Advice for New Parents

How I'm Learning to Ditch Parenting Perfection

Photo Credit: ZARA Kids

This story is part of our series, "But Really, How Are You?" where we share first-person essays about real motherhood: the highs, lows and everything in between. Today's piece is by Jessica, a self-proclaimed type B new mom in LA who found herself striving for perfectionism postpartum. Sound familiar? Here's her story...

I am not a perfectionist. I am happy to squint my eyes at the botched edges of my DIY paint job or turn a blind eye to smudged manicures. I will turn in work that’s “good enough” without a thought. There are no bragging rights in this but I figure in a big world, 50 percent of us have to be “type B,” right? I may be type Z... as of this moment I have 42,966 unread emails. Don’t come out of your skin, organized people! I am so sorry to trigger you.

Point being, I have never aspired to be perfect in any facet of my life until...I became a mother. You knew that’s where I was going, right? Bam—the big daddy semi-truck of perfectionism hit me head on. Have I ever cared to be a “perfect” daughter? No, oops, so sorry. A “perfect” wife? Ha! God bless my husband but... hard no. Yet, here I am fretting over being the best mother in the world.

advice for new parents


Of course “best” is relative and there are plenty of gooey mantras to soothe yourself, like: “You are the best mama for your baby.” I’m sure that’s true but somehow that does not quench my perfectionism. Instead, I am still wondering: Am I the tip-top, best version of myself? And if I’m not, will I fudge the most important responsibility I’ve ever been given? Did the baby hear the curse word I just muttered across the room? Will she tell her therapist I didn’t start brushing her teeth until eight months, despite pediatric advice? Worse, will she see the cracks in my humanity where selfishness, laziness and self-pity seep through? Will she see all of me?

The answer is yes, yes she will, of course. She will see the shiny bits and the dark corners of my spirit. The times that I shine in jovial dance parties, our eyes locked in love; and the times that I scream-cry as loud as her when we can’t get out the door despite hours of preparation—angry, frustrated, hungry, sweating, one eyebrow drawn on and the other forgotten. 

Is parenthood a smack-in-the-face reminder of our humanity? Our “opportunities for growth?” Is mothering the biggest self help tool I’ve ever been given yet I’m expected to undertake it on minuscule sleep with a small human screaming in my ear?

Father’s Day is coming soon and we know what our feed will look like. A barrage of “best dad ever” accolades under flattering throwback photos. That’s sweet. Good for the dads. Good for all parents to be celebrated for at least one little day. But I keep thinking that maybe instead of angling for “best ever” we should really start aspiring to be “really good parents who tried hard.” Could we release the quest for “best?” Showing up, offering our presence, existing as an evolving self that cares so...damn...much makes all of us, and none of us, the “best,” doesn't it?

So, here’s to being the okay-est, un-perfect parents. May we congratulate each other on our satisfactory efforts as we release the weight of perfectionism, take a breath, and know we’re doing just...fine. What’s the saying, the kids are alright?

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Written by Jessica Lopez. Jessica Lopez is a freelance writer, digital content creator, and new mother. She has covered all lifestyle topics ranging from bridal to beauty for publications including Brides Magazine, Byrdie, THE/THIRTY, and more. Walking wide-eyed into motherhood has inspired her to connect with other parents through her writing and shared experience. You can follow more of her journey @Jessica.H.Lopez