The pressure to be perfect

August 11, 2017

There is no such thing as the perfect parent, but there is ‘good enough’, writes Julie Houghton.



Being a parent is complex business.

You need the skills of counselling, life coaching, and being a master chef—and having the wisdom of Solomon wouldn’t go amiss in this challenging role either.

While we have university courses and apprenticeships for everything that needs a high level of skill, Perfect Parenting 101 just hasn’t been invented yet, and probably never will.

That’s because there is no such thing as a ‘perfect parent’; we are all human beings, trying to do our best for our children, with varying degrees of success.

Being a parent is a matter of talking the talk and walking the walk. While we can get excellent instruction from wise advisers, at the end of the day we are the ones who have to stumble through, just hoping we are doing the right thing.

There is so much pressure on parents, especially young mothers, to get it right 100% of the time—and, of course, we never do.

The best advice I’ve ever received was from a wise and mature maternal and child health nurse, who, when I was in the middle of a threatened meltdown, eyed me sternly and said gently but firmly: “Stop trying to be a good mother and instead focus on being a good-enough mother.”

Those words bored into my addled brain and a little voice told me that I was the best mother for my children and that trying my utmost was all that I needed to do. It’s advice I have passed on to many younger mothers and, every time, 
I see a look of relief come into their eyes.

Children need love, first and foremost. They also need limits to feel secure, and it’s a matter of working out which rules are right for your family, which is often a process of trial and error.

Everybody has a different style of parenting, but what I’ve found most helpful is not to sweat the small stuff. Work out which are the important battles for you, and focus on those. 

How vital is it to you that your kids eat exactly what you eat? Does it really matter if sometimes they have a bowl of baked beans or a cheese toastie for dinner? Perhaps being able to get them into bed easily is a more important battle for your sanity.

I’m not sure which battles King Solomon decided were important to fight for his children, but the Bible tells us just where he got that famous wisdom.

“All the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart” (1 Kings chapter 10, verse 24).

And that’s our answer. It was God who gave Solomon wisdom, and he can do the same for us when we struggle to find the wisdom to be the best parents we can be. 


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