This single mom’s heartwarming story is a reminder to ditch ‘perfect’ parenting.

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.

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Myth: There’s one perfect way to family. Truth: There’s a billion ways to family greatly. Share with the people you think #FamilyGreatly”

Posted by GOOD on Thursday, December 14, 2017

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.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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