Wrestling with perfectionism in parenting: Is perfectionism holding you back from experiencing joy in motherhood?
A blog reader sent me an email recently that said: I need your advice. I’m a very busy mom and I get lost in the perfectionism of teaching my children.
I decided to cover this in a blog post, because I don’t think she’s alone in her struggle! If you’re new here, because I’m a Christian, the encouragement in this post about motherhood will come from a Christian perspective.
Is perfectionism holding you back from experiencing joy in motherhood?
I want to first tell you that trying to be a perfect parent will never work! There was only one perfect person who walked this earth (Jesus) and so we won’t fulfill this high requirement.
When my kids were really little, I read every Christian parenting book I could get my hands on that promised a certain outcome. I wanted to be able to look at my efforts and be applauded for them, either by patting myself on the back or by receiving good feedback from others.
These books were great in that they informed my parenting and gave me guidance in how to address certain behavior issues or other struggles my kids were having at the time.
However, the mistake I made was assuming that if I did x and y, that z would happen every time.
Sometimes that was the fault of the books, but oftentimes it was my perfectionism that desired a secure outcome that just wasn’t always going to happen because we don’t live in a perfect world.
I felt like if I could just “get it right” that I would be considered a “good parent” in my own eyes and in the eyes of the world. It led to a lot of disappointment and sometimes that transferred to how I mothered my children.
I read once that sometimes perfectionists believe that others are perfect too. This belief can lead to anxiety, a feeling of unhealthy competition, and impatience if things don’t line up exactly how we want them to (and I’m sure that you don’t need me to tell you that children don’t usually “line up”!)
It’s been almost 18 years since I became a mom. Besides that fact making me feel old, being a mom for that amount of time has also taught me some important truths about how to walk away from perfectionism and pursue joy in motherhood. I’m going to share three of those with you today.
If you’re feeling like perfectionism is interfering with your parenting, hopefully, these truths will be encouraging to you.
Addressing Perfectionism in Christian Parenting
1) The outcome of parenting is not up to us.
This is actually a good thing. When my kids were really little, I struggled with this concept. Now that my youngest is 10, I still struggle with it.
As Christian parents, we ARE called to provide every opportunity for our child to pursue Christ and become people of character. But the results are all from the Holy Spirit, working in and through the Word and through us to help our children grow. Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
While we obviously can’t compare our outcome to being “Just like Jesus”, there is biblical evidence that God, through His Word and Spirit, and also through the guidance of godly parents, is the one who calls, redeems, and develops our child’s character.
2) Perfectionism is an impossible standard of excellence.
Our imperfections are what form us into compassionate and gracious people. What I mean by that from a biblical perspective is that when we recognize our own sin and shortcomings, and our need for Jesus’ help, we treat our children with more grace.
Removing the “ideal outcome” from our mindset helps us to parent with the understanding that our kids will mess up and disappoint us whether they are three years old or thirteen years old! It’s important to celebrate the small victories – that can help bring joy.
3) Parenting is a long game.
While there are times where we should expect immediate obedience from our children (such as when they could be in danger or if we need them to stay on task), there are also times especially as they get older that we need to teach the “why” behind what we’re doing. I’ve discovered that there are stages of parenting, and as we go along, we move from discipline to discipleship (and sometimes mix them together).
We’re called to create a culture in our home that values a balance of discipline with a purpose, life-giving conversations to lead our child to the Lord, and a willingness to pray for and with our kids.
The way this is implemented CAN get harder as our children enter their teen years, but humility and forgiving yourself can go a long way in experiencing joy even in this stage.
I recently read a good article about parenting from Focus on the Family on parenting styles, I’ll link it here.
I hope these tips have given you some ways to combat perfection in parenting your children and will help bring joy back into your motherhood.
Download our printable Bible Reading plans about motherhood and be encouraged and equipped as a mom as you parent your precious children!
Parenting Books I Recommend
Two of the best parenting books I’ve read (that have helped me in my struggle with perfectionism) are:
Parenting by Paul David Trip
Rather than a prescription for exactly what to do and how to do it in parenting, this book lays out 14 principles that will guide your journey as a mom or dad, so you can feel confident that you are being led by God and His Word. We did this as a group study at church several years ago and it led to great discussion!
Buy Parenting by Paul David Tripp on Amazon or at Christian Book online.
When Parenting Isn’t Perfect by Jim Daly and Paul Asay
This book encouraged me to seek God’s grace and “give myself a break” without compromising what we stand on as parents. This book has a bit more in the way of examples and practical advice, which I appreciated.
Buy When Parenting Isn’t Perfect on Amazon or at Christian Book online.