In the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to visit a couple of families with brand-new teeny-tiny little ones. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on those early days with our sweet little Conlan.
I remember feeling the weight of perfection. This little person was now fully my responsibility – to raise, to teach, to grow. If I didn’t do it right, I would fail. I would fail him. I was passionate about the things I would or would not let him do. I was going to do it right. He deserved that.
Now (thankfully) I can chuckle at all my parenting goals. Conlan would never sleep in our bed (FAIL!), ingest forumula (FAIL!), or watch television (FAIL!). I would sleep-train him by 6 weeks (FAIL!) and he would love vegetables (FAIL!). He would never throw a tantrum (FAIL!), nor would I (FAIL! FAIL! FAIL!).
If I kept score, I’d be losing. Instead, I feel relief that I’m not keeping score.
In fact, I found that allowing myself to fail at most of these things brought huge amounts of relief, and each time I gave in, the weight of my burden lessened. For example, I remember being determined to breastfeed for a full year. I had to pump nights and weekends to send enough to daycare to keep his little belly full. I had charts and tallys and counted the ounces in my freezer constantly. I spent so much time & energy as a milk machine that I felt I missed out on every other part of life. I was overwhelmed and miserable. One night, it hit me – there was a substitute for my milk, but there was not a substitute for my time. I made the very difficult decision to stop pumping nights & weekends, and to supplement with formula when needed. While my heart broke for failing my son, I was incredibly relieved that my life had eased. I was able to find joy in playing with him, and felt like I got a part of my life back.
Fast forward to today, and we are able to have lazy Saturday mornings because Conlan watches Curious George and The Cat In The Hat on PBS Kids. I stopped feeling guilty for the failures and found freedom in the relief.
So far my son is happy, reasonably well-behaved, and well-adjusted. He likes broccoli & loves fruit. Today, I’ll add that up to a win.
I’ve found that the pursuit of perfection is more crazy-making than healthy. I’m not going to let my failures discourage me. I know I’ll have plenty more in the future, but I will continue to intentionally choose my failures and weigh them against our greater quality of life as a family. Instead of letting them get me down, I will enjoy the freedom and relief!