Sunday, June 19, 2011

The myth of the 'perfect' parent.

Earlier this week, I suggested new titles that can follow Adam Mansbach's Go the F*** to Sleep book. Like most parents out there, I laughed (and laughed!) when I heard Samuel Jackson read the book -- it was fucking hilarious! Clearly, I'm not the only one who thinks so, with 400,000 (and counting) copies in print, a lot of other parents appreciate the comic relief Mansbach's book provides, allowing us to crack a smile at a situation that does not feel funny in the moment. Humor aside, I think the book acknowledges a reality that most of us rarely admit: parenting *is* hard (and exhausting, and frustrating, and I'll stop now before this post gets too depressing). I think it's refreshing to acknowledge something that is universal to all parents, and I think it's important. This book challenges the myth of the 'perfect parent', and that's what makes it so great. For once, the pressure of being perfect has been relaxed a little, and it feels good.

I came across a blog post last night that suggested not everyone sees the humor in this book, while I didn't pay too much attention to the blog post itself (the auther is entitled to her opinion), the ensuing discussion caught my attention. There were a few commenters who agreed with the author, but the majority did not (no surprise there!). What caught me offguard were the disclaimers most (all?) women seemed compelled to inject into their comments, that while they might *feel* frustrated with their children, they most certainly would never act on those feelings, they would never want to make their children feel like a burden. Sure, we can laugh at the frustration we all feel internally, but heaven forbid any of us externalize it, I mean, can you even imagine? Once again, the myth of the 'perfect parent' has been restored, phew!

Well, I'm going to go on public record and admit that not only do I feel frustration in certain situations with my kids, but sometimes (now, brace yourself!), I act on it (the horror, the horror!). I am not a perfect parent, in fact, I am far from it. Sometimes I yell at our kids. Sometimes I say things that I regret (and yes, I often feel absolutely horrible about it afterwards). As much as I wish I could count to ten and breathe deeply when I feel the frustration coming on, I don't seem to be equipped with that particular coping mechanism. When I was pregnant with our first child, if anyone would have ever told me how impatient I could be as a parent, I would have never (ever!) believed them.

I think it's an absolute shame that parents, particularly mothers, hold themselves up to a standard of perfection that's unattainable (and it is). If anyone suggests they never get frustrated with their kids, they're either lying, or they don't spend a whole lot of time around them (Gwyneth Paltrow, I'm looking at you!). I think it's good to be honest about everything parenting entails, the good, the bad, and the ugly, Mansbach's humorous approach to bedtime woes is a great way to ease new parents into the reality that parenting is not always fun or easy, for that reason, I think it would make a fabulous shower gift -- watch out Sophie the Giraffe, you've got competition!


  1. I agree -- another imperfect parent here! ;) I would even hazard to suggest that this myth of "The Perfect Parent" does little other than break new parents down as they struggle to find their parenting groove. Yeah, I screw up and I say sorry -- and my children learn about compassion and forgiveness, and that nobody (not even their parent) is perfect. I don't want my kids to EVER feel the need to be perfect. I struggled under this as a child and it broke me more than a few times.

    If we as parents can't find humor in our own imperfections, how can we expect tolerance and acceptance in our children?

    I think this book is funny in the same way that series of "politically correct" fairy tales were back in the 1990's. It's tongue in cheek. If you take it seriously, you've missed the point..

  2. I am not a perfect parent. I know that. I also get angry, yell, don't handle situations the way that I would like to, etc. etc. etc. I'm also fairly secure about myself and my parenting, imperfect as it is. I don't strive for perfection because I know it isn't attainable.

    That said, my objections to the book is not the admission of imperfection. My issue is the glorification of anger directed at children. If other people find that funny and can laugh it off and not have it affect them negatively, then great. I'm not saying that no one should read/like the book or that it shouldn't exist.

    However, for me, anger builds up. If I find myself thinking something like "go the f**k to sleep", I need to find a way to calm down and deal with the situation. If I allow myself to continually get angry at my kids or at parenting situations, then that anger will spillover into other parts of my life too. The more I validate my own anger, the angrier a person I become. That isn't good for my own health (blood pressure, mental health), nor is it good for the people around me who have to live with me snapping at them for every little thing.

    I'm not seeking perfection, I just don't need more encouragement for my anger.

  3. But I think for alot of people, the humour in the book would serve to diffuse some of the anger we have in trying to get our kids to go sleep, when they just won't. Being able to laugh about it, and realize that other people are right there with you, can make it seem funny rather than a pain in the ass.

    I frequently get angry with my kids. It's how I deal with the anger that is important, and it's just as important that they not only realize that anger is normal, but that imperfection is normal.