Parenting Pearls is a series of memes that include simple, supportive statements for new parents. These memes have been compiled by Dr Renée Miller (Principal Clinical Psychologist) based on her experience working with new mums. These memes are brief, quick-to-read reminders that focus on being present in the moment, and being self-compassionate in the often highly charged, judgement-laden environment of parenting. These memes do not replace individualised therapy for women who are struggling beyond having a challenging day here and there. To share these memes on social media, click on the image you like and share it from the information post page. Please consider your privacy when sharing on social media.
Guilt is a common but wasted emotion. It often comes about from trying to be a perfect mother when perfection does not exist. When guilt pops up, check in with what your guilt is telling you. Does it come from overly high expectations, or from an inner knowing that something is not sitting well with you? Explore it, make choices in line with what you value, but don't let guilt govern your sense of self. Get to know who you are, what matters to you, and what you want for your child/ren. Trying to be a perfect mother does not help anyone. If you are feeling guilty much of the time, this could be a symptom of depression, and it might help to check in with your GP or a therapist if your mood is low.
Take stock of the pace in which you are operating. Does it seem like there are endless tasks on your 'to do' list, that you don't have time to sit down, and that you are constantly rushing? We can fall into the trap of just keeping on going. Stop...slow down. Add "time-out" to your 'to do' list. No one can just keep going. Allow your 'to do' list to roll over each day. Slow down the pace in which you are living. Take breaks. It is so important to restore our systems. Ironically, this allows us to get more done. If you are feeling out of control, your sleep is disturbed from stress, or you feel that your stress levels are just too high, seek help.
We can be so harsh on ourselves as mums. Trying to get it all 'right' when there is no 'right' way. We can judge ourselves as inadequate by comparing ourselves to others or by trying to live up to impossible standards. Why are we so often kinder and more forgiving of our friends than we are of ourselves? Allow yourself and your relationship with your child/ren to be 'works in progress', learning and evolving over the course of time.
Anxiety is a combination of symptoms in the body (including racing heart, hot/cold flushes, tight chest, shallow breathing), and fearful thoughts. Mums often find themselves worrying about future difficulties (e.g. what if my baby doesn’t sleep tonight, or what if something terrible happens to my child). Bringing your focus to what is going on in the present moment allows you to deal with what is actually happening rather than fearing what could happen. The odd anxious thought here and there is normal, but when these thoughts become obsessive or intrusive, along with anxiety symptoms in the body, help might be required.
Most mothers can relate to feeling overwhelmed at times. Parenting involves being 'on call' 24 hours a day. We are often responding to the unpredictable needs of our child/ren, which can be challenging when we are trying to get tasks done. We can feel particularly overwhelmed when faced with competing demands at a given point in time. It can be helpful to notice this feeling of overwhelm, to stop, to breathe, and to take a moment to think clearly about what needs your attention right now, and what can wait till later. If you are struggling to do this, and you are feeling overwhelmed much of the time, it may be worthwhile to seek help.
It can be hard not worrying about our children. Our minds often go down the path of "what if this bad thing happens?", "what if that bad thing happens?" Interestingly, most people report that their worries never came to pass. This doesn't mean that difficult things don't happen. It means that when difficult things happen, we address them and work with whatever is presented to us. Worrying about what could happen makes us feel anxious, and does not protect us for when difficulties arise. Dealing with 'what is' is far better for us than worrying about what 'could be'. If you find that your worry is interfering with your life, seek help.
Are you finding yourself being particularly critical of others? This can be a symptom of stress, depression, unresolved anger, or sleep deprivation. Sometimes it can help to actively steer our minds towards what is right rather than what is wrong – to focus on what you feel grateful for. If negativity persists, it may be worthwhile to seek help.
One of the most difficult aspects of motherhood is being open to learning new ways of doing things, while staying true to our values. When other people share their (often unsolicited) opinions about how parenting should be done, this can lead to self-doubt about our choices. There is a lot of judgement out there– people justifying their own ways of doing things in ways that can be critical of others. One of the most rewarding aspects of working with new mums is helping them to differentiate themselves and their values from the opinions of others. This can be particularly challenging with parents and parents in law who have strong opinions about the ways in which they did things. Remember, they are often trying to validate the job they did as parents. If you are constantly worrying about what others think, or avoiding people for fear of judgement, it might be useful to seek help.
Women often compare themselves to other mothers, and compare their babies to other babies. This is understandable given that in this new role, women are looking for evidence for what is 'normal'. However, self doubt and feelings of inadequacy can be the result. There is great variability between mums, their relationships, work/financial situations, backgrounds, hopes, dreams, fears, and importantly between babies' temperaments. How can there possibly be a 'one-size-fits-all'? Women can feel so empowered when they recognize that everyone is different, and that everyone makes choices based on their unique situations and their unique considerations.
Stress is a normal part of life, and we need an optimal level of stress to feel motivated to do things. However when stress becomes too much, it is important to look at what it is we are trying to achieve, and decide where we can cut back, or get support to alleviate the accumulation of stress. Stress is a problem - and might require help - when we can’t seem to wind down or relax, when we become snappy, irritable and touchy, and when it affects our sleep.
When we think in 'all or nothing' terms, or have a 'good-bad' or 'right-wrong' view of motherhood, we can feel stuck in thinking there is only one way to do things. Using such criteria can result in being critical of ourselves or critical of others. Sometimes, thinking about a ‘middle-ground’, a more moderate approach, can help us to ease up on our expectations of self and others, and bring a more balanced view of motherhood. This can take the pressure off, and allow us to enjoy the experience more. There is no such thing as perfect and 'good-enough' is good enough. If you are struggling to find a middle ground, or you are feeling stressed, anxious or flat, you might want to think about talking to your health practitioner or therapist.