How to Be a Dad

How to Be a Dad

In Praise of Mediocrity

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In Praise of Mediocrity by David Vienna of The Daddy Complex

As a father, I am not perfect. In fact, I’m so far from perfect, if I wanted to overnight a letter to perfect, it would cost me $46.

The Vienna FamilyDavid and the Vienna clan.

So, while I do strive for perfection, I think mediocrity serves as a realistic short-term goal for me—mostly because I’ve already attained it. I’m all for adding things to a list simply so I can check them off. See? Right there, that’s another example of my mediocrity. Man, I’m good at this.

I think it would be a good idea for all parents to aim for mediocrity. It relieves some of the unnecessary stress created by paparazzi shots of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and their four score children all getting to events on time and fully dressed. Comparing ourselves to other parents, especially those we see online and on TV, creates an unrealistic view of perfection, of what parenting should be.

I’m telling you right now, parenting cannot be that way. Jolie and Pitt have a flowing pipeline of money and a team of nannies and helpers that outnumber the North Korean infantry. Even comparing ourselves to the non-celebrity single mom at the grocery store with the angelic toddler sets us up for failure. What you see as a perfect parent is actually a frazzled, exhausted, disheveled woman who we just happened to catch while she’s having a good day. I’ll bet her day is so good and so rare, she’s going to happily blog about it when she gets home while her toddler stuffs cat poop in the shower drain.

As for me, if I remember to brush my teeth in the morning, I consider it a victory. And perfection? Perfection is boring… Yes, I realize I said I strive for perfection. So, yes, I strive to be boring, but only because I assume boring people get a lot of sleep.

But let me take this from the other side: Mediocre parenting looks great when compared to awful parenting. Remember that guy who stuck his kid in the industrial clothes dryer? Next to that gem of a decision, the fact that I forgot to buy Valentine’s Day cards for my boys to give out in class seems pretty tame or, at the very least, forgivable.

And hey, since I did dash out early Valentine’s Day morning to snatch up all the cards the drug store has left, I think the whole affair qualifies as a mediocre parenting moment. I’m just sorry they were all out of the kid-friendly cards and I had to go with the Taken 2 variety pack I found in the bargain bin. Though, no one says “Be my Valentine” like Liam Neeson.

Liam Neeson Valentine's Day Card Taken

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: As long as you’re not holding your preschooler down to tattoo their arm or letting your toddler drive you home from the bar, you can consider your parenting efforts a moderate success worth celebrating. Because you might not be perfect, but at least you don’t suck.

The father of twin boys, David Vienna is a screenwriter, playwright, former journalist, and spent a few years writing for reality television. He covers parenting issues at and The Huffington Post.



43 Responses to “In Praise of Mediocrity”

  1. Lynet Witty says:

    I think we all just need to strive for what’s BEST for the family. For your own sanity, for your kids future, for your marriage. Funny post, Dave. I esp liked the Taken valentine’s.

  2. joel says:

    Great write-up. I want to show my kid that he is important and loved, but doesn’t have to be first. If he is, awesome. If he isn’t I’ll still love him. I’m not looking to be a perfect parent, but I am hoping to be able to help my kid grow up to be a productive member of society. We’ll see how I do starting in March. Thanks again for sharing.

  3. beta dad says:

    Why don’t you humblebrag some more, Mr. I-Knew-It-Was-Valentine’s-Day-And-Even-Considered-Getting-Cards-For-My-Kid? Showoff.

  4. Braindonkey says:

    I tell my wife all the time, strive for “good enough”. The kid is five. This whole journey will be considered a massive win if I screw her up 1% less than my parents screwed me up. Not that they did a bad job, great in fact, but they did have their epic flaws. I will have mine for sure.

    My most recent fail. Daughter started crying because I go mommy jewelry but not her. One more grain of sand added to the fail balance.

  5. JeninCanada says:

    I think parenting needs to set it’s bar as high as it can. Mediocrity isn’t something to be celebrated. Just scraping by, doing the bare minimum for our families and our kids isn’t good enough. Perfection IS out of the question, but being average? Is just average. Don’t our kids deserve better?

    Yeah yeah, I know, this site is meant to be funny but a lot of the time Charlie and Andy write stuff from the heart too, which is what I thought this was. I’m having a hard time laughing off a call for mediocrity, even a ‘joke’.

    • David Vienna says:

      Our kids deserve the moon, but I think a little perspective makes us better parents. Rather than beat ourselves up expending futile time and energy trying to get the moon for them (leading to disappointment), I’m saying we should maybe sit down with them and make a papier-mâché moon instead.

  6. Mommyproof says:

    Love this post — I wrote something similar over on my blog here:

    I think the point really is that parents a hundred or fifty or even fifteen years ago didn’t compare like we all do now with our blogs and our Huff Po pieces and all of our alpha parenting. We’re all beating ourselves up for our “mediocrity” when that mediocrity is probably just NORMAL LIFE and the “perfection” we think we see is either fake, airbrushed, or some parent cracked out on her kid’s ADD meds so she can stay up all night sewing a costume for the school play. Not realistic.

    Great post. Now go make some craft thing so your kid isn’t emotionally scarred later in life.

    • David Vienna says:

      Yeah. My biggest complaint about most parenting blogs is people portray themselves as flawless, which sets an unrealistic standard. I try to pull the curtain back a bit and write about the not-so-awesome stuff. Now, excuse me while I go make a craft.

  7. Dad or Alive says:

    ‘Taken 2’variety pack! LOL….great post..

  8. Jim T says:

    I don’t necessarily think one should ever compare themselves to an idiot who puts their kid and a dryer, and say they are a better parent than that. While I get the point you are trying to make, perfection is something you have to set for yourself.

    Everyone has advice on how to raise your kids, some of it is good, most of it is not helpful at all, and 1% of it changes your life. We all have different goals as parents, and children who are all unique in their own rights. While some general tips work across the board, it is up to us as parents to figure out what works best for each of us. Some of it comes down to money and time, but I would say most of it comes down to personality. You can be rich and hands on, or poor and hands off, and every combination you can conceive of.

    However, personally I don’t want to teach my child to strive for mediocrity, nor do I wish to exemplify that as a parent. I also don’t think that perfection is the key, the key is effort. How hard did you try, how much of yourself did you put into your kids? The disheveled mom, is the one that is working hard to give their kids the best of herself. It isn’t about meeting someone else’s definition of perfection, rather, trying your best to obtain your own, knowing full well you may not get there.

  9. Love it. Three cheers for Real Life Parenting!

  10. Carter says:

    I am most definitely not mediocre. I’m the World’s #1 Dad. I have the three-inch, gold-painted plastic trophy on my desk to proove it. (But no … honestly, on some days even mediocrity seems like a pipe dream, and I settle for not forgetting where the daycare center is.)

  11. charlie says:

    This kind of discussion makes me very happy in a totally platonic and non-sexually-suggestive way. We need more of it. Thanks to all the commenters and the author of this article.

  12. the grumbles says:

    there’s a lot to be said for “surviving” and sometimes releasing the pressure to be perfect can help us relax and be even better. word.

  13. Whit says:

    Judging from some of the comments it appears that a mediocre sense of humor is perfectly acceptable. That’s a relief.

  14. Daddy Files says:

    I’m all for cutting ourselves some slack and not holding ourselves to the unreachable perfect gold standard. One look at my site tells you I’m far from perfect. But I cringe at “embrace mediocrity.” I think it’s one thing to forgive ourselves a lapse or two, but something else entirely to set the bar at “Meh.”

    When my son goes off to school, I will absolutely push him for all As. That’s what my dad did and while it was stressful, it also worked. He wouldn’t call me names for a B, but it was clear he had high expectations. I knew he loved me no matter what, but I also knew I didn’t want to let him down. It made me work harder. I want to do the same for my son. He’s better than mediocre, and his sights need to be higher.

  15. Kenny says:

    It took me a long time to accept being mediocre most days. As a gay dad, I often felt pressured that I had to get everything right lest people think or say, “Oh, look. See. That’s what happens when you let those people have kids.” Having to perform at an unrealistic and unattainable level every single day was exhausting and made for terrible times.

    I’m now comfortable accepting that many (if not most) days I’m just mediocre. It makes those moments when I have a parenting win all the more sweeter. Plus, a more relaxed and accepting me makes everybody important in my life, especially my kids, happier and less stressed. In the end, that’s all I really care about because those are the people that matter most.

    And, for the few naysayers who still want to point and say, “See. That’s what happens when you let those people have I kids,” I just smile and say, “Bite me.”

  16. I like your style, David. Mediocrity is a battle cry I can get on board with.

  17. Jen says:

    “comparison is the thief of joy”, but I do believe you can make your life awesome by concentrating on what’s good about it and improving those things you can. Maybe not perfection… maybe happiness.

  18. Louise says:

    I felt such a high sense of Imagined pressure when I had my baby, mainly because I couldn’t breastfeed. I slowly learnt to get over it. My little girl is strong, healthy, smart, and has some concept of sharing. Mind you, I’m beginning to feel the pressure again now that toddlers her age are getting baby brothers and sisters, and we are happy with one. (i just tell busybodies that we like this one.)

  19. David, you are a mediocre genius! I agree with everything you said. I too strive to be the best I can be and I take comfort knowing there are some real pinheads out there. Well… It’s not really comforting, but you know what I mean.

  20. I’d never give my preschooler a tattoo or let my toddler drive me home from the bar, But I have no problem letting them both drive me home from the tattoo parlor. That’s just good parenting.

  21. Chris says:

    Parenting is hard work most days. I’m still trying to get over that I’m not the perfect dad I wanted to be, but that I am the perfect dad for my boys. I have a lot to learn and accept that I may not win a gold medal for the parent Olympics but I am perfectly happy with the three inch gold painted trophy that says worlds greatest dad. And if my kid is successful in his life, accepting failure and wins alike, and doesn’t end up an ax murderer then Ill take that win.

    Good article. I think it woke things up a bit in here with some opposite opinions being shared. Really livens up the place from the “Charlie and Andy are awesome” crowd. Good job!

    P.S. Charlie and Andy are awesome. They speak things I’m afraid to admit I’m thinking or feeling sometimes! And this whole site rocks. Thanks again!

  22. I would applaud your mediocrity, but that would be giving too much credit where only middle of the road credit is due. So in honor of mediocrity, I generally glance your direction and half heartedly nod my approval.

    Way to kind of go!

    You’re awesome….ly normal.

  23. Ryan says:

    My 2 year old is not on the pole. My 7 year old isnt shooting heroin

    I’m a good father

  24. Wait a second! People write for reality television???

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