Vulnerability, Perfectionism & "Judgy" Mummies

Yesterday was a big day in SGTC world.  I was delighted to discover that an article I’d written had been published by Mouths of Mums (in partnership with Yahoo 7), sharing my top 5 tips for “Surviving (and Thriving) in Mothers’ Group”. 

I was very lucky to have a wonderful mothers’ group, which turned out to be full of supportive and really fun mums.  However since our colic challenges were so blindingly obvious, it took every last bit of my courage to keep turning up:

“We’re not talking cute little grizzles here, we’re talking full-blown screams you can hear from the next street…Can you imagine how much I feared those screams in a room full of other newborns who were lying peacefully on laps, gazing up at their mummies, whilst gurgling and cooing?”

I know that my fears weren’t unique: mother’s group can be a daunting experience for many mums for lots of different reasons (I’m sure we’ve all heard our share of horror stories about groups full of judgy mums with “perfect” babies).   So having been very glad in the end that I did persevere, that’s what prompted me to share my top 5 tips to make the most of the experience.  You can read those tips here.

But what I want to talk about today stemmed from the comments on that article – they really blew me away.  Mums bravely and honestly shared their stories in those comments, which included some really interesting and unusual experiences.  For example I loved the story from one mum about what it was like being a new mum of an adoptive baby and feeling very ‘different’ because she hadn’t been through the pregnancy and labour experience.  But the common theme that united most comments was one of vulnerability and the fear (or the reality) of being judged.

What IS it about motherhood that brings out this fear so strongly? 

Sure there are always compulsive perfectionists like me that hate to feel like they are getting anything wrong, but I think it might be something deeper than that…  The fear of ‘getting it wrong’ or acknowledging that we’re having problems or difficulties as a mum seems so much more exaggerated, the vulnerability so much more powerful. 

I’d love to hear what you think – is there something primal about our motherhood vulnerability?  Perhaps the drive to do the best we can for our kids (and therefore the fear of not measuring up) is instinctive?  Or does it just come out so strongly in the context of mothers’ group because it is usually a group of brand new mums, who have just gone through major life changes and are trying to figure out a whole lot of new things for the first time - because new experiences often bring out our vulnerabilities.

Vulnerability, perfectionism, judgement… they often walk hand-in-hand, don’t they?

I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling vulnerable, I have to confess that my knee jerk reaction is to pull up my ‘perfectionism shield’ quick smart so that nobody can hurt me/judge me.  I KNOW that its not constructive though, so I usually work really hard to do the opposite.  But staying open takes a big effort - its like fighting my natural instincts. 

So if I extrapolate that to other mums, maybe that’s where this problem of judgy ‘perfect’ mum issue really stems from?  From a mum who’s scared of not measuring up and unfortunately her reaction to that fear is to throw up her shields which actually triggers the fears of other mums around her…

What do you think?  Am I being overly generous or am I onto something here? 

For me, I think the next time I run across a mum who’s trying very hard to convince me that she and/or her baby is perfect, I’m going to try hard to remember that behaviour is probably stemming directly from the fear that she (or her baby) ISN’T perfect. 

And I’m going to grab every last bit of my mummy courage and share as much understanding and compassion as I can, combined with letting her see some of my own vulnerability, in the hope that might just break the cycle.

Take care out there,

Jen

Here's a link to the original article "Surviving Mothers Group" on Mouths of Mums (in partnership with Yahoo 7).

Today I'm linking in with Essentially Jess and the IBOT team :)