Local clinical psychologist explains why you can't stop comparing yourself to other parents

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"The idea of perfect parenting is elusive". (JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images)
"The idea of perfect parenting is elusive". (JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images)

A survey conducted in 16 countries including SA is revealing a few interesting things about parenting today. 

According to the data, SA parents are doing things a little differently to their own, with 73% saying they tell their children 'I love you', something they didn’t hear growing up. 

They also said they enjoy strong bonds with their children compared to their relationship with their parents. 

Parent24 was given an exclusive first look at the ViacomCBS survey which you can read more about here: 'SA parents want their kids to succeed more so than in other countries': Findings from global survey 

But local moms and dads didn’t just share on the positives. 

'Comparison is something we do as humans' 

For many, stress and even peer pressure were reported among the challenges of raising a family. Forty-five per cent said, 'I often compare myself to other parents' and 39% said 'I feel pressure to keep up with other parents'. 

South African Clinical Psychologist Tsholofelo Jood says that if you've succumbed to peer pressure, you're actually doing something right. 

"Comparison is something we do as humans to evaluate our position and assess whether we are on the right path," she tells Parent24 adding that frustration and feelings of inadequacy are normal responses when raising children. 

Still, Jood says not to allow these feeling to detract from the relationship you have with your child. 

"Parenting is such a unique journey and even comparing oneself to other parents, does not take into account the nuances in each parent-child relationship". 

'The idea of perfect parenting is elusive'

It also doesn’t do much to decrease already high stress levels, which 49% of parents in SA confessed to feeling. 

"I think parenting is a very selfless role and most parents find themselves taking care of their children's practical and emotional needs, without really having room for self-care," Jood explains of why so many parents feel anxious. 

She advises parents to adopt the philosophies of renowned paediatrician and psychoanalyst, Donald Winnicott, who said that "the idea of perfect parenting is elusive, and all a parent needs to be is 'good enough'".

Echoing Winnicott's ideas about parenting, Jood says parents should welcome mistakes from both themselves and their children. 

"In the parent-child relationship there needs to be room for error, for both the child and parent, and most importantly there needs to be room to repair the errors in the relationship. The concept of 'good enough' parenting is not to strive for perfection but striving to be present and connected with your child while looking after their needs. A parent who is 'good enough' helps a child suspend their anxieties about being perfect in the world". 

'Having time for the things you enjoy outside of your family'

To be present, you need to take care of your own needs as well as your family's, and Jood says incorporating self-care into your routine is vital to decreasing stress. 

"Self-care does not mean your child's needs are left unmet while you focus on your needs. Self-care could mean simply making sure your kids supervised while you are able to read a book or engage in an activity you enjoy."

She adds, "Having time for the things you enjoy outside of your family or children creates more fulfilment. Your kids will enjoy you better when you are more fulfilled as a person". 

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