3 Ways to Let Go of Perfection in Parenting
By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
As a mom, I often struggle between the space of what my kids need and what I am able to give. We think of moms as superheroes! In many regards, we are. We endure many sleepless nights, carry life into this world like goddesses, and carry the weight of each of our children's futures on our shoulders. We are stronger than we ever imagined, but we aren't superheroes. Moms are people. We lose our temper, we get really sad, we can be impatient, even unkind, and most of all, there are limits to what we can handle. We cannot carry the weight of the world on our shoulders without eventually crumbling.
As a young mom, I struggled with mental illness but funny enough, it took me a really long time to see it and name it. I just kept powering through, looking for another way to self-help myself to perfection. I didn't know another mom who was struggling the same way.
Our culture paints parenting into pretty boxes. We want to assign hard and fast rules to how to do this thing the right way. Parenthood is full of beautiful moments; it's easy just to want to capture those. The reality is that every age and stage of parenthood comes with new joys and different challenges. Making matters more complex, we don't parent in a vacuum; we also carry our own responsibilities, dreams, goals, relationships, and more. Our kids are being influenced not just by us but by the media, mentors, teachers, friends, their interests, and more!
Let's layer on the fact that families often all look different. The units we are shepherding sometimes are being shuffled between parents, step-parents, grandparents, bio parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, and more! The bottom line is that parenting is complicated.
The encouragement I have been meditating on as I've felt like I'm not enough for my family is that God asks us to be faithful, not perfect. I am called to be faithful to keep showing up for my people, praying, loving, and serving them trusting that God's love will cover my many failures.
If you are struggling with the feeling you are not enough as a parent, here are some truths you can lean into:
1. Love Covers a Multitude of Sins (1 Peter 4:8)
God's Word is full of reminders that God provides boundless grace for us. In 1 Peter, we are reminded that God's love covers a multitude of sins. No story is so broken that God can't redeem it when we surrender it to him. Ultimately one rule is always true in parenthood: our kids need and want us in their lives. Kids want to be with their parents even in the most unhealthy situations. We are foster parents, and the one fact that seems to be repeated repeatedly is that a biological family is fundamentally valuable to people. When we lose each other because of brokenness, sin, and other circumstances, this is a loss unlike any other.
If you feel your relationship is tense with your child, remember they need you! Through God's grace, he is able to bring healing through the power of His love. He can step in and mend the things that the enemy has tried to steal away from your family unit. It will surely take work and probably require some help (counseling, therapy, etc.), and patience is a part of the process, but hope is never lost. Our children need us; in whatever capacity we can be present in their lives, we are valuable to our kids!
2. Do Not Grow Weary in Doing Good (Galatians 6:9)
Do you know why the Bible reminds us that we need to be mindful of how weary we are feeling? Because God knows you burn out when you carry more than your mind and body were designed to hold. A few years back, I went through an intense season of burnout. My mind, body, and soul were struggling. I remember saying two words to a friend I didn't know super well on a Sunday and bursting out into very embarrassing crocodile tears. I was mortified but could no longer hold in the amount of pressure I felt as a mom and wife. I was weary and struggling to serve my family well as a result.
Thankfully, God carried me through that season into a much healthier place, but it taught me that I am not made to carry it all. My pride told me I was supposed to have all the strength, answers, patience, joy, and the perfect body too! I did not know how to accept my obvious limitations and honor them.
If we want to not grow weary in doing the good work of parenting, we have to be mindful of our personal well-being. Not growing weary isn't about outside circumstances; it's about an internal state of being. God chose to house our soul in a body that requires rest, it can only handle so much stress, and when we don't process our stress, inevitably, it starts affecting our body. God calls us to steward our flesh; it is a temple. That means we must be mindful of our needs and work to meet them, so we don't struggle to love our children well.
3. He Covers Us Under His Wings (Psalm 91:4)
When we are in God's family, he is relentlessly looking out for us. In the Psalms, he so beautifully tells us that he covers us under the refuge of his wings. He is like a momma hen protecting the chicks. He is faithful and good.
Inevitably as parents, we will walk through darker seasons where it is tough to trust that God is still at work in our children's lives. It is natural to worry about our kids when we feel that we have failed them in some fundamental way, such as walking through a divorce, a big move, or not preventing our kids from experiencing other types of pain. The invitation we have from our caring God is to lay our burden down and trust him to walk us through these tough moments. With God on our side, there is no part of this journey we have to navigate all on our own.
Sometimes we find ourselves in these dark seasons for much longer than we hoped but remember, nothing is impossible with God! When we continue to pray and petition for his hand to be at work in our homes, we can trust that his hand of sovereign protection is at work on our behalf. We don't have to be perfect to parent. We just have to be present and faithful.