Every week, American parents feel an average of 23 pangs of guilt over their parenting. For Casey Fitzner, she's lost count.
As the mom to twins, she was plagued by questions and worries from day one. How do you take care of two kids at once? What do you feed them? Where should you raise them? How do you make sure they grow up to be happy?
All images courtesy of Casey Fitzner, used with permission.
The pressure also came from the fact that she felt there was only one right answer to every parenting question.
“The media gives moms the impression that there’s only one way,” writes Casey in an email.
For her, that one way seemed like the “suburban dream,” complete with a two-parent household, a minivan, and a tidy suburban home. It was a lot to keep up with — and now, as a recently divorced mom of three, she thinks back to how hard it was to let go of that dream.
For example, Casey remembers when she had to leave her youngest son’s first tee-ball game. She’d imagined it as a perfect day, but the divorce was fresh, and it was the boys’ father’s day to spend with them.
“I was a mess... I cried all the way to the car,” Casey shares.
With time, Casey realized that her push for perfect parenting came from emotions like fear, shame, and guilt. That realization changed everything.
That image of the suburban dream just didn’t fit Casey’s family. What’s worse, she felt awful while trying to achieve it, following rules that didn’t even make sense for her life.
The only “rule” Casey needed to follow was to throw out the rulebook, and focus on what’s best for her own family.
And what’s best for her family, she realized, is to embrace what makes them happy — even if it’s a little unconventional.
These days, Casey and her sons, 7-year-old Charlie, and the twins Ben and Colin, who are now 10, enjoy activities like a regular full moon drum circle celebration. Her mother, who’s 82 years old and doesn’t act a day over 60, moved in last year.
Their lives are nothing like she once imagined they would be, and she wouldn’t dream of returning to her old standard of perfection.
This is a family “filled with free thinkers, creatives, and people who are proud to be a bit different,” she says.
For example, young Charlie is already emerging as an artist, making paper models. Casey loves seeing him at his happiest, when he’s creating.
The family’s creativity comes out at holiday time, too. With a small family, they don’t spend the holidays in a big gathering, like you see in the movies. Last year, they celebrated Thanksgiving with a turkey buffet dinner, a stay at a hotel, and a cannonball contest in the hotel pool.
“We were fed, we had a blast, and we all felt loved,” remembers Casey.
And that matters more to them than any tradition.
Casey knows that she’ll never achieve what she once considered perfect parenting – and now she realizes that’s a good thing.
And she's far from alone. Here are several other parents who couldn't agree more.
The Fitzners may have different traditions than other families, but their traditions show their love for one another, and that’s what’s important.
Since every family is different, there is no one way to be a great parent. With so many parents feeling the pressure to be perfect (one national survey shows it's 8 out of 10) it’s clear we could use more reminders that we’re not the only ones with unique ways of being a family.
“Nobody is perfect. Nobody,” says Casey. “But my kids are perfect for me and I think I’m the perfect mom for them.”
Sometimes, she says, being “perfectly imperfect” is the best way to be, and that’s a lesson she’s teaching her sons.
These days, Casey and her family live in a city, instead of a suburban dreamhouse. The boys have been enjoying a giant pile of blankets, stuffed animals, and pillows instead of keeping the house immaculately tidy.
But they’re having a great time, and they’re making Casey laugh, so it’s just right for them.
No matter how unconventional your family is, doing what works for your family is the absolute best you can do.
So if you’re feeling the pressure to make everything perfect this holiday season, just remember how Casey and her family create their own joy — and then go out there and create a little of your own.