Are Today's Parents REALLY Under More Pressure to Be Perfect?
- Jennifer Waddle
- 2019 4 Feb
The best piece of parental advice I ever received was, “You are not responsible for everyone and everything all of the time.”
May I repeat that?
You are not responsible for everyone and everything all of the time.
When I first heard those words from a wise older woman who was trying to help me overcome my own perfectionistic ways, I actually argued with her! After all, I genuinely felt responsible for everyone and everything ALL of the time.
Can you relate?
It is that false way of thinking that leads many of us to feel immense pressure to be perfect in our parenting. When we feel responsible for our kids’ health, appearance, friendships, education, spiritual growth and more, we can easily become consumed with trying to maintain a perfect life. Unfortunately, it’s an exaggerated way of looking at things and can have a negative impact on our marriages, our kids, and our own wellbeing.
Sadly, I believe today’s parents are under even more pressure to be perfect. Not only are they greatly influenced by what they see on social media, they have exceedingly high expectations of themselves. Take a look at a few reasons why many parents today really are under more pressure to be perfect.
There are too many highlights.
Parents today are bombarded with picture-perfect posts, images, and glimpses into other family’s lives. But these highlights are NOT an accurate description of reality. Life is messy and sometimes ugly. Kids mess up. Parents mess up. And the reality is, many days are really, really hard.
Only when we realize that everyday life is far from the highlighted versions we see, will we be able to breathe easier, knowing parents aren’t perfect and never will be. Perhaps it’s time to let some of the “lowlights” show. Instead of posting about your child’s straight-A report card, try posting about one of their struggles and connect with other parents in the same boat. Who knows, maybe you’ll start a refreshing trend of embracing a life that is less-than-perfect AND help others in the process.
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25)
There are too many comparisons.
Acceptance… what is it really? Is it getting a thousand likes on social media? Is it having other parents rave about your successes? Or, is it the unconditional acceptance that comes only through a relationship with Jesus Christ?
Parents, please, please, PLEASE, stop comparing yourselves to others! God made you and your family with a divine purpose in mind. He gave you certain gifts and strengths to be used for His glory. He accepts you, not because you are the perfect parent, but because He sees your imperfections and loves you anyway!
Step out of the comparison trap by seeking God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will for your family. You may be surprised to see that His plans aren’t anything like yours. Embrace the direction God has planned for your family instead of trying to live out someone else’s.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.” (James 3:13-14)
There are too many expectations.
How high are your expectations of yourself? Perhaps, you’ve never even considered that question before! I would venture to say that your self expectations are so high, they cannot be met. And truthfully, no one can live under that kind of pressure for very long—not even you!
It’s time to let go of unrealistic expectations and get REAL with God and yourself. Admit the areas of life that aren’t going so well. Confess that you cannot hold everything together. Just as my wise counselor informed me that I could not be responsible for everyone and everything all of the time, parents need to remind themselves that only God is omnipresent.
Give yourself a little grace once in a while. Lower some of the outrageous standards you’ve set. Allow yourself to release the pressures of perfection to the One who is truly perfect and can help you put things into the proper perspective.
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2)
There is too much striving.
The Bible sure has a lot to say about walking in the Spirit versus walking in the flesh. And a huge part of trying to be a perfect parent stems from striving in the flesh—plain and simple.
In the day-to-day parenting stuff, we feel like we have to strive harder and harder to do it well. And, if we’re honest, parenting well is certainly commendable! However, the immense pressures\ to perform, based on what the flesh desires, only leads to burnout. We must recognize when we are walking in the flesh and forsaking the precious guidance from the Spirit.
“Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2, NKJV)
The Holy Spirit gives us strength for every circumstance. Things may not turn out perfectly, but when we stop striving in the flesh and live unto the Lord, we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This renewal can bring about a whole new way of parenting—without the pressures of striving for perfection.
There is too much of the world.
The world’s standards will always make us feel inadequate. This point is probably the biggest reason why parents feel the need to be perfect. Because we have such a wide-open glimpses into other family’s lives, it’s easy to listen to the loud voices of the world and ignore the gentle whispers of God.
The world is not our guide for parenting. The Bible is. God’s Word has every answer we will ever need. There are no gray areas. His promises are true, throughout all generations. When we cast off the pressures from our culture and lean into the promises of God, we are relieved from the pressure of trying to be perfect.
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:2-4)
Here are a few encouraging things to consider if you feel pressured to be a perfect parent:
1. The most important part of parenting is loving and training your children in the admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
In the article, You Were Not Called to Raise Godly Children, author Gina Smith reminds us that “... as we faithfully obey the Lord’s calling, He will use us in the lives of our children. We will honor Him, guide our children to the one true God, and ultimately create a place where they can grow in their relationship with Him.”
2. There is grace for your parenting journey.
3. You have the choice to release the pressures of perfect parenting and embrace the freedoms you have in Christ (2 Corinthians 3:17).
These beautiful words from Jennifer Maggio are a great reminder for us: “We tie our identity into what we do. We live enslaved to those things and allow them to define us. Parenthood. Position at your church. Your job. Relationships. Bank account size. Those things are part of your life. They are not your life.”
From the beginning of time, parents have struggled to raise their kids (Genesis 4). God only requires you to be faithful to Him. In all the work (and parenting) you do, work as unto the Lord and not man (Colossians 3:23).
Please pray with me:
Gracious God, please help us to stop feeling pressured to parent perfectly. We know that You are a God of mercy and grace. Thank You for being our ultimate Guide in this great challenge called parenting. Help us to stop comparing ourselves to others and clinging to unreasonable expectations of ourselves. Turn our attention away from the world’s standards and turn our affections to You. We put our trust completely in You today, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Jennifer Waddle considers herself a Kansas girl, married to a Colorado hunk, with a heart to encourage women everywhere. She is the author of several books, including Prayer WORRIER: Turning Every Worry into Powerful Prayer, and is a regular contributor for LifeWay, Crosswalk, and Abide. Jennifer’s online ministry is EncouragementMama.com, where you can find her books and sign up for her blog, “Discouragement Doesn’t Win.” She resides with her family near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains—her favorite place on earth.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/jacoblund