Perfectionism has no place in parenting
It really was a curse to have a psychoanalytic background as I became a parent and resulted in me putting far too much pressure on myself to be perfect. Knowing how important the secure attachment of a mother and child is to the development of your child's brain is surely not a good thing if you have perfectionistic tendencies! Tendencies I had long before I became a mum or trained as a therapist, you could say I was probably born that way but what I know it that these tendencies did not help me in the newborn stage and neither did my training.
Now I'd say quite the opposite is true and that this training, along with time spent in therapy, is worth its weight in gold, as we are coming to realise as a nation that it's the mother's sense of self and regulation of ones own emotion that raises the child (another blog one day). But back in those early days in the unknown world of raising a newborn, what could have been really helpful that I learnt the hard way, would have been to know that trying to be this ideal, perfect mum was not just unreasonable..... it was IMPOSSIBLE!!!!
Trust me I tried!!! To be the one to do every night feed all alone and let my husband sleep! To be the one to cook meals from scratch with baby in a sling or sometimes even whilst breastfeeding at the same time, if I felt extra lucky! I mean really! To be the mum who loses all the baby weight within 6 months, continues to desire sex most nights, the mum that continues to be on time, even managing to get places early and the one who cleaned her own home every week, along with the washing and ironing that had once been weekly and now had become daily loads, if not twice daily! It felt like the washing machine never stopped whirring, kind of like my head space!
But seriously I had a LOT to learn!
Exhausted, depleted, sleep deprived, extremely anxious and wired, (when you are spinning that many plates you just can't afford to stop or else fall apart completely!) my relationship with my husband was the first thing to go. I stopped communicating with him like we usually do, no date nights for about a year! And when the girls I had been on maternity leave with went back to work and I remained home alone with my baby, I think that's when the isolated and loneliness really kicked in and it dawned on me that those walks in the park (with other people) were all that was keeping me sane.
The doctor repeatedly told me that I had post natal anxiety, which of course I completely ignored, and put down to the fact that Sophia didn't sleep and everything would improve once she did. I was in therapy so no not possible for this to be the case (roll eyes at myself). Needless to say I ended up in a big blubbering mess at my therapists feet - metaphorically speaking not literally! - And whilst he was picking me up off that metaphorical floor and perching me back safely on the couch, I heard him saying, "seriously Laura, you can't be perfect at motherhood! It's not healthy for you or your daughter!!!"
What! Not healthy for my daughter. Now I was truly listening, probably for the first time since Sophia had been born. When had I stopped listening to medical advice!! I had lost all sense of self at this moment, thrown myself away to continuous nappy changing, burping and feeding. I didn't really care for me, which now looking back, is really sad.
But what I did care massively about was my daughter........
TELL ME MORE......
My therapist continued "When you put the type of pressure on yourself that you are it consequently gives a message to your daughter that she too must carry this burden. That perfection is vital for survival and that it can not be lived without". Basically long story short being perfect is too much pressure on my little one's shoulders!
HOW HAD I NOT REALISED THAT!!!!!
I felt the truth of what I had done immediately and I also felt my heavy burdened little shoulders breathe a huge sigh of relief. It gave me permission. To F up, to be real, realistic even, to be the perfectly imperfect parent, the good enough mother and not the perfect one.
Suddenly my cleaning went from once a week to once a month, date night came back because so what if the babysitter had to get my baby to bed. Sometimes I get a cleaner in (occasionally if I need to) and a takeaway or a Mcdonalds on a Saturday night, when I can't be bothered to cook. And it's ok because no one has become ill, died or infected! lol. And sometimes I even tell my friends about how difficult I find everything and how my life is so not perfect. Like now in this blog!
Those glorious words uttered to me by my therapist "STOP TRYING TO BE PERFECT ITS TOO MUCH PRESSURE ON YOUR DAUGHTER" changed the way I parented. And thank god because seriously who knows where I was heading but it was a dark dark place. I hate to think about how it could have turned out and how much more of my daughter's amazing childhood could have been wasted to meaningless tasks. How the joy of parenting could never have been realised.
Tomorrow, October 10th is mental health day and I wanted to share this story with you. I know it's a long one so I am grateful if you got to the end. I feel it has an important message for all parents though and worth a read. I'd love to hear what you think and perhaps you've had a similar experience? I know when I have risked being vulnerable with other mothers this is usually what I hear. It definitely does help to share.
Peace be with you,