First versus third: How perfectionism (almost) went out the window

Mother, Kelly, shares how she conquered perfectionism with her three children.
Mother, Kelly, shares how she conquered perfectionism with her three children. Photo: Supplied

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According to Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA), feeling a range of emotions, both positive and negative, is a common experience of re-adjustment.

As a first-time mum, Kelly was all too familiar with this. She strived for the ultimate in perfectionism the first time around, but by baby number three, her rules had been broken. So, what changed?

Baby #1: Wilco's perfect nest

"I'd bought a house just before falling pregnant and was preparing to be a single mum. I decorated the nursery. I ironed all of his new baby's clothes and was determined they'd be perfectly arranged in his drawers.

Then Wilco arrived and I was hit with sleep deprivation. Whoa! I had no idea it was going to be so bad.

I wanted so much for everything to be perfect… but instead, I struggled. I watched this mountain of Wilco's clothes piling up on the couch, refusing to pack them away until they were ironed.

Then there were the 'baby rules' I'd planned on living by. I'd studied 'best practice' and knew that co-sleeping was a big no-no. But I was so tired that I constantly fell asleep while breastfeeding.

And so, we ended up co-sleeping – with Wilco strategically positioned between my knees to ensure he didn't roll out of bed and the sheets wouldn't cover his face. For two years I slept in that ludicrously uncomfortable position, not moving an inch.

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Wilco and I moved to Germany when he was just three months old, to try and make it work as a family with his father, Chris. It was much easier with Chris's support and help.

I had Wilco's naps scheduled; he started eating at six months to the day (as per the recommendations). I fed him fresh fish, steamed organic vegetables, yoghurt, fruit... There were no treats, processed foods or anything unhealthy.

Baby #2: Flexi Jesse

Wilco was 22 months old when Jesse was born and I was in a very different place emotionally. Chris, Wilco and I had our little family – unlike the anxiety and pressure I felt facing single motherhood the first time around.

I was more confident because I knew what to expect. With Wilco, I had no idea my body would ache after giving birth. I didn't know whether Wilco's cries were for tummy pains, tiredness, hunger, discomfort. I was clued-up now.

I didn't co-sleep with Jesse – instead we attached a crib to the side of our bed. With Wilco, I had all the time in the world to rock him to sleep nap after nap, but Jesse didn't have day naps at all.

And those perfectly ironed clothes… yeah, they went out the window. Jesse basically grew up in hand-me-downs. I don't think I picked up an iron once in the following years, even to iron my own clothes!

Baby #3: Rule-breaking Gizelle

I felt like a pro' by the time I had Gizelle. I broke all the rules, from feeding to naps. But I think it was because she and I were more in sync. When she cried, I knew exactly why.

She learnt to sleep independently in her bassinette, and, unlike Wilco and his scheduled naps, Gizelle slept on the go – in the pram, car, park, wherever I was with the boys. She just had to slot in!

I fed her solids from four months and, boy, did she love mashed potato. There were no organics and special foods; it was just what the rest of the family was eating for dinner.

Gizelle was free-range, not wrapped in cotton wool at all. Even as a toddler, she was jumping in ball pits with her big brothers, swinging from flying foxes, climbing, jumping, running, riding bikes… It was easier to let her explore the world than it was to stop her.

Life is definitely more challenging with three youngster's needs, but parenting number three is much easier!"

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