Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A perfectionist as a parent.

I have a bit of perfectionism complex. If you know me in person, perhaps "a bit" is an understatement.

Although, I'd rather be a perfectionist than a slacker.....but if I was a slacker, I'm sure I'd hate perfectionists for making me look "bad." Everyone has their role to play in society, right? We perfectionists get things done with efficiency and quality detail. Oh, and we certainly fill the world's quota for anxiety.

When a perfectionist becomes a mother, her world is quite literally turned upside down. I'm learning trying to learn how to let some things go. I can't "control" baby G, and that's a really hard concept for someone like me to deal with. She can't be reasoned with, and she can't be "reversed psychology-ed." I can't even "do" her things for her, because that's impossible...or else, trust me, I would.
I can't sleep for her. I can't eat for her. I can't learn for her. She must do those things on her own. But, as a super-perfectionist, I really want to. She just isn't very good at them sometimes. She doesn't sleep "enough," she doesn't eat "enough," and she doesn't seem to learn things "normally."

Of course, she is a baby. I'm an educated woman--in education, no less--I know that she needs my support, understanding, and love. I give her those things, I promise! Then, I come on here and throw a pity party. Because, after all, what's a perfectionist to do??

I think the problem for me, as a mother, stems from what I like to call "Parent Information Overload."
It started when I was pregnant. I devoured any piece of parenting information I could get my hands on. I was going to be the best pregnant mom, ever. I learned about the Bradley method, and decided a natural birth was best for me and my baby...so away we went on that exciting adventure (birth story 1 & 2). I ate all the right things...and only took Tylenol twice, when my headache was so overpowering I couldn't function. I exercised (although I do enjoy that anyway), and walked more than people expected from a prego woman. I did allow myself one perfectly measured 4 oz glass of wine on Valentine's Day because we were so close to our due date anyways.
During pregnancy, I also researched all the "early" parenting decisions we would have to make--like breastfeeding, cloth diapers, vaccines, and circumcision (thankfully, we didn't have to make that call because it was going to come from the last-minute-play-book). I knew breastfeeding was best, so G is happily addicted to the boob. As you can see on my blog, I am super-cloth-diaper-mom. We have a selective & delayed vaccine policy. My midwife and family practitioner (we aren't fans of vaccine pushing ped's around here) were both super impressed with our birth and parenting plans. They were very proud of all the research I had done. Music to a perfectionist's ears, mostly because it feeds into the perfectionism even more...who doesn't like praise?

Then I ran into the sleep monster that became my daughter. God love her, she just wasn't a natural sleeper. I kind of knew that while pregnant, because I never got any sleep. So, of course, I researched sleep training and read anything I could find about how to get your baby to sleep. I read the message boards, I read magazine articles, I searched blogs...shoot, I even read books from the 80s! I eventually came to the decision that G's sleep was unfixable, and that I would have to go it alone.

Imagine that! A parent being a parent, without any magazine, book, or website telling her what to do. I combined a bunch of different methods, and when those don't work...I go with my gut. It's pretty ugly sometimes, but at least I'm trying.

I think that perfectionist parents get so caught up in trying to be the best parent possible; and parent information overload eats us alive. There are too many voices, coming from too many directions. I wish that I could turn them all off and start over. I can't, though, and now it's too hard to decipher what is my intuition and what is something that I heard somewhere else.

Is it my idea to let G cry longer, or did some sleep expert tell me that it will help her to sleep?
Do I really think cry-it-out is horrible, or was it that article I read about how it will make her sooooo attention deprived that she acts out in school 10 years later?
Do I think my 1 year old should be eating larger portions of solid food, or is it the "normal size" information I saw on some website?
Does my intuition tell me that G should be walking by now, or was that some pamphlet I read two weeks ago?
How do I know her teeth are bothering her? Do I really feel that way, or is it what an old-wives-tale has led me to believe?


Being a perfectionist does have it's downsides...and most days, I think the biggest downside is that it makes parenting so stressful.

If I weren't a perfectionist, I don't think {a) I would be so concerned with getting everything just right, then {b} I would be okay with messing up every once in a while, then {c} I wouldn't search high and low for someone to tell me how to be the best parent, and finally {d} I wouldn't lie awake at night, fearing I've screwed my kid up permanently by not listening to every expert's advice ever given.

ps. I actually think G's sleep & eating habits are leveling out, but I don't want to jinx myself yet!


  1. I am so glad to know I am not alone. I could have written this post myself! :)

  2. I can relate to so much in this post. I have to constantly remind myself that my daughter is never going to fit into the "box" that every book describes. On the days I am able to just enjoy her as she is; those are the best! Glad things are leveling off for you though!

  3. I totally identify with this. There are sooo many decisions we have to make as parents. Then there are sooo many conflicting voices, all adament that their way is the best way. So we research for hours to come up with the best gameplan our inexperienced parental logic can come up with. Then we come up a plan we are confident about and it doesn't work! And no matter what we choose, there is always someone to tell us we made the wrong decision!

    I was talking to a friend who is 18 wks pregnant with her first child on the phone last night about our sleep issues, and she had the nerve to tell me I did the cry-it-out thing wrong, and that's why we still have some nap issues. I wanted to say "just wait until you have a real baby and all of your research goes out the window." But I didn't. God bless her- I thought I knew everything when I was 18 wks pregnant, too. She needs to hang on to that confidence as long as she can. And when she struggles, I will never insinuate that she made the wrong decision.


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