09/18/2014 02:30 pm ET Updated Nov 18, 2014

Parenting Facts and Fairy Tales

We've all been there. You look at your new baby and deep joy settles into your soul, but the days to come may not be exactly what you planned. The joy is soon colored by the realities of sleep deprivation, worry and more advice than any human being could ever possibly use.

We are told things that sound so reasonable they simply must be true, but guess what? Sometimes they're not. Some people say new parents are always happy (as though if you're not; there must be something very wrong with you). They promise that tasks have a beginning and an end (they don't, they have a beginning, followed by infinite interruptions and then it's time to start over). We're led to believe that perfect parents not only exist, but we can be one, (you might as well decide to be a unicorn; perfect parents are mythical creatures created by those who are not parents or those who just know how to keep it together in public).

They tell us the twos are terrible, teens are trouble and everyone in between is on the verge of developmental crisis... UNLESS we can keep everyone safely moving in the right direction, but hey, no pressure.

The thing is, most of that is just not true. Twos are mostly adorable and teens need to individuate; they are not rejecting you, they are becoming new. As for the brink of disaster, you will keep doing the best you can and that will be enough, because it has to be enough. Perfection is an illusion, done is an urban legend and real parents have real joy and real sadness just as other people do. If having a baby was the antidote to sadness or loneliness there would be nothing but bliss in every family and that is just not the human experience.

The good news is there is great relief in acceptance. You are a human parent and us humans are imperfect by definition. We burp, fall down and run late and still we are loved. Parenting has nothing to do with perfection. It's loud, messy and an ongoing opportunity to learn to laugh at ourselves.

Accomplishments may not come in neat little packages like promotions or awards, but they do come. We learn to sacrifice for our kids, to endure with our kids and we even grow with our kids. Efficiency may be down, but progress is way up. There is no done because we are working on a much bigger project. We are supporting a life.

You will have moments of doubt, moments of fear and you will get accustomed to feeling overwhelmed and under-prepared. These are your growing pains. You may be an adult, but most of us are not grown-up. That's OK. Accepting that it's normal to feel that way is a great first step to stress management.

So really, I don't know why we are so willing to believe these fairy tales. They don't serve us, or our families and they certainly don't make parenting more fun. Maybe ours can be the generation that pushes back and remembers that our kids need good parents not perfect illusions.

If we feel like we got nothing done, maybe we can remember that making memories and building strong bonds takes hard work and is a lifelong job. On days when we feel like giving up, maybe we can redirect our energy from judgment to compassion. After all, our kids probably see enough judgment in the world. Maybe we can be the generation that teaches compassion, or at least we can be the generation that understands that getting real is the way to get it right.