momanddaughter2For many moms, the race to perfection begins when the pregnancy test comes back positive. Somewhere in your brain, a drive engages that you never knew you had. You start scrambling to get everything just right, from prenatal vitamins and playing classical music for your unborn baby, to the perfect diapers, feeding regimens, early education, and beyond.

But as the real demands of parenting set in, it gets harder and harder to be perfect. And the good news is that you don’t have to be—because no one is, and that’s okay. Here are five ways to slow the perfection train and be a happier parent.

Love less than perfect looks

Ads and magazines make it seem effortless for moms to look fantastic every day. But here’s what they have that you don’t: Photoshop. Striving for perfection in looks when your schedule is suddenly full of feedings, chauffeur runs, homework, play dates, and activities means you’re either spending less time with your kids, or getting less sleep.

There are plenty of fast, simple ways to look put together and attractive that don’t involve cosmetic gymnastics, or torturous hours at the gym. Choose to look good enough—and remember that your looks only have to please yourself.

Suspect your “supposed to” notions

As we grow up, everyone formulates ideas on how their future families are “supposed to” be. The perfection animal that takes over in parenthood clings to everything you’re “supposed to” do, or be, or have—and you might end up missing the way things actually are. So challenge these ideas every time you find yourself thinking you’re “supposed to” do this or that, and ask yourself if there’s a better option. Usually, there is.

Skip the detailed timetable

In pursuit of perfection, many parents try to plan the family day down to the minute. And if the schedule goes awry, then everything is ruined. Meltdowns and self-accusations over what a terrible parent you are may follow.

Planning scheduled activities is a fine idea, but don’t forget that downtime is just as essential for healthy, well-rounded little people. Sometimes, you simply have to let kids be kids—and you might find these spontaneous times are more fun than the best-laid plans.

Cut down on chores

This perfection habit is a hard one to break. Everyone knows that you can’t be a fantastic parent if you don’t have a spotless house, endless clean clothes, sparkling dishes, and showroom-neat floors. Or can you?

Consider this: The more time you spend cleaning, the less time you spend with your family. And if one day the dishes don’t get done, or a load of laundry doesn’t get washed—what’s the worst that could happen? Here’s a hint: It’s not that the Parent Police will arrest you for failure to provide a spotless environment.

Fire your inner critic

All parents have that little voice inside them that loves to remind them how not perfect they are. And every time you believe you’ve made a parenting mistake, that little voice gets bigger and louder. But honestly—are you really the worst parent in the world?

You’re not perfect, but you are a good parent. You’ll make mistakes, but your family will survive them. Remind yourself that perfection is not required, and your best really is good enough.

You’ll be fine…and so will your kids.

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