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My daughter is walking because of you

Each of us comes into motherhood with a particular set of ideas or ideals about what it means to be a good mother, I believe that much is true. The expectations of our friends, family, and the media, as well as the pressure from our communities and society at large, all contribute to the development of these beliefs in us. When we finally become mothers ourselves, it can be unbearably difficult to listen to our own ideas of what it means to be a “good mom” because these outside influences can have such power and influence over us. In fact, it can be so challenging that our new identity can become crazy clingy with anxiety, depression, and overwhelming emotion. I want to tell you a quick story about a mother I saw this summer in my office. This mother has given me permission to share her thought process on the subject of being a good mother because it provides such a potent illustration of how unrealistic expectations and perfectionism can result in stress. She was charming, intelligent, and also very frightened by the unfavorable thoughts and anxieties she had been experiencing ever since the birth of her child. Celia described the pure distress that came with early motherhood, including her lack of appetite, fear and insecurity about being by herself with her child, and sleepless nights of worry. Through her tears and obvious guilt, she admitted to me that she was having terrifying thoughts about harming herself or her baby. She said that these thoughts terrified her because she did not want to hurt herself or her child. Celia believed she was “going crazy” because her thoughts and feelings were out of control.

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