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5 tips to embrace "imperfect parenting"

November 16, 2016

This week is Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week, which means raising the profile of the prevalence of anxiety and depression experienced through pregnancy and early parenting.


It's much more common than you think - 1 in 7 mums are diagnosed with postnatal depression (PND) every year.  That's just mums and that's just diagnoses. That stat does not:

  • Represent all of those struggling with symptoms of depression that pre-empt a diagnosis of PND; 

  • Include anxiety and parenting angst; or

  • Include Dads.

My professional experience has exposed that parents feel down and anxious when they are setting their expectations too high with a strong case of the "should's".


My baby should be doing this....
I should be a [better/more tuned in/resilient] parent...
I should be coping/managing like that other person seems to be...
My baby should be doing everything that baby is doing...
Our schedule should look like this....
Shouldn't he be sleeping for longer....


I should be happy and enjoying this time.


And the answer to that last statement is, yes. But society has fostered a culture of comparison and competition and instead of supporting each other and sharing in the challenge, parents are struggling alone.

The pressures are not just societal though. They can come from our own experiences of being parented, the hopes and wishes of our loved ones, and from our own self-talk.  As such, I have put together my best tips for you to practice putting aside the notion of getting it right all the time and instead, embrace imperfect parenting. 

5 tips to embrace imperfect parenting

  • Read between the lines. Chances are, other parents are filtering what they tell you about their parenting experiences. Do you leave mothers group or a social situation thinking, "Why are none of them having a hard time like me?" Challenge this by sharing honestly and asking open questions and hopefully any sense of shame and guilt will be met with understanding and empathy. 

  • Stop playing the blame game. You are not at fault. You are not a bad parent. There is nothing wrong with your child. Ask questions of doctors, maternal and child health nurses, family and friends, and other helping professionals if your concerns are serious.  In the meantime, until your questions are answered, monitor how harshly you are judging yourself, your partner and your child. 

  • Take caution when reading magazines and scrolling through your socials. It's jazzed up, filtered, and mostly unrealistic. Period. 

  • Think about how you gained competence in other roles and responsibilities you have aside from parenting. Did you know how to drive a car before you had lessons? Could you have been a working professional before studying at university? Do you think a surgeon becomes the best at what they do without ridiculous amounts of practice? No. You may find certain elements of parenting intuitive, but most of it is foreign and unfamiliar.  Take small steps and have time for reflection and forgiveness along the way. What did I do well? What could I improve? Practice this mantra: "I always try my best and will do better/something different next time".

  • Services and support exist for a reason: You are NOT the first parent to find it challenging.


It's OK to admit that it's hard. It's OK to cry.  Do anything you can to get some sleep.  You don't know what you don't know, so my advice is to have the conversations and ask questions. It will reduce your angst and help you feel more connected to a shared struggle (trust me, it exists!).


Take the time to learn and practice, show yourself forgiveness, and allow joy and happiness to filter into your parent-child relationship. Embrace being "good enough" - it's all you can do. 




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