Social pressure is intense for women, who need to succeed on so many levels: work, love, parenting. Fathers are also starting to feel this pressure, but the perfect father model is not yet as visible in the public space.
The perfect parents, or rather, the perfect mother is everywhere: on television, in magazines and in our collective imagination. We still look for this “mother-from-the-good-old-days,” who dedicated every single minute of her day to her family, in the mirror. Or we hope to emulate Caillou’s mom, who always remains calm in the face of her son’s misbehaviour. Or mothers who are actresses, singers or models, with their swimsuit bodies and children who appear to have it all. And let’s not forget all those ads showcasing the ideal family: parents who are always well dressed and smiling, with neat houses, well-behaved children, clean cars…
“Social pressure is intense for women, who need to succeed on so many levels: work, love, parenting,” notes Francine Ferland. Fathers are also starting to feel this pressure, but the perfect father model is not yet as visible in the public space.
The problem is that perfection just doesn’t exist. If you try to follow unrealistic models, the only outcome will be disappointment and dissatisfaction. If this is your state of mind, you won’t experience any pleasure in being a parent. “You’ll soon reach the end of your rope, which will only lead to more stress and irritability,” says Nicolas Chevrier. “You could also end up putting too much pressure on your child, who won’t always be able to measure up.” This could all have a negative impact on his self-esteem.
When you read a story to your child or when you’re playing with him, try to focus all your attention on him, rather than mentally going over your grocery list...
“Parents are human beings with strengths and weaknesses, who try to do their best, but who must also give themselves permission to make mistakes,” says Geneviève Henry. “And since children learn by observing, that’s the best model to offer them.”
Here’s what you can do to make peace with your feeling of imperfection:
- Let go. Does everything always need to be done to perfection? It’s important to clean your house, of course, but does it really need to sparkle? “A little dust never made any family miserable,” says Francine Ferland, who recommends that we lower our expectations to a more realistic level.
- Reassess your priorities. You’ll benefit by figuring out what’s really important to you and then making your choices accordingly. See if what you’re doing is essential. Can you eliminate it or spend less time on certain tasks or activities? Is it more important that your child participates in an organized activity or that he spends more time with family?
- Think of yourself. To be a better parent, you need “me” time, too! “When my first son was born, I never took any time for myself because it made me feel like a bad mother,” says Geneviève. “With two kids and a bit of experience under my belt, I understood that to be a good mom, I needed to find the balance between my children’s needs and my own.”
- Talk to someone. This may give you the chance to put words to your feelings of doubt and help you gain perspective. Talking with your partner or other parents can also help you out of your isolation, help you to share your concerns and consolidate your parenting skills. A professional, a help group or even a book can also be useful.