Possibilities for Change

Many of the problems facing new parents arise from the media’s idealized images of who we should be and how we should act.

In the majority of these cultural images, parents are perfect. We see heterosexual partners who are both present and divide their parenting tasks without effort. They are constantly involved in activities with their kids. All the children are beautiful, smart, and responsive. The house is always spotless, and dinner is always ready on time.

These idealized images are held out as the high water mark of who we should be as parents, and leave us inevitably feeling as though we don’t quite measure up.

In real life, we must deal with responsibilities in addition to parenting — jobs to perform or jobs to find, bills to pay, grass to mow, meals to cook, phones to answer. Recognizing the tyranny of the idealized image, and how unrealistic it is, goes a long way toward relieving guilt, pressure, and stress.

Experienced parents, most of whom learned the hard way, will advise you to find time to nurture your relationships and yourself. As a byproduct, you will ultimately be able to give more to your child.

Parents have found these strategies useful:

  • Develop your own priorities.
  • Feel good about attending to the things most important to you.
  • Realize all babies and children are different.
  • Remember this isn’t a race.
  • Children are always changing.
  • Don’t negatively compare yourself as a parent, your children, or your family with others.
  • Don’t be distracted from what is important to you; find ways to resist it.
  • Develop a network of friends you can speak openly with who will accept you even though your house is a mess or your toddler pushes.
  • Be able to say, “I don’t like my daughter when she does whatever it is.” Seeing others nod in recognition will heal your heart.

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