Jessica Rowe: why there’s no such thing as the perfect parent
When I was pregnant and in the early days of having my first baby, I used to think there would be a point when I would nail the whole parenting thing.
I’d imagine a sense of serenity would overcome me and I would know exactly what to do all the time.
Well, 14 years later I’m still waiting for that sense of knowing and what I now know, deep in my weary heart, is that I will never know what I’m doing and I’ll never be there. Ever. And that’s okay.
I’m a proud Crap Housewife - I can’t cook, I can’t clean but I know I’m a good enough mum. How did I reach that sense of knowing?
I’ve taken the pressure off myself and embraced my imperfection. There is no such thing as the perfect parent. And there are no hard and fast rules about it.
But what I’d like to share are some lessons I’ve personally come to realise, which haves made me a happier, more relaxed and enjoyable parent:
- No one’s new baby sleeps through the night. If someone tells you their newborn baby sleeps all night they’re lying.
- Breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally. I struggled to breastfeed my firstborn. Giving your child a bottle doesn’t set them up for a lifetime of delinquency or obesity. My mum bottle-fed me formula and I’ve turned out just fine.
- Ask for help if you need it. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was ask for help when I realised I had post-natal depression. Having PND doesn’t mean you’re a failure. You simply have an illness which you need help and support to get through.
- Life with small people can be boring. It’s okay if you don’t like going to the park. I now never want to see another sandpit or set of swings again!
- Find your tribe. You need friends who get you.
- It’s okay to have toast or cereal for dinner sometimes.
- Your house is a home. Not a showroom. As the late, great American comedian Phyllis Diller said, ‘Housework can’t kill you, but why take a chance?’.
- Make time for yourself. I used to lock myself in the bathroom with my iPad for a moment’s peace. It worked until my youngest worked out how to pick the lock with a 10-cent piece.
- Laugh, dress up in costumes, sing and dance. Do what makes your heart sing. Your kids will see that you’re happy and they’ll laugh along with you, until they become teenagers.
- Listen. Give your children the time and space to talk to you.
- Eat chocolate in bed. I have my secret stash in the top drawer of my bedside table.
- Do what is right for you and your family. It’s your life - you’re not living it for someone else’s approval. Make active choices that work for you.
- There is no such thing as the work/life balance. It’s never balanced. Sometimes work is full on and other times life takes over.
- You can’t have it all. Something always has to give and that’s okay. Be gentle and careful with yourself setting realistic expectations.
These are lessons I’ve discovered along the way. And as a parent, it’s never too late to learn more or change the way you think for your mental health.
Hear more real-life lessons and stories about how embracing imperfection is the best way forward in HCF’s fabulous podcast series hosted by me, Navigating Parenthood - Imperfect Parents. I speak to mums and dads at all different stages in their lives who give me great insight into how they make things work for them. We talk co-parenting, online safety, dealing with the unexpected and how through all of that, we all want to raise healthy and happy kids.
If you're struggling with depression and/or anxiety, and need to speak to someone now, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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