When I was pregnant, I got a lot of advice. It ranged from “sleep when the baby sleeps!” from approximately 68 people to “buy a wipe warmer!” from the random couple at Babies R Us.
I’ll be honest: I listened to none of it.
It’s not that I don’t trust my family, friends and random parent strangers. It’s not that I don’t value their opinions (turns out, it really is a good idea to buy a wipe warmer). I just want to figure stuff out on my own. I’m independent (read: stubborn) like that.
But several days after Ryan was born, I was lounging on my living room couch, flipping through a magazine, when I read the one piece of advice that – from then on – would define my parenting strategy. It said that if you want to like your kids, and you want your kids to like you, give parenting a 75 percent effort. Not 100 percent effort. Not 150 percent effort. Seventy-five percent.
For a split second, I internally scoffed at that. “Try to be a decent parent, not a great one? Ooookkkkkk.“
A split second after that, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Another parent out there thinks it’s ok to not be perfect. It’s ok to be human. It’s ok to let go of the right way to do everything and try to enjoy your kids.
So, I was a perfect mom for four days. Since then, my kid has gotten 75 percent of my effort.
What does that mean? To me, it means that Ryan doesn’t go hungry. He’s never truly upset without being comforted. When he’s sick, we do all we can to make him feel better. We don’t leave him with people we don’t trust. The car doesn’t start moving until he’s strapped in just right. We play with him and try to teach him how to sit up and roll over. We read to him. We talk to him incessantly, so that he learns the cadence of language.
But it also means sometimes propping him up in front of the TV to watch Yo Gabba Gabba while we eat dinner in peace. It means occasionally letting him whine when he’s laying in his crib, cuz we need a break and we know he’ll fall asleep on his own in a few minutes. It means not always changing him into a perfectly clean outfit the second he spits up on the first one. (Oh, a little on your arm? Meh. I’ve seen worse. Let’s go play with your froggy.) It means giving up on cloth diapers after three days of stress. It means not having a real strategy for starting him on solid foods and just sort of winging it.
We shrug our shoulders a lot. We look at each other, lift our eyebrows and say, “Eh, whatever.“
It’s good for our marriage because we don’t expect perfection from each other. I don’t care if Mike doesn’t do stuff exactly like I would, cuz heck – I’m only giving 75 percent of an effort anyway.
As long as my kid is safe and healthy and happy, that’s good enough for me.