the duties of raising a child by yourself. Remember that kids don’t need everything. You live in a culture full of opportunities and crammed full of stuff. It’s not only impossible, it’s really not smart to jump into everything that’s available. The result would be overwhelming for you and for your child. Next time you feel like you are depriving your children because you can’t work out a way to drive them to summer camp or buy them a whole new wardrobe, remind yourself that less really is more. Make a conscious decision to let your children live unencumbered, free to be kids and experience life without the hindrance of too much.
Hold On Through the Worst
The worst stages of childhood, the most difficult job, incredibly stressful situations, well-intentioned but upsetting family members, painful conversations–none of the bad experiences will last. If you can’t see the good, hold on to the fact that whatever bad rut you are stuck in will end in time. Soon, you will be able to move on to something that is good. The more you see the limits of time and circumstance on the things that bother you, the more you see that they cannot control you; they too are moved by the course of life. Sometimes you just have to let them flow through you as they go.
Keep Your Perspective
If you’re worried about getting it right, think about your own past. Your parents made mistakes, right? But you’re okay. You probably didn’t realize until much later that they weren’t perfect. Single moms tend to remember the general feeling of their childhoods rather than the specific details of it. Your mom might have gotten angry too quickly or been a bad cook, but you really just remember that she loved you and accepted me. Your dad may have been busy or spent too much time watching sports, but you probably just remember that he was fun and full of adventures. It’s okay to let the details slide, as long as you keep the most important item securely in place and on display–your love for your child.