People will give you the craziest advice during your nine months of pregnancy. Working retail enhanced this experience for me as if it wasn’t already hard enough to smile through the most awkward situations. Yes, I am pregnant. No, I don’t have a food baby. Someone actually said to me, “Breastfeeding happens naturally. The baby just knows how to do it”.
Are you kidding me? I’m smart enough to know that this is terrible advice but already I can feel my knees shake. The pressure to be a perfect parent is more intense than ever these days. What if breastfeeding doesn’t happen naturally? What if we can’t make that connection? And even worse, what if people judge my parenting for it? My kid ended up with a bottle and a tin of formula. She is perfectly healthy and that makes me no less of a parent.
Please do me a favour and allow yourself to be human. Listen to everyone’s opinion because they aren’t all crazy, but don’t take anything to heart. You will follow your parental instincts and you will make the best decisions for your baby. All that matters is your sanity. Trust me, when your child is screaming at 3:00am the last thing you should be worrying about is what Pam said over coffee. You don’t have any titles to live up to but your own.
My baby girl had an extreme case of colic for the first two months of her life. The only thing that would settle her at night was to fall asleep on my chest. Skin to skin was our ritual. Now she is over three months old. She sleeps in her crib happily. Babies run on their own agenda. Stick to your gut feelings because they are right 95% of the time and they are there for a reason.
Make sure you maintain a healthy balance between being a parent and being you. Taking care of a child for the rest of your life is a lot of responsibility, but it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice what makes you happy. Go for a walk. Shave your legs. Treat yourself to your favourite Starbucks. Put on a bit of makeup, or even better – don’t wear any makeup. Bake yourself some chocolate chip cookies. Laugh at a comedy as you rock your crying baby to sleep. Drink an entire bottle of wine while ranting to your best friend on the phone. Do whatever you need to do to feel normal and less robotic.
I learned this lesson the hard way. One day it hit me. I was shopping at Walmart for storage supplies. I couldn’t figure out how to leave the store with massive bins and my baby all on my own. I refused to let myself leave without them because it was a project that I needed to complete for myself. Apparently balancing totes on the car seat while trying to push two carts at once isn’t a normal thing to do. I felt like a total superhero, looked like a lunatic and grinned ear to ear because it was so revitalizing to do something for me!
Ask the people in your life for help when you need it. When your significant other wakes up as you sleepwalk to get a bottle and asks, “Are you okay? Do you need help?” say how you feel! Don’t try to be a superhero with an attitude. There were so many nights that this would happen to me and I would say, “I’m fine. This is my job” and then I would continue to stomp around as I prepared for a late night feeding. Eventually, I realized how crazy that was. Exhaustion makes us evil. This is not my job. It is our job. There is no shame in taking a break. Get some extra sleep.
To be completely honest, I just fell asleep and drooled all over my mother-in-law’s couch while writing this. But now I feel great, minus the drool. Whether you’re a rookie to parenting or on to your third, these things will help you to cope with the pressures of being perfect. Don’t believe everything you read. Even the parents that seem picture perfect have massive meltdowns here and there, they just refrain from publicising it!
Do you give in to the pressure of being a perfect parent or take it with a grain of salt?
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.