With today's parents expected to juggle childcare, homeschooling, and work—all at the same time—moms are under enormous pressure. Worst of all? It's entirely too common to feel like you're doing it all wrong.
It couldn't be further from the truth if you ask "Life Coach for Moms" Ciara Burton, a certified life, leadership and health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Landmark Education and The Mosaic Institute for Human Development. "When you have children, you're starting with a blank slate, and you have to learn how to become a mother—and be patient with yourself in that process," she says. "You're learning how to mother children, yes, but you're also learning how to mother yourself—which is a different you from the you before."
Battling mom perfectionism
The problem of perfectionism comes in, Burton notes, when women who become mothers expect it to look a very certain way—i.e. the same way their neat and orderly lives looked without kiddos. "Many of us have built our lives around this idea of 'getting it right'—checking off the boxes and following the rules of life—so it makes sense that motherhood shakes us up, because we quickly learn that we can't control it all, no matter how much we want to," she says.
For the mom who is a perfectionist, Burton finds that the most important thing to learn is how to relinquish control and respond to the needs of her child. "No plan, no structured routine," she says. "Just a willingness to meet her child in the present moment." She stresses the challenge of that task, speaking from her own experience in exploring new ways of sleep-training her newborn, after several failed attempts of books and sleep coaches.
Why you need to let go
It's when we release our own need for control, Burton notes, that we can be more forgiving with ourselves—which, in turn, can help us to extend more grace to other moms who may be quietly battling the very same issues. "If you're shaming yourself, you're more likely to shame others, because you're constantly comparing yourself to the external world around you," she says, noting that it all comes down to the high expectations we're placing on ourselves. "You're noticing how you're falling short, but you're also noticing how other people are falling short to the bar that you've now set exceptionally high."
The most counterintuitive aspect of it all? Deep down, Burton notes, comparison is rooted in a need for community, and to be deeply seen. "Shaming others, and gossiping about others, is an artificial and unproductive way to create community and connectedness that, in the end, of course, doesn't actually feel good."
Creating real, meaningful, and healthy relationships—both with ourselves and with others—is one of the most surefire ways to battle perfectionism in motherhood. Here, Burton shares three ways on how to do just that.
1. Connect with yourself before connecting with others
Often, we're living on autopilot—between the alarm clock, the crying child, the deadline—so it's crucial to check in with ourselves and ask how we're really doing. "When you look into the mirror and see that woman staring back at you, she is a different woman from before having children," says Burton. "Look at her, and ask her: 'How are you really?' Get real with yourself, first—that is your access to getting real with others. Self care is as important as caring for your children.
2. Be willing to be seen
When you feel like you're at your worst, your natural programming tells you to isolate yourself because you feel like you're failing. But Burton suggests we battle those feelings immediately. "It's important to combat these thoughts to let yourself be seen by others, and to share from your heart what's really coming up for you," she says. "Vulnerability is an invitation to connectedness."
3. Find what fuels you
It's when we feel that we can be a contribution to something beyond motherhood—something that inspires and energizes us—that we can connect to a deeper identity within ourselves. For this reason, Burton suggests that her clients ask themselves an important question: "What makes me come alive as a woman in this world?" In battling perfectionism, it rekindles a key reminder that our true selves believe that we are worthy of joy at every state. "When we insert ourselves into activities that bring us joy, we are working to let go of this false identity that says 'I have to be better' or 'I have to do more,'" says Burton. "When we experience feelings of creativity and aliveness, we let go of the need to measure ourselves. We joyfully realize that we are enough."
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