Killing the Unicorn: There Is No Perfection in Parenting

We all know a supermom. She is organized and efficient. Riding atop her unicorn with her hair blowing in the wind, she bakes cupcakes with a smile while teaching the finer points of multiplication to her well-mannered children. The concept of supermom can shame us and leave us feeling inadequate, even when we are doing our best.

I have been called a supermom; sometimes I even feel like one. But the truth is, I sometimes struggle to keep it all together. Raising a medically complex child means more appointments, more commitments, more medications and more stress – more flaming knives to juggle and more opportunities for error.

Here’s a story I’ve never shared before. My son, Richie, had tracheostomy and feeding tube surgeries when he was two months old. When he finally came home from the hospital two months later, it was one of the most stressful times in my life. I dedicated all my effort to staying on top of his medication regimen, feeding schedule and therapy schedule perfectly.

The one thing I kept forgetting, however, was to change his diaper, and Richie got his first diaper rash within three days of coming home. The basic baby stuff got past me as I was managing the complicated medical stuff. I felt, for a short time, like a fraud. I might have looked like a supermom, but I was faltering under the stress of getting it all perfect. I had to face the fact that it wasn’t as simple as I wanted it to be.

Since then, I have learned to focus on the best outcome, not the perfect outcome. What’s the difference?

Perfect does not exist. Instead of trying to ride the fictional unicorn, I focus instead on just walking. I try to keep it simple and create ways to stay organized so I don’t miss the little things.

I bought a family calendar that lets me plot our schedules so I don’t miss or double-book appointments (although it still happens occasionally), and when I miss something, I don’t beat myself up over it. I schedule when to call in prescriptions or medical supply orders each month, and I organize Richie’s medical supplies so I can see when we are running low on certain items. I have a regimen for how often I shop for groceries, cut his hair and nails, and sanitize his room. Everything is scheduled. It’s not glamorous at all; there is no wind blowing through my hair. There is no unicorn.

I still yearn to find time for myself, a part of the schedule I have yet to master, but for now I’m satisfied with that imperfection. The unicorn has vanished – it never really existed in the first place. In its place is regular, everyday life, made manageable by a dedication to do my best.

NikkiMontgomeryNikki (Charisse) Montgomery has served on the ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital Family Advisory Council since 2013. In addition to being a professional writer and editor, she is pursuing a graduate certificate in patient advocacy. She is a hospital volunteer and a parent mentor, and she volunteers with Muscular Dystrophy Association. Nikki and Richie are subjects in ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital’s Beyond the Frame photo exhibit, on permanent display inside the hospital’s main entrance hallway. Nikki is a regular ProMedica HealthConnect blogger who hopes to inspire and connect with others through the Teachable Moments series. You can follow her on social media @madvocator.