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  • Writer's pictureMegan Furman, LPC, LCPC

Perfectionism in Parenthood

Updated: Apr 10

Perfectionism is not typically a topic that clients list as their primary concern when they reach out to me for therapy but is one that often sneaks its way in to my work with new parents. Sometimes this shows up in the form of excessively researching the best infant car seat and bottle nipples, waffling about when and how to start solids or sleep train, perseverating on baby’s behaviors or milestones, or worrying about whether they’re doing it “right” and their child is going to experience healthy emotional and physical development.

This perfectionism functions as a form of anxiety management through control. “If I think of everything and prepare for all possible scenarios, make the perfect choices based on researching the evidence-based best practices, and exhaust all of my own resources to make sure this kid is going to thrive, I’ll be a good parent and won’t make mistakes or have any regrets about my parenting.” This type of self-talk is a line of thinking that comes up plenty in my sessions. Most parents can acknowledge that they will not be perfect (and that they very well may be a topic of conversation in their child’s future therapy), but still this urge to attempt to be perfect persists.

There often exists this conflict between realizing that one does not need to be a perfect parent to be a good parent, yet still feeling drawn to operate in a certain way and having such high expectations of oneself. Remarkably, these same parents are more than willing to afford the grace of imperfection to other parents in similar situations, with compassion and understanding of variable parenting choices and approaches, yet an inability to balance that for themselves.

This is where the therapy work comes in. How can we bring in a balance of dedication to being the best parent you can be without being perfectionistic and self-critical? Are you open to researching and perseverating less so you can be present more? Where can we build in self-compassion? Are you willing to replace your concept of a “perfect parent” with a “good enough parent”?

“Whoa, whoa… I’m not going to settle for ‘good enough.’” This is often the reaction I get from clients when offering this suggestion. Some will say it with their words, but most will initially say it with their facial expressions and body language. (Raised eyebrows and a drawn back body are pretty good indicators that they are not yet on board.) For someone striving to be great, the wording “good enough” hits wrong. However, when we dive into and uncover your values around parenting, you can find a sweet spot for what being a “good enough parent” means for you by separating those values from the excessive pressure put on yourself.

Though maybe not initially obvious, perfectionism in parenthood is a common thread in managing perinatal emotional wellness. Most clients seek me out to address postpartum depression and anxiety, difficulties in their adjustment to parenthood, or perinatal grief and loss. In tackling these issues, often our therapy incorporates work on perfectionism and control that are caused by or contributing to their mental health symptoms. I hope this post helps normalize this experience and give you some initial food for thought about ways to change your thinking. Let’s all strive to be a little less perfect and a little more self-compassionate!

The content on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional mental health or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are in a mental health crisis, please call 988 or the Maternal Mental Health Hotline at 1-833-852-6262.



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