Ditch placing high expectations on yourself to be the perfect mother

‘We’re all perfect parents until we become one’.

Can you relate to that quote? Before you had a baby, did you tell yourself that you wouldn’t co-sleep, give your baby a dummy (or use yourself as a dummy!), or rock your baby to sleep? Did you imagine you’d breastfeed but you can’t (or choose not to), that you’d make every organic meal from scratch, read to your baby every day, and stick to a routine?

When you catch yourself comparing your parenting to someone else’s, or you feel judged (whether real or imagined, internal or external), or you’re doing something you swore you would never do, remember this: The perfect mother doesn’t exist, so stop trying to be one.

Ditch placing high expectations on yourself

When you can’t meet the high expectations you put on yourself, whether it’s keeping a clean and tidy house, breastfeeding, having a ‘good’ sleeper, or a baby that’s placid and quiet out in public, then you’re setting yourself up to feel like a failure.

Instead, recognise that you’re doing the best you can in any given situation, and it comes from a place of love. Feeding your baby to sleep is responding to your baby’s needs for comfort, nutrition, and connection. You cannot spoil a baby by holding them, or giving them what you think they need in that moment, whether it’s a cuddle, a dummy, or a feed.

Acknowledge that you’re going to have bad days

Like adults, babies have days when they feel cranky, lonely, overwhelmed, tired, unwell, or anxious. An unsettled baby can be a lot to handle for any parent, particularly if you’re sleep-deprived or your own emotional cup is empty. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone wishes they’d done things differently on those days. Own it, admit that it’s a rough day (or week!), that your baby has needs that are difficult to meet at times, and that you also need time to recharge to have a better day tomorrow.

When you have those days, do what you feel is the best for you and your baby. Slow everything down, cancel plans, ask for help…do what it takes to just acknowledge it and simplify your life as much as possible. Tomorrow is another day, so learn from it and move on.

One day they won’t need you so much

They’re only little for so long, and as you encourage their independence, they will start to depend on you less. For many mums it’s harder to not be needed than to feel needed too much. Talk to other mums who have done all the things you’re doing now that you think are ‘wrong’, and ask them if they would take any of it back.

They will tell you to do whatever works, that if co-sleeping helps everyone get some rest, then do it. Surround yourself with mothers who have fed their baby to sleep every night, and ask them if their grown child is worse off for it. It’s almost guaranteed that their child will be happy, well-adjusted, and have a deep connection with their parents. Independence will come, but now is the time to build their sense of security—something that we want them to take into adulthood and future relationships.

Choose joy over guilt during your motherhood journey

There are many ways to parent, and not just what your maternal and child health nurse or your mum tell you. Listen to your instincts, and if what you’re doing is working for your family, and it’s not harming anyone, then continue to do it. Only you know your baby. Just remember that you’re doing an amazing job. You can choose to feel guilty doing the things that bring your baby comfort, or you can relish in them and enjoy those snuggles. That’s not to say you’ll enjoy every moment of it, and you’ll always have days when you’re completely stretched. exhausted, and touched out. But believe it or not, one day you’ll wish you could be right back there again.

So, you think that you’re doing everything wrong? It means that you’re doing precisely everything right, and that you’re an amazing mother. Stop trying to be a perfect mum, no one is. Own it, be you, and parent from the heart.

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