There's no such thing as the perfect parent

Bupa launches guide for parents to embrace their faults and doubts

Almost every parent knows the feeling. Having a baby is wonderful but, it can also be confusing and at times, overwhelming.

Each year, more than 1.2 million online searches are linked to parental doubt, according to research commissioned by Bupa.

Based on online searches in the UK, Australia, Spain and Hong Kong in 2016, the research shows parents around the world are looking for support and advice to allay their doubts and fears.

In Australia, if you’re wearily wondering what it will take to get your baby to sleep, you’re not alone.

There are almost 40,000 searches annually on “full night sleep” or “how to get baby to sleep” ranking near the top of our searches.

“How to get pregnant” is the next most popular search(34,800) followed by “how to be a good parent”.

With all the recent talk of gender selection of newborns, Australian parents-to-be are searching more than 30,000 times a year on average for how to conceive a particular gender, however there are equal searches on girls and boys.

Australian parents also turned online for concerns they may not be comfortable discussing with friends and family, including “how to cope with the stress of being a parent” and “I hate being a parent”.

Globally, “how to get pregnant” was the most searched term, while other common search terms included “how to deal with teenagers”, “how to deal with post partum depression” and “breastfeeding tips”.

Dr. Tim Ross, a Bupa Australia GP and a dad, explains: “Every parent worries and feels anxious at some point. As parents, we all put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be the perfect mum or dad, but the truth is there’s no such thing as a perfect parent.

“Accepting you’ll get things wrong is key to being a happy parent. It’s important to create a safety net around you and prioritise yourself a little to help deal with the anxiety and uncertainty of being a parent”.

On International Day of Families (15 May), Bupa is launching The Imperfect Parent, a guide with advice and top tips to help mothers and fathers to embrace faults and doubts. The guide also provides advice on how to deal with the anxiety of being a parent and mitigate the stresses of the idea of parental perfectionism.

The top tips for imperfect parents, featured in Bupa’s guide include:

  1. Accept you’ll get things wrong: No one gets parenting right the first time, or all the time for that matter! We all make mistakes. Chastising yourself for them isn’t going to help you or your child. Accept that you can’t always make the right decision – there’s no such thing as a perfect parent. You and your baby will learn as you go.

  2. Give yourself headspace: These days life is so fast-paced it’s hard not to get frazzled. We juggle multiple priorities - trying to be outstanding at work, being a good friend, keeping a tidy home, keeping fit and stocking a full fridge. When it’s all getting too much, practising mindfulness can help you remain calm.

  3. Be good to your body: For your wellbeing and that of your child, parents need to exercise regularly and eat well. Gentle exercise outside and fresh air can improve your mood – and if you have a little one, it can help your baby to sleep – winning! For busy working dads and mums, it’s important to have a healthy, balanced diet to help banish tiredness. Eating at regular intervals, not missing breakfast, cutting out sugar and eating iron-rich foods such as red meat, seafood and dark green vegetables will help keep you energised.

  4. Plan your day around small goals: Finding that you can no longer fit everything into your day can come as a shock but the key to keeping your sanity is first to accept this – and then take back as much control as you can. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Plan your day around mini goals that you can achieve, while trying not to feel guilty when putting off tasks that can wait.

  5. Build your support net: Postnatal groups or local new parent clubs are great ways to meet new friends and reduce feelings of exclusion and loneliness, particularly if relatives aren’t close by or you live in a remote area. Friendships are important because they’re good for your health, improve your happiness, reduce stress and boost your self-confidence.

  6. Don’t take yourself too seriously: Few would argue that it’s a serious responsibility being a new parent but everyone has funny or embarrassing moments they’d rather forget. If you don’t laugh about it, what’s the alternative? Many studies have been undertaken on the healing power of laughter. So, try to take pleasure in the company of your children, however embarrassing they’re being. Or share the moment… we’ve all been there.

  7. Look at the bigger picture: Sometimes you’re so focused on your child that it’s hard to put your parenting into context. We worry over everything our children will face, from walking to school to the state of the planet. Understand that all parents are in the same boat, and let your kids discover the wonders of the world for themselves.

  8. Confront your fears: Fear can threaten to overwhelm us. The key is to address your fears and anxieties. If you’re a new parent and worry about your baby’s health, ask medical professionals for advice. You will feel better when you act.

  9. Treasure the time with your baby: Babies don’t stay little for long – even if those first sleepless nights may seem like the longest hours of your life. Enjoy and treasure your time with your baby, but also remember it’s okay not to love every minute of it. None of us likes everything we do all the time, so why should being a parent be different?

  10. Ask for help: Accepting help isn’t a sign that you can’t cope. You know your child best, but the little one will be fine with other people you trust like grandparents or close friends. It’s the perfect opportunity to get some ‘you time’, as well as ‘couple time’ with your partner, which is something equally as important.

The Imperfect Parent, by Bupa is available here

Notes to editors:

The research was complied by media and marketing agency Mindshare, and commissioned by Bupa based on Google searches in 2016.

Mindshare used a variety of propriety and search research tools to understand how people within the UK, Australia, Spain and Hong Kong are using search to find out more information about parenting.

Parental Doubt keyword search terms (How To, Tips, Shouldn’t I, Do’s and Don’ts, etc) cover all aspects of parenting from conceiving, breastfeeding, nutrition, baby sleep patterns and attitudes towards parenting. These keyword search volumes highlight that search is a widely-used tool to help reduce uncertainty about being a parent.