Now that I’ve been writing about marriage and parenting for over a year, the compliments are starting to roll in. Just today I had an article published on FamilyShare.com and the comments on that article on Facebook were quite good. Today, this comment appeared there: “The smartest man in the world must have written this article.” And since it’s apparent that I’m a perfect husband and father, I thought I would share my secret. 🙂
The secret to being the perfect parent and spouse: Accepting that you will never be a perfect parent or spouse.
If you’ve read through your social media feeds lately, you’ll see that “perfect” people are all around us. Their kid is the cutest and never mis-behaves. Their marriage is still in the honeymoon phase after 20 years of marriage and they never fight or have problems. They have all the nicest stuff and they are living their dream lives. Social media has created a platform by which we share the best of our lives and are hardly ever vulnerable.
If I’m not careful, I can do that too…especially with my writing. My first thought when I sit down to write a post is always about what I’m doing really well in my marriage or with my kids. I’m tempted to write in a way that makes me sound like I’m an authority who has it all figured out. But, if I can be vulnerable, I don’t have it all figured out. I make a lot of mistakes both with my wife and my kids. I work VERY hard every day to get it right…and that only leads to a 70% success rate.
What I have “figured out” is that I’m not a perfect parent or spouse and I never will be. I didn’t have this mentality from the start. I had to figure it out after many years of getting it wrong. When I would fail as a father or husband, it would wreck me and I would feel like the worse daddy ever…or husband ever… But, once I figured out that I’m not perfect and never will be, there are several benefits that flooded into my life. Here are a few:
- I can be vulnerable with my kids. When I’m not perfect in life, it opens up an opportunity for me to teach my kids very important lessons about life. When I mess up with my kids, it’s even more impactful. My kids have seen me cry, have heard me say I’m sorry, and have been privy to some of my failures that have happened. They’ll realize some day that I’m not perfect and I would rather they know it sooner rather than later and on my terms. And, as I’ve said before, vulnerability leads to trust and when I’m vulnerable with them, they’ll be vulnerable with me.
- I can avoid the comparison trap. This is the biggest downside to social media, in my opinion. I see it all too often. People post how “perfect” their lives are and we immediately begin feeling one of two emotions: jealousy or inadequacy. And neither are helpful as we are trying to be the best parent and spouse that we can be. When we aren’t trying to be perfect, we can see what others are doing and celebrate their accomplishments without feeling like we have to do the same things or achieve the same results.
- I can be free to try new things. Let’s face it, each child we have is different. They have their own likes and dislikes…their own preferences…their own habits. And it’s true that our spouses are different from us. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for parenting or for our marriages. When trying different approaches with those we love, we can be paralyzed by thoughts of perfection and getting it right. So, we relegate ourselves to staying where we are, no matter the cost. When we’re free from the pursuit of perfection, we’re able to try new things…and even fail at them…without the consequences that often accompanies a less than perfect result.
- I can ask others for help. Feeling like we have to be the perfect parent or the perfect spouse is closely akin to us feeling like we have to look like we are perfect. We don’t share our needs, hurts, and wants with others. Instead, we project an image that is far from reality – that we have it all together. Portraying the image of perfection can be a very lonely place. But, when we’ve accepted that we aren’t and never will be perfect, we are free to ask others to help us. We can share about our struggles and then learn from others who have “been there, done that.” Too few people have mentors in their lives and they are missing out on a relationship that can completely revolutionize the way they relate to those they love the most.
- I can be me. Striving for perfection can lead us to be someone other than who we really are. We stretch the truth about our situation. We exaggerate the good times and underemphasize the bad times. We end up lonely, hurt, confused, and tired. However, when we stop shooting for perfection in our lives, we can be ourselves. We embrace the good times and the bad times with the perspective that both are important to a balanced life. We look at failures as learning opportunities rather than a characterization of who we are. Being yourself with your spouse, your children, and others is a pursuit that never leaves you empty and always leads to more meaningful relationships.
Are you perfect? Are you someone who needs to free yourself from a pursuit that leads to failure after failure? I’m asking everyone who reads this blog to do one thing: post below in the comments section and simply say “I’m not perfect.”