It started 6 years ago, as a first-time mother. My obsession with researching everything that I could possibly think of, positive and negative, related to being pregnant and fetal development.
Then, when our son was born, it transitioned to researching everything that I could think of that would classify me as a "good parent." Sleeping habits, eating habits, vaccines, developmental toys, etc., all of course with the additional intent of doing the best for our child and giving our child the best, so he could have the best life experience, and be the best he could possibly be.
I went as far as compromising my values, morals and beliefs when nursing him by eating meat after we found out he had soy, lactose and legume sensitivities, which eliminated my staple sources of protein as a 7-year-vegetarian, because breast milk is the best milk an infant can have.
Before becoming pregnant, I was health-conscious and into organic and holistic living, but throughout the first couple of years as a parent, I became extreme. Buying only organic and natural everything; food, wine, detergent, dish soap, shampoo, lotion, toothpaste and all other health and beauty items I could find. I also made sure to schedule play dates and learning time, and to limit television and censor what was on. By the time our second son came, I was doing everything I knew a "perfect parent" should do. At this point, our first son was two and a half years old and had his first dental check-up.
To our shock, our son had several cavities. How was that possible? We were meticulous about feeding him only healthy foods and limiting sugars. He did not even have an actual cookie until he was two and was only allowed half a cup of juice diluted with water, per his pediatrician's advice, which was backed up by the research I had done.
"You have made the same mistake many health-conscious parents do. You gave your son fruit snacks instead of cookies or candy. Unfortunately, fruit snacks get stuck in between the teeth, causing cavities," said our dentist as I stared at him in disbelief, dumbfounded and feeling guilty.
How is it possible that we had failed our son...that I had failed my son? I had done everything a "perfect parent" was supposed to do according to the professionals, the advice I had received from loved ones and my research, and it still was not enough.
It was later that week on my car ride home from work when I finally understood. There is no such thing as a "perfect parent." I was trying to be who I thought I should be and who I was told I should be, instead of who I actually was. I realized that, in trying to be a "perfect parent," I was missing the most important part of being a parent.
My children did not need a "perfect parent," they needed me as a parent, the real me. I understood the best thing I could do for them was to give myself the freedom to be perfect as I am, and lead by example. Which took me to a place of knowing and understanding that just by being me, I am the perfect parent to my children, and the parent they need.
Since then, we have more of a balance in our household. The majority of our time is spent being free and being happy, versus thinking about what else should be done or researching.
Yes, I still prefer natural and organic, but now allow my boys to eat cookies, chips, and fast food nuggets, and although at times I cringe, I am mostly okay with it and with letting them make some decisions on their own.
And on the days when we spend all day inside, on the couch, in our pajamas watching television, there is nowhere else I would rather be, especially when our day is filled with kisses, hugs, I love you's and giggles, and maybe it is not what a "perfect parent" does, but it is what this parent who knows they are perfect as themselves, does; because after all, all I need is to be me--the perfect parent to my three children.