How do I stop worrying about my parenting skills being judged?
Q: MY daughter was born at the start of the pandemic, and now restrictions are easing I'm frightened other parents will think I've not looked after her properly during lockdown. All the parents I've seen on social media seem to have coped much better than me. What should I do?
A: Family psychologist Anjula Mutanda says: "Your emotions are completely valid.
"Having a baby is wonderful, but at times feels challenging and daunting.
"As a loving parent it's natural to worry you're not getting things right, but the detachment from society (and sources of support, like baby groups) in lockdown amplified this. Raising a child in a pandemic is no mean feat - you've come so far. Be kind to yourself.
"As the world reopens, pressure to compensate for lost socialising time and introduce your baby will naturally ignite fresh insecurities.
"Your only parenting point of reference may have been social media.
"If you're comparing yourself to other parents - a condition known as 'comparenting' - rest assured you're not alone.
"Most mums comparent, with new mothers hardest hit, research by Kendamil (kendamil.com) shows.
"Negative self-talk, like putting yourself down, can seriously dent your self-confidence, drain energy and increase anxiety.
"Entering a scroll-hole on social media and scrutinising 'perfect' photos of other new parents triggers this downward spiral.
"Remember, Instagram presents a curated snapshot of their lives, and is a far cry from the reality of sleepless nights. If social media causes you angst, take control and limit time spent on there.
"Your concern regarding others' opinions is understandable. A staggering 81% of mums fear they're being judged by other parents over how they raise their child, according to Kendamil.
"This may cause avoidance behaviours like declining invites out or reluctance to open up about personal struggles for fear of criticism.
"Ultimately, you can't control what others think, so don't waste your precious energy on that. It's vital to remember that thoughts are thoughts, not reality.
"There is no parenting rulebook - do what works best for you and your baby.
"Don't suffer in silence. Surround yourself with, and confide in, positive people.
"Your partner, a trusted friend or relative will sympathise with the pressure you're under and offer perspective.
"A problem shared is a problem halved - saying your worries out loud gives you the headspace to re-set your thinking.
"If you're still worried and overwhelmed, don't feel embarrassed.
"Visit your GP for judgment-free support and referral to a therapist. Cognitive behavioural therapy will help you conquer negative thought-patterns and anxiety-inducing behaviour.
"Comparenting is serious enough to threaten mental wellbeing, but you can and will get through this. It's likely that parents you admire are grappling with worries you're unaware of."