Perfection – The “Curse” of Perfect Parenting

Living with the Problem

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Perfection - The "Curse" of Perfect Parenting | 0 comments

Almost all people arriving at parenthood for the first time report feeling some degree of uneasiness including loss of patience, lack of self-confidence, and diminished expectations. Such feelings may lead us to fear that our shortfalls might be affecting our child.

The problems of first time parenting can range from feelings of:

  • desolation so severe that it is called postpartum depression.
  • inadequacy when faced with the responsibility for another’s well being.
  • disconnection, lack of an immediate bonding with one’s newborn.

Most people, especially women, have had a lifetime of preparation and training for that magical transcendence into parenthood. When we finally arrive, we often endure experiences that don’t match these lifelong expectations. This often leads us into feelings of self-doubt and guilt.

For women, self-doubt and guilt are compounded with the choice of being either a stay-at-home mom or a working mom. Even if the decision is experienced as a choice, mothers are constantly bombarded with messages that suggest either role has unfortunate implications for her children.

The difficulties that arise when adjusting our lives to a new 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week job is monumental.

Couples report experiencing:

  • competition with each other
  • jealousy
  • little time for their relationship
  • guilt when time is devoted to their partner.

Single parents report experiencing:

  • lack of support
  • isolation
  • exhaustion
  • stress
  • lives that include little but children and work

If the pregnancy was not planned or the couple’s relationship is threatened or ending, they report experiencing:

  • resentment toward the child
  • feelings of being trapped

Additionally, if a child is different from what we expected or hoped for — perhaps with a serious medical problem — we may be unprepared for the special challenges. When parenthood comes through a less “normal” route — adoption or pregnancy of a single woman, or a very young woman — we may face societal disapproval or lack of support. (See our parenting case story on same-sex couples: Sally and Laura)

Even if we feel an immediate loving bond with our child, and surprise ourselves with our ease at parenting and ability to sustain other important aspects of our lives, we may continue still to worry about our parenting skills.

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Becoming a Parent

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Perfection - The "Curse" of Perfect Parenting | 0 comments

Couples who are first-time parents face a huge reorganization of their lives and relationships. The lifestyle they may have created over a period of years now has to make room for another person with very different requirements. Dissatisfaction may be fostered by an idealized image of what their new family should be like.

The idealized image may rob them of joy, particularly if their baby is born with a serious illness or other problems. Couples also face expectations that their partner should be a particular way. Additionally, the effects on their relationship of stress, less time, less sleep, and for some, isolation, all take a toll. For same-sex couples there may be more freedom to define roles or a pull into heterosexual models.

Many find it helpful to talk with their partners about expectations, particularly to discover together if they reflect the culture or personal preferences. Finding ways to avoid comparing themselves with other new parents or their memories of their own childhood can help couples have room to discover what is really important to them.

Does some of this sound familiar to you? Here are some questions that you can ask yourself and your partner that others have found helpful.


  • Trying to keep the culture’s idealized image of parenthood out of the picture, what is most important to each of you in raising your child?
  • What do you or could you and your partner each do to contribute to that?
  • What do you know about yourself and your partner that makes you confident that you cold keep these priorities?
  • What do you hope to protect and nurture in your relationship with each other?
  • How have you been able to do that or how can you imagine doing that?
  • What have you appreciated already in your partner’s parenting that you might not have predicted?
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Understanding the Problem

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Perfection - The "Curse" of Perfect Parenting | 0 comments

Understanding the Problem

As everyone knows, having children can bring about changes in a person’s identity, lifestyle, relationship, and career that seems cataclysmic. While everyone has some advice for “how to be a good parent” there are only a few publications written specifically for new parents, particularly younger couples.

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