The pressure is on pregnant women from all sides. Netflix. Commercials. Women’s magazines. Other women. And the message is the same: Look great… at all costs.
Recently, I had the privilege of spending time with my sister and my baby nephew, John. We went to the library, shared in swimming lessons, had lunch and went shopping. I loved spending time with them, and I was so proud of my sister for the terrific mother she was. And as much as I loved going to all these events with them, I felt some sadness as well.
I saw young women trying so hard to be perfect mothers. What was the measure? Their children were completely happy to be at the library. They were able to engage their children fully and settle them immediately when they became upset.
These moms were in perfect form – in behaviour and dress. Their children were perfect, too– in behaviour and dress. And all this was a measure of their success as mothers.
My sister reminded me that this “need to be” didn’t start after she had baby John. It started during pregnancy.
Looking Good: Not Good for Anyone
The problem with feeling like you need to be perfect – inside and out – is:
- It gets in the way of authentic friendship. Other pregnant women can be some of your best supports. They get it! But the minute that we put ourselves in the mindset of needing to be perfect, we put up walls around us. Comparisons begin, and all we can see is how we don’t measure up compared to so-and-so. It’s also hard to be empathic to others when we’ve got these walls up. And real sharing and support happen when we can get two-way empathy going.
- It’s emotionally exhausting. Instead of leaving a pregnancy exercise class refreshed and recharged, you leave exhausted – emotionally. When we’re trying to be perfect all the time, we’re constantly scanning our surroundings, our conversations, and how we measure up to those around us. This scanning takes energy and is inevitably followed by self-criticism. You know it. It’s that voice inside that is quick to see the negatives about what you said or how you look. It’s certainly not complimentary! And sometimes it is so automatic that it doesn’t even register on our conscious brain and we let it rumble on and have its own way.
- It’s stressful. Having to look great inside and out is just plain stressful. It’s like being on high alert all the time, and our bodies can’t stay healthy under this kind of ongoing pressure.
Are you up for an experiment?
Try this: The next time that you are in a group of pregnant women or sitting beside a pregnant woman at your doctor’s office, or sitting next to another woman at prenatal class, say something real and authentic. It may be how you’re doing in your pregnancy or a concern you have. It doesn’t have to be super personal. But – watch what happens when you let down your guard and share honestly. Trust me. It’s magic.
I’d love to hear the results of your experiment!
Want to read more on perfectionism? Check out this post: The Perils of Perfectionism During Pregnancy – Part 1