parenting book coverBeing the Perfectly Imperfect Parent

By Beth Engelman

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution to cease your quest for “parent perfect?” You’re not alone!

My five year old is darling, sweet and respectful except for when he’s not like when we’re in line at the grocery store and he asks for a candy bar and when told no, decides to throw a tantrum complete with stomping feet, flailing hands and a plea that he will never ask for another thing if I just buy him the candy.

There’s no doubt about it parenting can be exhausting. Luckily other parents agree which is why a new movement is underway where moms and dads are acknowledging their limitations and celebrating their imperfections.

The Good Enough Movement

Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple, authors of the book Good Enough is the New Perfect, understand the pull many of us feel when it comes to work, kids and family. The duo have spent the last few years exploring the work/life issues of moms. What they discovered was that women who let go of their “never enough” attitudes found greater happiness both in work and at home. Gillespie and Temple go on
to explain that letting go of “perfect” doesn’t mean settling or aiming lower. It simply means rejecting unrealistic expectations and focusing energy on things that matter most. Parents are learning that we can have it all; we just can’t have it all at one time.

Go Out and Play

Liza Sullivan understands the importance of play. The Wilmette educator and mother of 4 year old twins saw first hand how play enriched her children’s development when she took part in last summer’s “Park a Day” challenge sponsored by KaBoom.org.

Over the course of a summer, Sullivan and her kids played in over 50 parks around the Chicagoland area. What she discovered was the experience not only enriched her children’s physical development but they made great strides in their social and emotional development as well. Gone were the days when Sullivan tirelessly mediated between her two children. Instead, they learned to lean on each other as they played, discovered and explored. What I love most about this finding is its simplicity. As a mother who has spent countless hours researching sports programs, enrichment classes and activities, I’ve lost sight on what my child really needs which is more time to just play.

Little Changes Make a Big Difference

Sullivan understands the busy lives of parents, which is why she recommends dedicating a small amount of time each day (even if it’s just 30 minutes) to family playtime. That means leaving the blackberries, laptops and lattes behind and just enjoy time with your children. First, find a spot in the house where the “play can live, “ which means it can be revisited over the course of a few days or weeks. In other words, you don’t need to clean up. “You want to be able to keep the narrative going,” explains Sullivan. “For example, a pillow fort one day might turn into a campfire site the next day and an underground tunnel the next.” For families with older kids, you might consider playing a board game such as Monopoly that can be saved from day to day (we all know Monopoly can take forever) or consider teaching your kids a game you loved to play when you were young such as “Kick the Can,” or “Ghosts in the Graveyard.”

Accept Imperfections and Embrace Shortcuts

The good enough attitude can benefit all aspects of your life. Naturally, the first one that comes to mind is weight and body images. Learning to accept that a perfect “body” is virtually impossible is the first step in finding happiness when it comes to body image. Another area is cooking and entertaining. I have spoken with a number of moms who say they hate to cook and entertain because it takes too much time, energy and often leads to frustration when things don’t turn out as expected. Jennifer Ludy of secondcitysoiree.com understands this issue, which is why she has come up with a few shortcuts and tricks to help the “good enough” parent.

• When getting ready for a party, spot clean and reduce clutter in only the areas the guests will see. If that proves to be insurmountable, place clutter in neat piles at right angles which reduces visual clutter.

• If there’s only time to clean one area, make it the guest bathroom.

• Dimming the lights and adding fresh flowers make a world of difference when having guests in your house. People equate fresh flowers with cleanliness and dim lighting helps guests relax and feel more social. Dim lighting can also hide stains and mess that come from years of wear, tear and having kids.

• No time to make appetizers? No worries, Jen recommends serving large bowls of popcorn lightly salted with truffle salt. It’s a sophisticated, chic and simple treat your guests will adore.

• Serving cocktails? Ditch the champagne and opt for Prosecco or Cava instead.

Both options are less expensive than their French counterpart and pair well with pomegranate juice or a simple sugar cube and some bitters.

Sullivan shares with us more play ideas as well as simple ways to preserve memories with just a few clicks of the mouse. We’d love to hear from you! Do you have a favorite shortcut when it comes to cooking, cleaning or keeping your kids occupied? Leave us a comment or email Beth@engelmanriggs.com. You may be featured in an upcoming article.