Newsletter for Parents
March 2018
Perfectionism and Motherhood Myths

What image do you see when you think of the perfect mother? Is she skinny, bonded to her baby, blissful as she breastfeeds with ease?  We may know intellectually that our images of idealized motherhood are ridiculous and unattainable, but that doesn't keep part of us from feeling like we're not good enough when our lives don't match this image that we carry around. 

This month we take a closer look at perfectionism and the motherhood myths that make us feel inadequate. We provide some great tools for staying out of the rabbit hole of perfection. We share one mom's story of rejecting the mom myth that "self-care is a luxury." And we let you in on the secret of the good-enough mom: self-compassion. 

As always, we love to hear your feedback on our newsletters. We are always looking for newsletter contributors, too. 
In This Issue
Resisting the Rabbit Hole of Perfection

We know it all too well, don't we? The pressure to be that perfect mother. The one who is smiling in the grocery store, who looks like she has it all together? The one who is a full-time stay-at-home mother or a full-time working mom and all of the posts on Instagram are of smiling children or "thankful for" posts, who looks like they can juggle it all and smile while doing it. The truth is that this isn't reality. We compete with ourselves to be the best mom that we can, because everyone else appears to have it all together. We compete with the expectations that we had before we had children. In fact, most of us struggle every day with decisions made that we could have done "better" or "differently."
We all are hard on ourselves. We want to be the best we can be. The best we can is just that. The best YOU Can. It doesn't have anything to do with the things that we are being flooded with on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest. It doesn't have anything to do with the latest post on Facebook about when to stop breastfeeding or how long to co-sleep with your baby. It doesn't have anything to do with having a fussy baby that you feel like a failure for not being able to console to sleep, or working and juggling a household. It has to do with letting go of the "should haves" and "I could have dones" and doing what is right for you.
In my work as a therapist, I have come to realize that there are some interesting trends when working with new parents...actually any parent, but mothers in particular. Behind closed doors, questions and insecurities come up. Many new parents struggle with a number of myths of perfectionism. For some, the beliefs that come up are:
  1. "Everyone else has it together. Why am I messing up?" The answer? You aren't. Everyone else is pretending to have it together, because it is hard to be vulnerable right now. In today's world, one of social media and expectations of perfection with pictures and posts, it is hard to be real. New moms are already questioning themselves; why would we post a picture of ourselves in the same pajamas as yesterday with no makeup and hair with snarls and bags under our eyes? So, we are already judging ourselves for not being like all the "other moms who have it all together"; we are now expecting to be judged by other moms or just others in general. The fact is that everyone is struggling in his or her own way. Just no one wants to talk about it. It seems that it is easier to pretend that everything is fine than to talk about the reality of parenthood and motherhood and how hard it is. We have seen this in the areas of perinatal depression and anxiety as well as miscarriage. If we could talk about the hard stuff, we might feel better and not so alone in the journey.
  2. "I am so lonely. How do all of these other moms have friends and get out? I can't even get out of the house some days." This is a hard one. Having babies at home can be an isolating and difficult time for a lot of parents. Living in the Northwest, those of us who have babies in the winter can struggle with the opportunities to get out and about. Also, in the Northwest, we have a huge population of military families that may not have community connections. Sometimes it takes work to find groups to join in, and feeling like you fit in can add another layer. Remember, that most moms meet other moms in places where there are activities. Many moms who are friends are "new friends." Even though you may be feeling like your baby has taken you away from your "old friends," your baby can be a connection for you to develop new relationships. Look for groups at the local libraries, churches, and gyms, like the YMCA.  Doing things with your baby where you may bump into another mom doing the same thing takes the pressure off of having to make new mom friends and--BONUS--you get to have new experiences with your little one at the same time.
  3. "I should have my body back by now..." This too is a typical expectation that we have for ourselves. We forget that our bodies, especially after having a baby, have a LOT of work to do because they have done a lot of work to grow a baby inside of us for the past 10 months! Breastfeeding, your stage of the healing process after birth, as well as the type of pregnancy you had all play a role in where you are in the process of "getting your body back." And let me also remind you that our new bodies will never be the same as our old bodies. Don't play the comparison game either. Most women, no matter how others perceive them, are struggling with something. So focusing on being healthy and appreciating the journey that your own body is on is priority #1.  
  4. "My friend's baby is sleeping through the night....Mine is awake all night long. Crying." And other myths about other peoples' babies sleeping: where they should sleep; sleep training; co-sleeping. Everyone has opinions. Everyone has different experiences. Everyone else's baby is not your baby. You are the expert on your baby. The need for perfection in this area in particular makes my heart go out to so many of my clients. Not just because they are tired and sleep deprived, but because they are so worried that they are going to make the wrong choice. So paralyzed, in fact, that they are almost frozen in fear to make any choice at all. We want to do it right the first time and without any judgment. The truth is that babies who sleep perfectly all night long are a rarity. The truth is that there is a lot of trial and error. Do what feels right. If you don't know what options you have and you have heard from every relative and well-meaning friend what you need to do and none of it feels right? Get help. There are therapists and infant sleep support professionals who are more than happy to help you find something that will feel good and be the right choice for you.
So how do we do it? How do we just accept that this is where we are at today and embrace it? To do that, we have to be okay letting go of the expectations that we get bombarded with every single day. Not only do we have to let go of the outside noise, but we also have to let go of some of our own expectations. Here are a few easy tips for getting through.
Mindfulness has made its way back into the limelight, mainly, in my opinion, because today we are living in a world of instant gratification and multitasking. We can look ahead on calendars, and we can check our emails on our phones; we don't have to be present in the moment like we used to. Especially with our children. Mindfulness is the practice of being able to be present in the moment while at the same time, being aware and recognizing thoughts, feelings, senses, and body. We all know that as parents, we frequently are thinking about the future, the what if's, busy with the things that really most of the time don't really matter.
Take time to yourself. It doesn't have to be anything dramatic and it looks different for everyone. Some may step into a pantry (or yes, closet) to breathe for a few moments. Some may wake up before the household stirs in the morning. How it's done doesn't matter sometimes as long as it is done. If you can, ask a partner or friend to support you in this. Let them know that you are asking for support to slip away to regroup, focus, and let go of the expectations of the day.
Breathe. Stress can change how we breathe. Stress can make us hold our breath, or begin to breathe quickly and rapidly, making it hard to catch our breath and can make us feel panicky or trapped. Take a moment each day to focus on your breathing. Be mindful about HOW you are breathing. Feel how your body inhales and exhales. How it feels when you can take long slow breaths and breathe out. Listen to the sounds around you. Feel the surrounding air. Walking alone or with your child can be a particularly mindful exercise. What senses can you use to be present in the moment? What do you hear, what do you see, what do you feel? How are you present in the environment? What do your feet feel like on the ground? Sitting down for tea or coffee in the mornings? Try it then too. Instead of the smells and sounds of the outdoors, notice the smells of your tea or lack of sound in the quiet morning. This exercise can be useful in a variety of ways and places. Find a time that works for you. Practice makes perfect!

Being present. Being in the moment with kids can be hard. There are so many things that need to get done and usually not enough time. Just like it is important to take time for yourself, it is important to try to take a moment to be present with your child. Stop. Look at your child and see if you can really see them. Turn down the distractions of the day in that moment and look at their face. Try and take in the moment. Talk with them if they can talk. Smile at them if they can't. Have their eyes changed color? Are there changes to their features that you haven't noticed? Are they getting taller? Funnier? Are there developmental things that you didn't notice or have time to sit with until now? How does their voice sound? What do they smell like? Sometimes during hard times, this can be the most grounding exercise that a parent can do. And other days, it is easier done when you tiptoe to their room at night to watch them as they sleep. Try to be present with your child in the best way you can. The benefits are mutual and can deepen a sense of belonging and can at times hit a "redo" button in our day.
We don't have to be the perfect Pinterest moms with pictures of our smiling babies, talking about how wonderfully they [insert: breastfeed, co-sleep, sleep in crib, nap, eat solids, are growing, weighing, etc.] with the entire world. We just have to be okay in the moment. Letting go of the expectations that we put on ourselves, that the outside world puts on us, and that we put on each other can be emotionally and physically freeing. Appreciate the little things. Be present in the moment and accept that the choices you are making are the best choices for you. And if you are feeling like you aren't the most perfect, "got it all together" parent? You're probably doing better than you think. And if you feel like you need help? You're not alone. There is help out there and don't be ashamed to ask. You've got this. 

Teresa M. Eltrich-Auvil, MS, LMHC. 
Picket Fence Therapy & Consulting, LLC, Puyallup WA
First Person
The Mom Myth that Self-Care is a Luxury

It was out of my struggle with a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder that my relentless commitment to self-care was born. I can now say, I feel grateful for my experience, as out of that crisis came tremendous personal growth. I understand that not everyone views their experience with a PMAD this way, and I want to validate and honor that too.
Think of a pebble in a slingshot. When you pull the slingshot back, it looks like a huge regression, but, when the tension is released, it will send that pebble further ahead than if it was never pulled back to begin with. We are the pebble. Our growth lies in our ability to move straight through whatever challenge or crisis and do the work to propel ourselves out of the regression, putting us further ahead on our journeys than we were before the crisis hit.
As I was digging myself out of the depths of PPA, I did a lot of personal work, which acted as momentum to push me forward. A key element of this work was approaching self-care as a lifestyle, necessity, and everyday practice. I knew in order to get and stay healthy, I needed to let go of the myth that self-care is a luxury. You might say to yourself, "I don't have time for that." I did too, once. But the truth is, once I realized it was critical to my well-being, and, by extension, that of my family, I leaned in.
I now know that small self-care practices done consistently make way more of an impact on our well-being than big things done occasionally. While vacations, massages, and manis are delightful, I find that I am not able to do those things often and I get much more of a "bang for my buck" by doing smaller things regularly. For example, prepping my coffee maker the night before so I just have to push one button when I wake up is a gift I give to myself daily. Laying out my workout clothes before I go to bed makes my mornings go more smoothly and reduces a barrier to getting to the gym. Having a meditation corner in my room with a simple candle and beautiful pillow is another way I honor myself and carve out time to be still (even if it's just 5 minutes).
I moved away from thinking of self-care as "pampering" and began to view it more comprehensively in terms of how I could show love and care to my body, mind, and spirit. That might look like taking some alone time to write, snuggling up with a hot pack, letting go of an unhealthy relationship, daydreaming, or saying no to a potential commitment.
I have found an approach to self-care that works for me. In times of stress, I find I need to do more self-care. What works for me now might not work as well in the future. This is an evolving process, but one I have committed to continue to pursue.
What does your self-care regimen look like? Do you have one? Would you like to expand your self-care toolbox? How might your life transform if you did?
Jessica Juergens, M.Ed. is a Life Coach, Blogger at, Postpartum Anxiety Survivor, and Self-Care Enthusiast. You can reach her at
Mantra of the Month

Motherhood and Self-Compassion

I t can happen to anyone. We make a mistake and we get down on ourselves. We say things like "I should have known better," or worse yet, "I'm so stupid. I always make the worst decisions." Regardless of the exact words we say to ourselves, making a mistake or not predicting a left turn in our lives can send us spiraling into self-doubt and self-criticism, and create or contribute to already existing depression and anxiety.  But it doesn't have to be this way.  What if, instead of treating ourselves harsher than we treat others, we spoke to ourselves with compassion, like we often do to our friends?  What if instead of saying, "You always goof up," you pretended you were talking to a good friend and said something like, "You did the best you could" or "It's normal to make a mistake." How would that feel?  Do you now have a little more energy to solve the problem instead of stewing in your own juices?
If talking more kindly to yourself seems impossible, you may want to consider joining a support group or seeing a therapist to help you figure out the blockage. A good general book on the subject of self-compassion is aptly named Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff.  
Framing the issue of being hard on ourselves is a broader, societal issue of motherhood and perfectionism. Since even before we were aware of it, many of us were socialized to not just be a good mother, but to be a perfect one. Aside from the expectation of looking our best and never getting angry, we expect ourselves as mothers to always feed our children healthy food, provide them with the latest educational toys and classes, and be available 24/7 as willing and happy playmates. And the list goes on.  So the next time you find yourself beating yourself up about a mistake, please try to remember that as women and mothers, we don't have to perfect. Good enough is, well, good enough!
Common Mom Myths
  • A good mom likes and enjoys her children all the time.
  • A good mom bonds with her baby instantaneously.
  • Breastfeeding is easy.
  • Self-care is selfish.
  • There is one perfect way to parent.
  • Motherhood should be easy and natural.
  • I should have my body "back" by now.
  • I shouldn't need help.
  • I should feel perfectly fulfilled by motherhood.
Resources on Perfectionism and Self-Compassion

The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brené Brown
I n The Gifts of Imperfection, Bren é  Brown, a leading expert on shame, authenticity, and belonging, shares ten guideposts on the power of Wholehearted living -- a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness.
Each day we face a barrage of images and messages from society and the media telling us who, what, and how we should be. We are led to believe that if we could only look perfect and lead perfect lives, we'd no longer feel inadequate. So most of us perform, please, and perfect, all the while thinking, "What if I can't keep all of these balls in the air? Why isn't everyone else working harder and living up to my expectations? What will people think if I fail or give up? When can I stop proving myself?"
This important book is about the lifelong journey from "What will people think?" to "I am enough." 
We all know that perfect parenting does not exist, yet we still struggle with the social expectations that teach us that being imperfect is synonymous with being inadequate. These messages are powerful and we end up spending precious time and energy managing perception and the carefully edited versions of the families we show to the world. On The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting, Dr. Bren é  Brown invites us on a journey to transform the lives of parents and children alike. Drawing on her 12 years of research on vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame, she presents 10 guideposts to creating what she describes as "wholehearted" families where each of us can continually learn and grow as we reach our full potential.
Hands-Free Mama , by Rachel Macy Stafford
Hands Free Mama is the digital society ' s answer to finding balance in a media-saturated, perfection-obsessed world. It doesn ' t mean giving up all technology forever. It doesn ' t mean forgoing our jobs and responsibilities. What it does mean is seizing the little moments that life offers us to engage in real and meaningful interaction. It means looking our loved ones in the eye and giving them the gift of our undivided attention, leaving the laundry till later to dance with our kids in the rain, and living a present, authentic, and intentional life despite a world full of distractions.

Kristin Neff, Ph.D., says that it ' s time to " stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind. Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind offers expert advice on how to limit self-criticism and offset its negative effects, enabling you to achieve your highest potential and a more contented, fulfilled life.

More and more, psychologists are turning away from an emphasis on self-esteem and moving toward self-compassion in the treatment of their patients. This  book offers exercises and action plans for dealing with every emotionally debilitating struggle, be it parenting, weight loss, or any of the numerous trials of everyday living.   
Self-compassion is a powerful inner resource. More than a thousand research studies show the benefits of being a supportive friend to yourself, especially in times of need. This science-based workbook offers a step-by-step approach to breaking free of harsh self-judgments and impossible standards in order to cultivate emotional well-being. Every chapter includes guided meditations (with audio downloads); informal practices to do anytime, anywhere; exercises; examples of people using the techniques to address different types of challenges (relationship stress, weight and body image issues, health concerns, anxiety, and more); and empathic reflection questions. Working through the book, you can build essential skills for personal growth based on self-care--not self-criticism.

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion , By Christopher Germer
We all want to avoid pain, but letting it in--and responding compassionately to our own imperfections, without judgment or self-blame--are essential steps on the path to healing. This wise and eloquent book illuminates the power of self-compassion and offers creative, scientifically grounded strategies for putting it into action. Free audio downloads of the meditation exercises are available at the author's website:
Upcoming Events and Announcements

Seattle Mom Prom is SOLD OUT!  Thank you to everyone who bought a ticket, and we'll see you Saturday, May 19. 

Climb Out of the Darkness  is Saturday, June 23. The Climb is the world's largest event that raises awareness of maternal mental illness. Join PS-WA as we host the  Seattle Climb  at Maple Leaf Reservoir Park. Bring your kids and your friends as we celebrate our recovery, share resources, and raise awareness about PMADs. 
Call Our Warm Line for Support! 

Perinatal Support Washington has a toll-free support line for new parents. Leave a message, and a trained volunteer will return your call within 24 hours. The line is staffed by a parent who has experienced a perinatal mood and/or anxiety disorder and has recovered fully, or a licensed therapist with specialized training in perinatal mental health.

We provide warm, understanding, effective, and private support, as well as professional referrals to providers who can help. We also provide details about community support groups and resources and information in the community and online. 

NEW! DADS ON THE LINE! Would it feel more comfortable to talk with a dad who has been through his own perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, or has supported a partner who has? Call our warm line and ask to talk with a dad. 
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