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Parenthood "please stop telling me what to do!"

In the early days of parenthood we can feel bombarded with advice just when we may feel the most unsure over what we are doing and in need of some encouragement. One new Mum told me she felt like she had a sign round her neck where ever she went with her little one, that said "I don't know what I'm doing, so please tell me what to do". From the Big Issue guy suggesting her little boy looked over-tired, to the health visitor saying that one-year-olds should no longer be given a bottle, to a relative telling her she's too soft and so the list goes on.

Of course, often the advice we receive is well-meaning, and there is a sliding scale from discussing ideas on one hand to being told what to do on the other. The problem is that when we feel unsure about our parenting, very aware of our inexperience and in some ways desperate to be told if we are doing things right - this actually makes us feel very vulnerable to outside judgement. Advice and suggestions can send out an implicit message that we are not getting things right ourselves, that being a parent should come naturally and clearly doesn't, and from there we can fill in the dots and feel like a failure.

The antidote to feeling judged comes when we find others who are able to own up when they've had a bad day - because this means that we can do the same. This is the person whose baby doesn't eat broccoli purée but flings it round the kitchen and most categorically doesn't sleep through the night. This is the friend, baby or no baby, who sometimes feels frazzled and admits it. It's about saying, I am a human being not an earth mother, in fact I'm not quite sure what that means or whether it sounds very hygienic. I just want to find a way to be me, not some perfect being. It's about celebrating in the good days and consoling when we have bad days, seeing that it is a roller-coaster ride and that that's OK.

Sometimes, when no one picks up the phone or when we aren't in the mood to speak to anyone, perhaps we can find a way to say to ourselves; "I'm knackered and have baby sick on my shoulder but at least my little one is still alive, I must be doing something right!".

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Written by Liz Down BA (Hons) PGDip MBACP

I'm an experienced counsellor working in private practice and specialise in working with clients to develop self-esteem. I am also mother to a young child and work with clients bringing issues around parenting. I have also trained in working with childhood and adult trauma and PTSD, and integrate mindfulness and CBT into my work.… Read more

Written by Liz Down BA (Hons) PGDip MBACP

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