The Perfectionist Parent

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Deborah Kanter, the mother of 4-year-old Henry and 2-year-old Eleanor in Los Angeles, would agree. Kanter -- who works part time and is such a perfectionist that she organizes her linen closet by room and by color and cannot get any work done unless her desk is immaculately neat -- says that she makes a serious effort to put her children first, to really spend time with them. Every morning she and her husband leave the house around 9 a.m., after having first shared a few hours as a family. And every night, instead of paying bills or taking time for herself, Kanter gets down on the floor to play with her daughter and son."The benefit," she says, "is that our kids get a lot of attenton from us." She also makes sure that her children have a homemade meal for dinner every night. And she reads a number of books on child development, always trying to be the finest mother she can be.

But Kanter realizes that there's a downside to all this effort. "I still feel like the kids never get the time and attention they need," she says, "and I worry a lot and focus on what I could be doing better, rather than giving myself credit for what I'm doing right."

Because she thinks perfectionism has serious drawbacks, Kanter tries to guard her children from following the same path. And she's delighted when she discovers them simply being kids, imperfections and all. "I love it when Henry sings a song without knowing all the words," she says. "He doesn't hesitate and he doesn't care about getting them right."

Perfectionism pitfalls

For Jillian Acord, a corporate vice president of Mitsubishi Imaging who lives in New York City and is the mother of Zane and Zoe, ages 6 and 2, perfectionism translates into homemade Halloween costumes, freshly baked cakes, and ultra-creative birthday parties. She says she's just trying to be as good a mother as her own, a woman Acord describes lovingly as "the original Martha Stewart." "I always thought she was so neurotic, but now she's telling me to calm down," says Acord.

Understandably so: Not only does Acord work full-time -- her mother, on the other hand, stayed home full-time -- she also leaves no domestic detail untouched. She makes sure that her children are always impeccably dressed, and before each Monday rolls around, she plans the weekly menu for her children, right down to the organic foods that the babysitter will serve them for lunch.

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