Parenting: the anguish of trying hard


My blog-writing inspiration often comes from upcoming events and when I realized that World Breastfeeding Week is approaching (August 1st-7th), I was pretty quick to gently and metaphorically shove my colleagues at Intuition Wellness Center out of the way so that I could get my blog-writing on. It also took me no time to find some excellent resources regarding breastfeeding. See?


I had planned to write something lovely about early attachment between infant and mother and the benefit of early touch, skin-to-skin contact, and the other wonderful things involved with breastfeeding. But… I couldn’t even get an initial sentence out. Why? Having been privy to many conversations about mother’s guilt, the difficulties with bonding to baby, postpartum depression, the work/home balance, the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding a premature child, milk production issues and so on with many women in particular, well I just really didn’t see how re-hashing the benefits of breastfeeding would help and/or honor the truths of my current client base. They know the benefits, which is why it’s so difficult to let go of preconceived expectations for themselves and why so many felt so awful when breastfeeding or, let’s face it, any number of the other planned parenting methods they tried did not go well.

If you’re a parent or someone who works much with parents, I think you know what I’m talking about. I think you’ll also understand that one of the costs of being a parent is sheer disappointment when we don’t live up to our own (forget society’s!) standards. This is something that Jennifer Senior, author of All Joy and No Fun: the paradox of modern parenthood, describes as “parent anguish.” In her 2014 TedTalk, Senior says:  

“We feel like if we aren’t trying everything, it’s as if we’re doing nothing and we’re defaulting on our obligations to our kids…. In another era, we didn’t expect quite so much of ourselves.”

So, in homage to all of those mamas and papas who have found parenting to be so much harder than they could have imagined and to those who have felt that parenting served to highlight their shortcomings after a life of many successes, I direct you to a very honest Ted Talk by speakers, Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman. I discovered this talk some time ago, but it’s one I re-visit sometimes because it speaks directly and truthfully about how difficult parenting can be and everything that people don’t say about bringing new life into the world.

Ted Talk: Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman: “Let’s Talk Parenting Taboos” 

Let me add to this a statement that I say to parents regularly when I am working with their family in my practice, “Perfect parenting doesn’t lead to perfect children.” Children actually benefit from seeing us struggle and make mistakes from time to time. The reparations are invaluable. Please absorb that, Mamas and Papas and other caregivers, and apply it to any feelings of parenting regret you’ve been holding on to. Forgiving yourself and allowing yourself to be human is great modeling for your kids anyway.

My colleagues and I at Intuition Wellness Center specialize in counseling children, teens, and families. We have clinicians who are experts in parenting, early attachment, and just plain old frustration. If you believe you or someone you love could benefit from our services, we are here to help. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

Written by Brandy Baker, PsyD, Clinical Psychologist

Image courtesy of Ambro at