Perfect Parents And Other Fairy TalesMarch 13, 2011 No Comments
Once upon a time, after an uneventful pregnancy, a serene new mum took an extra deep breath and effortlessly popped out her baby. She then dressed him in the hand-crafted sleep suit she had knitted during labour (the shortest in the hospital’s history) and immediately began Googling recipes for homemade florentines to serve to her visitors. Right from the start, her baby slept through the night, in fact through most of the day too, waking only to feed on schedule every four hours and to smile beatifically at everyone who peeped into his top-of-the-range pram. New mum and new dad spent many blissful hours holding hands above his cot, while remarking how convenient it was that he behaved just like the babies in the books.
This tale, farfetched as it is, is one that many new parents persist in telling themselves over and over, more often, in fact, than Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Red Riding Hood combined. Scarier than any wolf in a forest is the thought that, as a parent, you might be getting it wrong, that – whisper it! – life with a new baby (particularly a first baby) is not the gentle paradise you had imagined. Those cute ‘new baby’ cards that you can just about muster the energy to open do not show pictures of crying, puking babies. Rarely in those first few weeks after the birth, will someone call to say ‘Congratulations! It’s bloody difficult, isn’t it?’ Out for a stroll with the pram, you see other new mothers, clean and smiling, and so, despite the fact that you have not slept for five days, you smile too. Inside, you think that you must be the only one teetering on the brink of sanity, moody and tearful, battling a job that everyone else seems to find so easy.
And so the myth survives and countless new parents put a gloss over their worries and inadequacies, each convinced that they are the only ones struggling with the night feeds and the nappy rash. Yet new mums and dads continue to tell themselves the fairytale of the Perfect Parents, placing themselves under even more stress as they aspire to this shiny unreality. Then, they worry more and smile even harder.
The reality is that parenthood is difficult. Pretending that it is easy does everyone a disservice. No new parent sails through those early months unscathed. In every family the arrival of a new baby imparts a new fragility. New hopes, dreams and joys, yes, but also new doubts and fears. Perpetuating the myth of Perfect Parents leads to feelings of even greater isolation for those who are finding the going particularly tough. Because in a world where nothing short of perfection is admitted, how do you confess feelings of vulnerability, perhaps even depression? When it is all about glowing, smartly turned-out parents and babies, it takes a lot of courage to let yourself be less than perfect.
If your life is a constant rehearsal for the role of Perfect Parent, lose the script. A new baby brings new responsibilities and calls for many new skills. Acting doesn’t have to be one of them. And what are you trying to prove anyway? And to whom? Once you admit to a few of those doubts and insecurities, you’ll be surprised how many similar confessions you may hear back. You may even create opportunities to give and receive meaningful support from other parents in the same boat. Sometimes it is the chink in the armour that lets in the light. ‘Perfection’ can be a poisonous apple. Be kind to yourself, be the best parent you can be, and keep the fairytales for bedtime.Tags: parent, PARENTING, storyPREGNANCY, YOU AND YOUR BABY