Why Perfectionism Can’t Co-Exist with Motherhood

Maybe you’ve been told you are a “perfectionist” or “Type A.” Maybe you know you like things a certain way and feel like you’re going to crawl out of your skin when something is just not the way you prefer it to be.

You didn’t become this way because you’re a difficult person. And there are actually a lot of strengths of perfectionists. They tend to be thorough, driven, detail oriented, and always wanting to improve themselves.

But a mix of perfectionism and motherhood can result in a lot of frustration, disappointment, and even hopelessness.

Perfectionism isn’t necessarily about things needing to be or look “perfect.” It’s about having 1) control and 2) having tangible or external validation to confirm things are the way they should be.

Let’s talk first about why control is a problem for mothers.

Why Perfectionism Can't CoExist with Motherhood

I’ll start with this. And I’m putting it in all caps here for you people in the back.

YOU CANNOT FULLY CONTROL THE PROCESS OF RAISING ANOTHER HUMAN BEING.

That tiny little 8 pound squish in your arms? You can’t control them. You can meet their needs, you can respond the best way you can, but you can not control them.

Before motherhood there was a lot of control you could exert of your life. Depending on your occupation maybe you were able to easily complete projects at work and see tangible results. You probably got performance evaluations where you able to lay out your specific goals for the next year. Maybe you were able to carefully curate how to implement your daily tasks and activities at work or home. You experienced a state of “flow” probably at times where you in so in the zone and mastering something in a way that really fed your soul.

And then motherhood happened.

Now most mothers don’t bring children into this world with the intent to control them. But we do have expectations for what motherhood will feel like and what it “should” look like and that involves a tiny human presenting themselves in a certain way. Most of us don’t envision motherhood when we are pregnant as the 3am sleep deprived out of our minds with a screaming infant that we can’t seem to settle. We see sleeping babies, giggles, motherly instincts, a natural bond and connection. We envision ourselves moving effortlessly through the decisions, adopting this new identify with confidence and grace.

What actually happens is a slow process of learning that many of our high expectations will not be met and that there will be unclear validation if we are doing things the “right” way. If we refuse to learn this then we continue to attempt to control and may over stimulate ourselves with so much information and perspectives to seek the “right” way of mothering that we lose trust in ourselves and become frustrated with our lives.

If we want to continue to live our lives controlling things as much as we did before children we’ll be set up for disappointment. Because motherhood isn’t a project or strategy or a schedule, it’s a relationship. 

So when we apply this equation to motherhood (an equation we may have been able to use a lot pre-motherhood)

EXPECTATION + CONTROL + VALIDATION = HAPPINESS

we will be met more with something like this

FAILED EXPECTATION + NO CONTROL + UNCLEAR VALIDATION = FRUSTRATION, ANXIETY, POWERLESSNESS

Applying control, perfection, and high expectations to motherhood is not only unfair for us and our kids it’s just not logical. The more we expect things to go the way we think we should the more we aren’t able to see the beauty of the way things already are.

So what is the new equation for us now that we are mothers?

Probably something more like this-

GRACE + LOVE + TRUST = ACCEPTANCE

When we take control, expectation, and a need for external validation out of the equation our power then lies in the grace we give to ourselves and and our lives, the love we give to o our children and the trust that we will find our way. And what we receive is acceptance of our lives they way they are and learning to love them with or without all the control.

Need to unpack this more and learn more about how to let go of our issues with control? Check out the Resilient Mamas Membership where “Letting Go of Control” is our next weekly module!

 

 

5 Things to Remember When You Feel Insecure About Your Parenting

It takes a village to raise a child but it often feels more like the village is looking over our shoulders rather than actually helping. Judgmental stares from strangers when our child is tantruming in the cereal aisle at the super market. Passive aggressive comments from our own parents letting us know “back in their day” spanking was what kids needed in order to learn right from wrong. Even our own friends can give us shocked looks when our 2 year old takes a toy out of their child’s hands making us feel as if our little one is a bully. Sometimes we feel anything but supported in our parenting. And when we feel questioned by others we start to question ourselves.

5 things to remember when you feel insecure about your parenting

 

 

 

Parenting is a vulnerability minefield and insecurity is certainly par for the course. But when we feel insecure about the way in which we are parenting it makes us feel disconnected from our values, ourselves, and our children. We deserve to feel secure in the way we parent so that we can act as confident guides to our children showing them a world that allows them to make mistakes, to learn and grow, and to be loved no matter what. But being able to raise kids that believe that means we have to believe it too.

Our society likes to make us think that there is so much at stake when a child has challenging behaviors. We talk about kids going down the “wrong path” or see articles and studies that make gross exaggerations about how smaller everyday  parenting decisions can have lifetime impacts. But I believe that parenting is not about the everyday choices as much as our overall perspective. We all see parenting through a different lens choosing what we want to focus on and what we don’t. Our lens then becomes the lens in which our children view themselves and when we find a lens that sees our child for who they are understanding their limitations, their strengths, their needs, and their own unique being then we have found the sweet spot. But it can be hard to do this when there is so much noise, so many differing perspectives on the right way. So how do we tune it out and find our own way?

1) Remember that a child’s behavior is NOT indicative of your worth as a parent.

It can be true that having an unhealthy response to our children’s needs or behaviors can elicit some challenging behaviors. But this is not always the case and I’d argue that many of the challenging behaviors we see our part of normal development (there are exceptions of course). High and unfair expectations of children in our society immediately transfer to high and unfair expectations of parents. For example when people are judgmental when a toddler is loud in a restaurant. Someone may judge and think that the parents can’t “control” their child enough to get the toddler to be quieter. However, the expectation of having a toddler be quiet in a restaurant not only developmentally out of their control but also out of the control of the parents. Aside from the unfair expectations society places on us as parents we may also internalize that when we make mistakes, lose our cool, or try an approach that backfires that this mistake makes us a “bad” parent. We must remember that our choices and our worth are not one in the same. Shaming ourselves for when we make mistakes and believing that we have somehow “messed up” our children does not motivate us to change, it keeps us scared and insecure. Owning our choices as parents is crucial for our own growth but we can not develop the awareness to become more effective until we honor that we, just as we are, are worthy to be the parent of our child, flaws and all. We are worthy of guiding them through this world, worthy of their love, and worthy of support in our own journey.

2) Remember that many challenging behaviors are part of a normal developmental process.

Aside from the times when our choices actually do impact our children’s behaviors we must also remember and believe that our child are their own separate human beings making choices for themselves and learning through them. Sometimes rejecting societal attitudes that children should be able to meet high standards of behavior not appropriate for their age range, be “seen and not heard”, or meet milestones at very particular times is necessary so that we can see our children for who they truly are instead measuring them against unfair exceptions. It is our duty for us to know and understand this as parents no matter how much judgment we receive from others. We must also give our children space to learn as they grow in their ability to reason, learn right from wrong, and navigate this world. Growth takes time. This space can become liberating for us in realizing that our children’s behaviors don’t need to always be controlled or fixed but rather the journey in and of itself of the challenging behaviors is an essential part of their learning.

3) Remember that parenting authentically isn’t about the choices you’re making but the reasons you are making them.

It’s amazing to me how much is out there in the way of “how to” guides for parenting. As if there are clear answers that work for all parents and all children. With so many different philosophies and perspectives its easy to get caught up in the choices themselves we are making. Taking time to reflect on the real reasons you are making certain choices and making sure they are coming from a place authentically believe they are the right choice and not because its what others say is the “best” way is a great way to find your parent power. A simple exercise you can do it to write down a decision you have been feeling insecure about and dissect all the various factors that are leading you towards one choice over another. If you find certain factors such as comparing yourself to other parents, being pressured by a family member to make this choice, or wanting to be seen in a particular way by others are at the forefront of your decision you may want to take some more time to reflect on what feels most authetic to you. If you can find one of those factors fits with your values, your strengths, and the unique qualities of your child you can feel more secure in your choice.

4) Remember that consistency is key so that allowing ourselves to question, second guess, and then change our approaches frequently interrupts our consistency. 

When we change our approaches often or don’t feel confident about an approach because we’ve felt coerced into it by someone else it shows. Think about if you had a boss as a job who was very uneasy about how to instruct you on how to carry out your tasks. How would you feel? Anxious that you weren’t performing your duties correctly? Or perhaps feel that you could take advantage and skirt by with little effort? Or maybe you might feel frustrated if policies and orders were changed frequently so that you didn’t have a clear understanding of your expectations? We aren’t the “boss” to our children but we are the guide to help them understand how to function and thrive in this world. Being clear about the parent we want to be, making definitive choices and sticking with them for a period of time to allow the approaches to become second nature is crucial for creating healthy dynamics in our relationship with our child by clearly communicating expectations and so that our children feel more secure as well. So try to take time to reflect before making choices, to reject societal pressures, and find your confidence and power to stick with the choices you make. This doesn’t mean you can never change your approach but it does mean that when you so do you will take time to be consistent and confident in your new approach.

5) Remember to focus on your strengths. 

Insecurities aren’t necessarily about letting go as much as looking in a different direction. We shine the light on all the things we are NOT and not the things we ARE. Who wouldn’t feel insecure if you had to interview for a job and all they asked you about was your weaknesses? Yet that’s what we do in our heads as parents by constantly instilling doubt and criticism in our hearts by focusing on where we don’t feel “enough.” Self-defeating thoughts, constant self-criticism and doubt become major blocks to the connection you have with yourself and with your child. This often takes a lot of work to improve upon but in the long run both you and your child benefit immensely. Start with writing at the end of each day one thing you did that was a positive choice as a parent. It could be a simple as saying “I love you” before they walked out the door or as deep as taking the time to talk to them about their deepest fears. Finding all the ways you are showing up for your child helps keep you in a positive and confident space. Insecurities don’t have a chance against reminders of our strengths and a strong foundation of worthiness. Give yourself the amount of self-love you want your child to give themselves. 

To learn more about my maternal wellness and parent coaching services HERE.

 

 

To the Mama with Big Dreams

I see you Mama with your hopes and dreams.

Staring out the window while you’re warming a bottle and thinking about how you’d like to further your education. Researching how to start a business during your preschooler’s gymnastics class. Staying up too late after you have fulfilled the needs of your children and your partner to make space and time to work on your art because there is no other time to do it.

You have dreams. You have goals. You have a calling. Something is pulling at your while you’re changing diapers, driving to soccer practice, and folding laundry. Your head is full of ideas and possibilities. But at times they feel damn near impossible to ever accomplish. Meetings get cancelled because your little one has a fever, the looming housework becomes more important than your writing, and the sitter cancels at the last minute when you have a to-do list longer than your grocery list.

The resentment creeps in and you start to see you children as barriers instead of blessings. You feel motherhood is swallowing you whole and there will never be a time where you have accomplishments outside of it. You start to wonder if it’s all worth it.

big dreams

 

You fight this fight every day. Some days you go to bed feeling accomplished and others you can’t stop thinking of all the possibilities that weren’t realized.  You feel the tug of war between guilt and passion. You feel anger when your toddler gives you a book and crawls in your lap when you were trying to finish that e-mail and then immediate remorse that you were angry in the first place. You feel overwhelmed by the fact that you can’t work uninterrupted for more than 5 minutes. You haven’t achieved that coveted feeling of “flow” that adults crave for when they are in their element, mastering a skill, achieving a long awaited goal. It starts to feel like you can’t have it all so you shouldn’t even bother.

But somehow you keep going. You remember your purpose outside of motherhood. And it’s okay to have another purpose outside of raising those amazing human beings . You are allowed to want more in your life. You are  allowed to hire a sitter, ask your child to play alone for a few minutes, or stay up later to finish a project so that you can leave the world a little different than it was this morning. It’s not a choice between motherhood and personal goals. It is constant balancing act where sometimes one will win over the other. But you keep fighting each day.

With appreciation of the moment, altering expectations, and believing you are worthy of having your own dreams you can keep moving. Please mama, keep moving. Listen to your passions and don’t deprive the world of your gifts. You have given life to the world which is already amazing. But you also have so much to give of yourself.

So keep inchworming, keep crawling, keep moving towards that dream even if it is at a snail’s pace. I can’t wait to see what you achieve.

I planned the perfect morning to myself, I’m thankful it didn’t happen

I planned the perfect morning to myself. I had one child in school, another being watched by a sitter. I say goodbye to my little one who is happily playing and get in the car.  My mind starts reeling with all the opportunities I had, the freedom of being able to make my own choices and do something for me, uninterrupted. I asked myself what I needed before I was going to the coffee shop to get work done, I answered with a solitary hike and fresh air. I was excited to get connected with nature because it fills my soul. I imagined breathing the crisp air in deeply, standing in the woods in complete silence. 
I’m about to get on the highway and I get a call from my child’s school. He had an accident. They were very compassionate but were worried he needed help cleaning himself and they asked I help him and he could then return to class. I arrived and before I could help him clean up he looked up at me with pleading eyes, “Mama, can you take me home?” My heart hurt that he was feeling embarrassed. Then I realized this would mean that the morning I was so excited for wouldn’t happen. I took a deep breath. “Sure bud”, I said.
On the way home I made sure to challenge myself to not allow my brain to do what it wanted- to use this as an example to prove those negative thoughts that creep in, “You’ll never get time for yourself”, “You’re never going to accomplish those dreams of yours,” “You’re a mom now, there’s no room for what you want anymore.” Thankfully my maternal power took over. I knew this was a situation where I was needed and that the way I reacted in this situation was going to have an impact on my son’s perspectives of making mistakes, embarrassment, and shame. I knew I wanted to protect him from internalizing negative thoughts about himself, ones that have haunted me for years and ripped away opportunities for gratitude and joy in my own life. We processed what happened making sure he understood that accidents happen and that he needn’t feel ashamed, that his teacher and I weren’t mad, that those who love and care about you are there for you when you make mistakes, that he is a wonderful boy and he is so very loved. I shared stories of my own embarrassment around this age to make him feel less alone. Then we were silent and listened to music. I looked at him in the rear view mirror, his eyes met mine with a big smile, “I love you Mom. Thanks for letting me come home with you.” In that moment there was no more disappointment, just profound gratitude that I was given the opportunity for this moment.
Our brains love to search for evidence to prove our negative thoughts. In a way it’s what they are designed to do, take information in and assess it and figure out how to categorize it. When we go looking for resentment and anger we will be sure to find it. But this puts the blinders on what is put in front of us, especially when its not what we had planned. Being able to adjust our expectations, give ourselves and others grace, and find the opportunity or meaning in the unexpected, the suffering, or the hardship is when we show strength, resilience, and grit.
I know I’ll get that perfect morning soon. Being a mother doesn’t mean we have to self-sacrifice 100% of the time. Being a mother means that we bend and don’t break, we become resilient to the unexpected so we can model to our own children that when life doesn’t always go as planned we can be strong enough to weather the changes. And the power of mother’s love weathers through any storm.
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Creating a Mom Manifesto

There’s a lot out there on how to create a mom mission statement which I find so very important. Here’s a great post from the Stay At Home Mom Survival Guide on creating a mom mission statement. It’s a great way to reflect on your purpose and goals as a mother.

But what I’m also proposing is also having a “Mom Manifesto.” Unlike a mission statement let’s say a manifesto is a little more about what you will and won’t stand for as a mother and person. It’s a summary of the the shit you won’t take, the stuff you’re willing to put a lot on the line for, and most importantly the things you won’t let compromise you’re worth or the most important parts of your relationship with your children and family.

reating a Mom Manifesto

This means taking a deep dive into exploring who you truly are and how societal expectations of motherhood impact your ability to adhere to your authentic self. Basically if you’re like me and you allow a sanctimonious Facebook post make you think you’re an awful mother because your kids have some plastic Fisher Price toys this manifesto can help you get a grip. It’s something to read on those days the inner critic is ruling all your thoughts. It might sound angry, it might sound defensive but that’s okay. It’s simply something that is meant to ground you back into your authentic self, what you care about and what you know deep in your heart is best for your child, partner, and self.

So here are some prompts and sentence completions

As a person I am rooted in __________________. I connect with my children through _____________. I do not need ________________________ to feel validated as a worthy person.

As a mother I am rooted in ______________. I connect with my children through _______________. I do not need __________________ to feel validated as as worthy mother.

I will choose to ignore the voice of my inner critic who often tells me _________________________. I will remember that this is not true or important because __________________.

The most important thing I am modeling for my children is ____________. In order to do that I reject ___________________.

At the end of the day I can remind myself that _____________ is trivial and not important to the overall health and wellbeing of myself or my family.

I choose to radically love and honor myself by ________________________.

I choose to radically love and honor my children by ___________________.

I create joy in my live through ________________. I create joy in the life of my partner and children through ______________.

Pretend someone calls you to your face a bad person/mother. What would you say? How would you defend yourself? What evidence might you give?

What are your top 3 values that you want to raise your children with? How do you model these values?

When your children are grown what do you want them to say about you as mother? How will that be manifested in your daily actions now?

There are no rules here. No recommended word count. The most important thing is that your manifesto feels GOOD to say it. It feels TRUE to you. It’ll change over time. And some days negative thoughts and the expectations of others may really get to you. But let this be a good place to land.

We will be creating our own manifestos at our in person support group this Wednesday. I can’t wait to share some examples next week!

Letting Go of the Mother We Think We Should Be

A while ago I watched a video of Karen Kleinman speaking at Byrn Mawr Hospital shared on the Postpartum Stress Center Facebook page. Karen Kleinman is a a therapist and well known expert on postpartum depression and author of several wonderful books that I will link at the end of this post. Part of the reason I’ll never forget the video is because it was from 1989 and Karen was rocking a polka dotted headband and very large purple button earrings. But most importantly she said something probably not many people had acknowledged before. She said, and I’m summarizing here,  “What we need to understand is that having a baby is a tremendous loss; loss of independence, loss of self.”

Letting Go of the Mother We Think We Should Be

This spoke to me for two reasons. One being that I really related to it. One of the most difficult things I’ve experienced is a loss of who I was after I became a mother. After being an achievement addict, a dedicated social worker, and a social butterfly I seemed to lose all of that when I had my children. When I didn’t have time to dedicate to my work, decided to stay at home, and couldn’t engage with my friends as much as I used to I felt lost. Secondly, I feel this is a concept that our culture doesn’t want to recognize. Many people say, “Being a parent is the best thing that will ever happen to you.” There is obviously truth to that in the love we all have for our children. But just because something is wonderful doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult. Changing our notion of accepting parenthood as a both a gain and a loss, as both an exciting time and a stressful time, as both a time to celebrate and a time to grieve empowers parents to navigate the journey with recognition of their emotions and grace with understanding it all as a process.

Something else that I’ve recently learned that is also a loss we experience is the loss of the expectations we had about parenthood to begin with. We also have to grieve that sometimes we don’t turn out to be the mother we wanted to be.

We all have these visions of the mother we’d like to be when we’re pregnant. And although I refer often to mothers in this post I think this same notion can apply to fathers using the societal expectations we place on dads also. We may envision ourselves joyfully playing with our children on a swingset, preparing fresh homemade meals for them to enjoy, making arts and crafts projects, providing comfort to our child when they skin their knee. I, for one, didn’t envision myself crying in a bathroom with hair that hadn’t been washed for three days as I binge ate Thin Mints.

But children teach us a lot of lessons and they are amazing at getting us to know ourselves a little better. Children are truly a gift when it comes to giving us a mirror to look at ourselves. It’s as if they say, “You thought you knew yourself? You thought you had life figured out? You thought you had total control? Oh boy, you thought wrong.” You don’t need an Eat Pray Love type of adventure to get to know yourself better. Just pop out a child or two, get in some sleepless nights, be pushed to the brink of your sanity every couple days and you’ll start to get to know yourself really well.  Maybe even better than you’d like to .

So when our reality doesn’t fit our expectations we struggle. We try to fit ourselves into the mold of what we wanted but no matter how hard we try we might not fit. So instead of taking a new shape we frustrate ourselves to no end trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole. But we often embrace as parents the notion that it is our jobs to raise our children to be the best version of themselves, not of anyone else. Why can’t we apply this concept to ourselves as parents?

Rejecting societal pressures or the pressures we place on ourselves to take on traits that we don’t have doesn’t mean there is something wrong with those traits. We can accept that those traits just aren’t who we are. For instance, I’m beginning to understand that I will never be the type of mother that is a good homemaker. I envisioned myself as a Pinterest mom with a well kept house, wonderful homemade meals every night, and having the walls of my home lined with my children’s monthly photos and handprints. But that didn’t work out for me. And I’m starting to learn that if I really wanted to be that way I would make it happen somehow. But I don’t. So I’ve come to understand that why being a great homemaker is an awesome trait I felt the pressure to be that way because of society and not because it was something that I truly wanted to be. So when I get down on the ways I’m not the mother I thought I’d be I start to think of the mother I truly am. I’m a mom who gets her kids outdoors, who lets her kids run wild, who is out of the house a lot meeting other moms for playdates and doesn’t have a lot of “routine”, who is not present 24/7 because I’m working on my own work projects, and who is trying everyday to give more grace to my children to make mistakes as well as myself.  Take it all with the good and the bad and I realize I’m the mother I’m meant to be. And I hope you can realize that too.

 

Self-Reflection Exercise-

Reflect on your own projections of what you thought you’d be like as a mother. Answer some of these questions or  complete these sentences to dig deeper.

What did you envision yourself being like as a mom?

As a mother I always thought I’d be more _____________________.

Where did your hopes for yourself as a mother come from? (i.e. your own childhood, watching others, society,etc).

What surprised you after motherhood in terms of the mother you’ve become so far?

What can you try harder to accept about yourself as a mother? What could be the potential benefits of those traits?

What can you start to let go of in terms of your expectations of motherhood? What has your children taught you about yourself?

 

 

Books by Karen Kleinman

This Isn’t What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression

Dropping the Baby and other Scary Thoughts:Breaking the Cycle of Unwanted Thoughts in Motherhood

What Am I Thinking?: Having a Baby after Postpartum Depression

Introducing Resilient Mamas

I’m so excited to share with you a re-launch of my blog and the beginning of a community!

As I’ve progressed on my journey both personally and professionally in the area of maternal mental health I envisioned creating a community where there is one understanding- that mothers can support each other without judgment, celebrate differences, hold space for one’s another’s stories, and empower one another to heal and grow. This lead to me creating the Resilient Mamas space. It’s a blog with inspriation and challenges, a Facebook community, and an in person group that meets twice monthly- once as a support group on the 3rd Wednesday from 6:30-8:30 at Circle of Life at once as a social gathering at Playgrounds Cafe in Lakewood and on the 2nd Tuesday from 10am-12pm at Playgrounds Cafe in Lakewood.

I look forward to seeing what this community grows into and am hopeful that mothers can be empowered through connection with one another to not only be vulnerable and open but to thrive inside and outside of motherhood with confidence and strength.

So welcome to Resilient Mamas! I’m so glad you’re here. I encourage you to visit the What is a Resilient Mama? page to find out more about the identity I wish to foster in each mother in this community.

Also if you’d like to be part of our Facebook group that will involve support and weekly challenges for growth you can join here.