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Mummy, perfection not required

People showcasing seemingly perfect lives on social media are making mothers feel inadequate, but less-than-stellar parenting is fine actually

WASHINGTON • Mum guilt - that sinking feeling that there is not enough time to do everything and do it well, but if you do not, you are a miserable excuse for a maternal figure - is a real thing.

And it has got only worse with time.

Sure, the mothers of the 1980s and 1990s compared themselves with the supreme American television personality Martha Stewart, but they knew, deep down, that she had a small army helping her stage those cute birthday parties and decorate her home.

The mums of the aughts and beyond, though, find points of comparison in every blogger and tastemaker slicing out the best parts of their lives for distribution on social media.

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They have a hard time trusting that their less-than-picture-perfect way is just fine.

"The absolute flood of information both from experts and from our peers on social media can feel totally overwhelming for parents," says Ms Julia Bosson, a licensed clinical psychologist in New York City and a mum to three kids aged three and under.

You see this picture of this perfect birthday cake, but what you don't see are the three burnt cakes on the counter.

MS JULIA BOSSON, a licensed clinical psychologist in New York City on how social media does not reflect reality Family

"Mums very often come in and tell me the pressure they're feeling as they're seeing what this other person does for their kids."

A recent global research study by Dove, to coincide with its launch of a line of wipes, lotion, shampoo and other babycare products, found that 89 per cent of mothers feel pressure to be perfect and 72 per cent question whether what they are doing is good enough.

Ms Bosson, who works with patients on mindful parenting and is helping her office, Union Square Practice, launch a reproductive mental health wing, has a few ideas to combat those ugly negative thoughts and accept that less-than- perfect parenting is just fine.

Here are her suggestions.

QUESTION YOUR EXPECTATIONS

"Are you setting standards that are impossibly high, that no human can attain 100 per cent of the time?" Ms Bosson asks.

Question, too, whether you equate one slip-up or mum-fail with complete failure as a parent.

"Can you find the grey - is there something between perfection and absolutely abysmal failure?" she asks.

TREAT YOURSELF LIKE A FRIEND

"Stop for a minute and ask yourself what you would tell a friend in that situation.

"If this were your closest girlfriend or guy friend struggling with this issue, what would you say to that person?"

It is unlikely you would chew a friend out for letting her child watch more than two hours of television on a sick day.

CHOOSE A MANTRA

Find a saying that resonates with you and write it down.

"Put it on your mirror, put it in your cellphone," Ms Bosson says.

One could be: "You can only do what you can do."

Or, "That's enough for today" for when you are too tired to wash that last dish in the sink at night.

REMEMBER SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT REALITY

"A lot of times when mums are feeling all this pressure, we're forgetting that we're seeing a very small portion of other people's lives," Ms Bosson says.

"You see this picture of this perfect birthday cake, but what you don't see are the three burnt cakes on the counter."

For every perfect family picture, there are 15 outtakes of tears and boogers.

MODEL BEING KIND TO YOURSELF

"It's very important for a kid to see mum being kind to herself, being moderate, instead of being all or nothing," Ms Bosson says.

"And having confidence to go forward and trust her way even in the face of criticism or imagery that others are doing things so much better than they are."

DO NOT FORGET SELF-CARE AND SELF-COMPASSION

Ninety-four per cent of the mums surveyed by Dove said they believe they can provide better care to their children when they care for themselves too.

It's "being kind to ourselves when we're struggling", Ms Bosson says.

"It's much easier to handle criticism or judgment from others when we're not judging ourselves."

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 21, 2017, with the headline 'Mummy, perfection not required'. Print Edition | Subscribe