Family, Self

How Too Much Parenting Advice & Trying To Be 'Super Mom' Is Stressing You Out

Photo: by Vincent Delegge on Unsplash
Why Too Much Parenting Advice & Trying To Be Super Mom Is Stressing You Out

Being a mother is no easy task, so it's no surprise that there are hundreds of thousands of books out there about being a mom, learning new parenting styles, and changing routines so that you end up with well-behaved angelic children.

But motherhood isn't something you can learn just by reading a book, and sometimes, in trying to become the best "super mom" you can be, you end up racked with mommy guilt over choices you've made regarding your kids and family.

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It turns out there is such a thing as too much parenting advice, and it might actually be making you miserable and feeling worse about your parenting skills than ever before.

For instance, my children were raised by two mothers; both of them me!

The first was a young, idealistic (inexperienced but well-meaning), devoted mother who gobbled down the latest parenting book, method, system, trend and tried to “live by the book."

The second mother was bruised, battered, more experienced — and actually humbled by the many parenting dilemmas that left her doubting her sanity — but found a way to parent with competence and confidence.

Sounds confusing? Well, it was!

At first, while raising my family of six children and simultaneously finishing my academic studies and setting up my private practice, I was blissfully unaware of the daunting parenting challenges ahead. I imagined that if I loved my children enough and was organized and determined, everything would fall into place.

I was the oldest of many siblings and no stranger to family dynamics, and figured I would know exactly what to do.

But then, reality hit. Nobody had prepared me for the wrenching feeling of mommy guilt when leaving a teething, fretting baby in the care of a new babysitter while rushing out to a workplace obligation.

Never before had I needed to be all things to everyone at all times. I found myself spread thin as I played with my toddler, did homework with the older ones, and played Judge Judy for the constant sibling issues I had to preside over. I never realized how brutally overwhelming this would be.

How do you raise a family with children who are introverts, extroverts, need extra tutoring, social interaction, are the class genius and need more intellectual stimulation, outgrow their clothes before the tags come off and bang on your door when you're hiding out in your room desperately trying to sound coherent on an emergency work call?

Why do the parenting books, all set out neatly in organized chapters on child development milestones not translate in real life to utopian family interactions with happy kids and calm, satisfied moms?

The truth was, despite running as fast as I could and getting up at the crack of dawn, memorizing the latest parenting guru’s message, and trying valiantly to implement the seemingly logical advice, I was exhausted, frustrated, and resentful.

I am honest enough to admit that many times when I heard the word “mommy,” I would groan inwardly and think to myself in desperation, “What do you want from me now?!”

And I hated myself for feeling that way. I wanted to love being a mom. 

Here I was, touted as a parenting expert, raising a large family while successfully managing my growing practice, invited to speak to women’s groups on “work/life balance,” and the truth was, I wasn’t living the reality I lectured other working moms about. I felt like a fraud, a failure.

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Was I enjoying my motherhood and career and feeling successful at both? No!

Was I able to give full attention to my children’s needs while at the same time devote the necessary resources into my career? I was trying to, but … not really.

Were any of the parenting methods I had so consistently tried to internalize, practice, and implement helping my relationship with my children and allowing me to feel confident in my work/life struggle? Absolutely not.

If anything, I began to realize that the exact opposite was happening!

With each book, method, or latest parenting trend, I become more cognizant of the many areas I was failing as a mom. To make matters worse, I doubted my maternal instincts and was hyper-aware of many “teaching moments” I was woefully under-maximizing, which up until devouring all these books, I had been blissfully unaware of.

So, at the end of the day, when I was gathering up the scattered toys, attending to the never-ending laundry and dirty dinner dishes, I would mentally review the day and berate myself for being such an awful mother.

How could I feel good about myself when all I had wanted was for all of them to finally fall asleep and let me … what? Live? Collapse?

Thirty years ago, I was shocked and horrified to realize that my conscious efforts at trying to improve my parenting were actually making things worse. Little did I know that similar sentiments would be discussed many decades later.

Parenting gurus would finally admit that relying on too many experts instead of connecting to your children and to your mother’s intuition creates confusion, overthinking, and the feeling of being constantly judged — if not by others, then by yourself.

How do you feel about this reality? How does reading up about the various parenting methods affect your self-esteem as a mother? Are you aware of what I call the “parenting method hop” that so many overwhelmed, well-meaning mothers are busy doing during the important years they're busy raising their children?

It usually plays out like this: You hear about a parenting method that works wonders for your friend. You excitedly ascribe to this and implement the new insights and strategies with motivated dedication and admirable consistency. And then you wait; wait for the magical results of happy, well-adjusted, cooperative, loving children.

When that doesn’t happen as quickly as you think it should (or at all), you give up, chalk it up to yet another failed attempt, and resort to the ineffective parenting skills which sent you in search of experts to begin with.

If you're tired of this vicious cycle where trying to become a better mother makes you feel like a worse one, then it's time to stop it. Don't settle for feeling like a failure as a mom. You don't have to be a supermom in order to be a good parent to your kids.

It's time to make yourself feel confident and competent, and trust in your abilities as a parent, despite disappointments and struggles.

And if you feel like you need help in achieving your parenting goals, then don't hesitate to reach out.

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Atara Malach, PCC, is the author of A Working Mother’s GPS: A Guide to Parenting Success for the Modern Working Mom, the founder of the Parenting University, and a practicing psychotherapist for over 30 years. If you want to know how to use mommy guilt to create a parenting roadmap as a working mother, reach out to her at her website or email her directly.