When your children were babies, you tried to breastfeed, wean them to a balanced diet and took great pains to sleep-train them. Now that they are a little older, you try your best to juggle your job with being there for junior, while keeping the house in order.
You also limit your offspring’s screen time, continue to keep an eye on their diets, help them with their studies, plus, plan weekend activities for the family. You accomplish all this with as much patience and as little sleep as possible.
“As perfection is just not possible, striving to be a perfect mother can bring about unnecessary stress and severe guilt when a mum seemingly makes mistakes.”
Overdo it on your perfect-mother quest and it might not only cost you your health but your relationship with your spouse and family members, too.
REACH Community Service’s senior counsellor, Winnie Lu, points out that when you’re unable to reach the expectations you’ve set for yourself, you’ll likely be restless and disappointed with not just yourself but others, as well.
This, in turn, creates a downward spiral that may leave you battling with depression, anxiety and parental burnout. Adds Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist from Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, “As perfection is just not possible, striving to be a perfect mother can bring about unnecessary stress and severe guilt when a mum seemingly makes mistakes.”
Dr Lim and Lu have tips on how to avoid going down this slippery slope:
1. Spending time with your kids — quality is just as important as quantity
Dr Lim advises that you accept that certain responsibilities like your work, which is vital for your family’s continued well-being, will take you away from your kids. And because you need the income from your job, guilt over spending too much time at work is not warranted at all. That said, outside of your work, you should spend whatever time remains with your kids.
He adds, “Spending quality time playing or learning together with your kids is more important than just being just physically present, or worse, being grudgingly present.” Lu suggests starting with simple activities, such as reading books with your children or conversing about your day before bedtime.
2) Give yourself permission to have “me-time” or couple time
Feeling guilty about giving yourself some TLC? Dr Lim advises, “Only when you take good care of yourself and your relationship with your spouse — and not just focus on the children —will your home be a stable environment for your children to grow!”
So, go ahead and plan date nights with your hubby or binge on your favourite Netflix programme. Letting your hair down and taking a breather, even if it’s just for a couple of hours, can do wonders for your health and sanity.
3) Tell yourself that the grass is always greener on social media
For mothers who have little support at home, finding yourself a network of like-minded mummy-pals online can help you thrive when the going gets tough. Lu advises that while social media allows you to learn and lean on other parents, it doesn’t mean you need to compete with your peers. “Be aware that everyone has different values, financial abilities, talents and cultural differences.”
Do also be flexible with your expectations and remember that your spouse’s method of completing tasks may differ from yours.
Allow junior to make their own decisions. After all, they will have to be independent eventually. Mums who strive to be perfect often end up spoiling their children by making decisions for their kiddos. Lu cautions that once that happens, your child will lose confidence in their abilities, so that they have low self-esteem.
5) Ask for help when you need it
Stop viewing your decision to let others take over some of home tasks as a sign of failure. You shouldn’t feel guilty about asking your loved ones to chip in, especially if they live under the same roof. Lu suggests roping in your hubby to take on some childcare needs or tackle household chores from time to time. Do also be flexible with your expectations and remember that your spouse’s method of completing tasks may differ from yours. “Appreciate their help instead of criticising them for not being able to achieve your ideal methods,” Lu advises.
6) Where possible, leave your work in the office
Bringing your work home will only make your work-life balance even harder to achieve. Dr Lim advises that you remind yourself that it is pointless to worry about the children when you are at work and then worry about work when you are with your kids. That said, you need to accept that there will be times when sacrifices need to be made on either your personal or professional life. “Having a clear priority of what is important to yourself — be it career or family — and sticking to that priority helps you to stay on track.” Lu that you be firm and effective with the time you spend in the office, so that you can leave work on time. If you feel that you have too much on your plate, ask your colleagues for help and learn to say no to new tasks.
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