From the moment you find out you’ll be a parent, you want to ensure you get it right. Are you taking the right prenatal vitamins? Will that extra cup of coffee really make your baby shorter when they grow up?
When your baby finally arrives, they come with a different set of concerns that start floating around your mind at 2 a.m. “How do I keep my little one safe? Am I somehow screwing them up in a way I haven’t realized? I see other moms doing more, doing it all, doing it better. Am I doing enough to get it right as a parent?”
The Anxiety About “Not Getting It Right” is the Problem
Oh, momma. I want to hug you. You know, one of those great big hugs that pulls you in tight and lets you know that, yes, you’re absolutely doing enough. You don’t have to do all the things. And more importantly, you don’t have to nail it every single time. Trust me; I’ve walked that road (and sometimes still get caught up in it all). But, honestly, often, it’s the anxiety and stress over not getting it right for my kids that actually ruin things — not me.
I always wanted to be a mom. I couldn’t wait to hold my daughter and snuggle her with non-stop love. The itty-bitty clothes. The new baby smell. I even looked forward to those sleepless nights rocking her into a milk-induced slumber. And while I did, I stared at her and wondered how someone so little could fill my entire heart. I wanted this. I wanted to do it all right and do right by her. So why couldn’t I do the one thing I thought should come naturally?
Yes, I’m talking about breastfeeding. I mean, come on. Wasn’t my postpartum body built precisely for this purpose? Why couldn’t I get this one thing right? I wanted to breastfeed exclusively, but it seemed like it never worked. She couldn’t tell me whether she’d gotten enough, but the consistent crying spells seemed to say it all. I was a failure.
Not Breastfeeding Didn’t Mean I Didn’t Get It Right
Accepting defeat wasn’t easy. I quickly handed her off for formula feedings to anyone who asked to hold her. Because even though it wasn’t my fault, watching her take a bottle broke my heart. It seemed like every other mom got this part right without even trying, so what was wrong with me?
In hindsight, I wish I could have told myself to stop carrying the pressure to breastfeed. It didn’t make me less of a woman, and it certainly didn’t make me a bad mom. In the end, fed is best. Formula feeding my daughter wasn’t to her detriment. But the pressure to breastfeed spoiled the moments I should have had with her that flew by in the blink of an eye.
Did I learn from the experience? Yes. And no. Because it wouldn’t be the last time I let the pressure of getting it right ruin memories and moments I’ll never get back.
Another infamous meltdown was during a birthday party I was hosting. Well, maybe it isn’t infamous, but it lives rent-free in my mind. My daughter had chosen the theme. We shopped for decorations, made a menu, and finally agreed on what kind of cake she wanted.
Was it going to be Pinterest-perfect? No. But I wanted to give her everything she imagined. Aside from Christmas, her birthday is probably the only other day she spends counting down to all year long (yes, competing with Christmas is no easy feat).
Other Moms Get Their Kids’ Parties Right
She always talked about her friends’ parties and how their moms had the best decorations. And their moms made the most creative themed food. And their moms . . . well, the way she talked about it, I felt like anything I did — short of all the things that all these other moms did — would be a total fail.
The bounce house was late when it finally came to the big day. When they finally came, it was the wrong one. Guests were arriving, the wind was carrying away all my carefully crafted decorations, and I had barely finished making the food. Did I have a quick cry in the shower right before I jumped into hosting? Let’s say there was nothing quick about it.
I was so disappointed by the fact that I was sure she would be disappointed. How couldn’t she be? Just about nothing had gone to plan. There was no way I’d even come close to all those other Pinterest-y perfect parties I’d heard about.
The Pressure Made Me Miss the Good Stuff
Yet again, trying to do it all and get it right as a parent, and doing it better than everyone else, guaranteed that I didn’t enjoy the celebration with everyone else. I missed the giggles when the kids came flying down the bounce house slide (whose color and theme, in the end, didn’t matter). I missed the rave reviews of the candy apple salad I’d made. Because all I could focus on was the cutesy-themed name placard that the wind blew away and destroyed (like all my hopes and dreams for the day).
It might seem like these issues are no big deal. But at the time, they felt huge. Worse, they zapped up every ounce of energy I should have saved to enjoy these experiences with my kiddos. Yes, I’m the mom who used to cave under and into the pressure to get it all right. I tried my best. And even though other people might not think I got it exactly right, I’ve learned to accept beauty in imperfection – the quirk, the joy, and the actual experience instead of what I thought it needed to be.
And so, every night I put my girls to bed, I inhale the joyful bliss of being their mom, as imperfect as I am. And I exhale all the anxiety about getting it right as a parent that I’ve been holding onto that tells me otherwise. Their snuggles, cuddles, and little heads resting on my chest are all I need to tell me I’m doing just fine as a mom. And so are you.