It seems that for many new parents, finding balance is a constant part of life. Moms worry about hundreds of things – whether they’re doing a good enough job of raising their children, whether they’re breastfeeding the “right” way, whether to work or stay home with the baby, whether to get this or that baby toy or convenience item. Parents think about how to balance the needs of a growing family while also managing their personal finances, and everything else that goes with having children. They think about how to meet the needs of a helpless, hungry, crying infant, while finding some time to sleep, relax, and spend time with their partner and friends.

It seems that parents today are trying harder to be more conscious, active, and emotionally present than any generation before. Ironically, this choice can often make parents less effective than they might otherwise be. By trying to balance everything, you more than likely will end up running yourself ragged.

Perhaps it’s better to adopt a more realistic attitude about parenting. It is hard, often tiring, and it’s natural to feel frustrated and exhausted occasionally. In a previous article, we talked about dealing with stress by staying positive, making time for sleep, not comparing yourself to others and practising one fundamental rule of effective parenting – working as a team.

Despite all that, the art of dealing with stress and displaying real “grace under pressure” is only achieved when there is honest dialogue not only between parents but with children as well. The secret to realistic parenting is to be honest, consistent and real. Under two’s probably will not get it immediately but toddlers are capable of differentiating right from wrong and are ready to know they are also an important part of the team.

No Parent is Perfect – Let That Expectation Go

Many parents put pressure on themselves to make the right decisions and fit all the complex parts of their lives together. Maybe instead of managing all the daily details and messes with perfect composure, the focus can shift to values. Being an awesome parent means raising a child who is happy, healthy, and free of behaviour problems.

Try not to compare yourself with others. You don’t need to be like any other parent – sometimes even the “Supermoms” and the people who seem to “have it all” are actually hiding behind a mask. No one’s life is without flaws, and you shouldn’t try to be perfect either. Trust me, it’s totally OK to switch on the TV and let your kids watch cartoons now and again while you regroup and unwind.

Love yourself and accept who you are. If you can love yourself first, you’ll be better able to serve and love your children and appreciate all the other people in your life.

Let Your Children Explore and Develop Their Own Personalities

It’s fun to share your passions in life with your children – but keep in mind that every child is their own unique person, and while they inherit many things from their parents, they might not always be “just like” you. Try not to impose expectations on your kids for what they should like or how they should want to spend their time or what they should be when they grow up. Children are not “mini-me’s” or younger, smaller versions of yourself. Every generation grows up in its own unique context and learns to appreciate different things in life.

As your children grow, follow their lead on what they are interested in, but without imposing excessive emphasis on any of your own interests or activities. Don’t buy the train set because you love trains or the princess books because you love Disney movies – introduce your kids to things and see how they respond, and then encourage dialogue to uncover your kids’ real interests.

Teach children the positive side of patience. If your daughter says she loves drums, don’t go out tomorrow and buy a drum set – wait and see if a real interest develops. Make sure your kids have a sustainable, deep passion for whatever hobby or activity they want to pursue – and you invest your time and money in.

Most of all, let kids be kids. Perhaps it’s better to not overschedule or book them into every organised activity imaginable. Instead, give them plenty of free time to play, daydream and explore. Play is so important for kids’ development – it’s how they learn about the world and figure out their place in it. Let them fail, make mistakes, and ultimately succeed through their own experience – not out of a sense of obligation or of maintaining their parents’ expectations.

Of course, we all love our children no matter what – but there are ways to express that love in a constructive and realistic way without overpraising or confusing your kids. Praising them the right way reminds your kids that they can always feel safe with you, while also preparing them to be fully functional independent adults who can get along in the world while overcoming life’s challenges.

How are you doing at learning the “Art of Realistic Parenting”? Leave a comment and let us know, or join the discussion on the Medela Canada Facebook page.

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