A gentle transition to motherhood

The 80% Rule

Posted by on Jul 14, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

It’s 3 am. My son is swaddled and swinging in his room, the white noise machine on softly shhhhing him to sleep, a pacifier to suck on nearby. 4 out of the 5 S’s “The Happiest Baby on the Block” swears will quiet my baby in a flash. But my son is screaming. As I flip through Dr. Karp’s book for the eight hundredth time, I ask myself, “what am I doing wrong??”

Flash forward a few months.

I have mastered sign language. I know the signs for cat, colors, dangerous, and cereal as well as a hundred others. My twins have been signed to for months and months and months. I rarely speak without signing. And yet, their tiny hands sign nothing. As I re-read the baby sign book I have memorized I ask myself, “what am I doing wrong?”

Flash forward a few years.

“Bug, you need to help clean up. You may clean up, or you may go to your room while your brother and I clean up. Those are your choices.”

“No,” she says.

“Bug, you have two choices, you may help clean up or go to your room.”


As I flip through the parenting book that suggests giving your child choices, I ask myself, “what am I doing wrong?”

I’ve explained in prior blogs there has always been this part of me that secretly believed that the right book, or method, or theory would be able to result in perfect children being raised by me, their now perfect mother (thanks to this magical book, method or theory). In truth, for every good book I’ve read I’ve found that each method works about 80% of the time.

Now let me state for the record that Dave and I are probably two of the most consistent, united parents you will ever meet. We are – in a word – strict (cue scary music). So this 20% is not a result of us lacking follow through, consistency, or patience with the program.

The truth, dear readers, is that nothing works all of the time. I’ve complained for years now about this problem. We are sold books that imply that if we do a, b and c, it will always result in perfection. When I’ve complained about the lack of reality presented to desperate moms like me, I’ve been met with this response.

“80% doesn’t sell books.”

So true. It doesn’t. I mean, who would buy a book that claims, “your child will be sleeping through the night 80% of the time!” NOT ME!

But what kind of unrealistic expectations are these authors placing on poor, innocent, overwhelmed mothers like myself when they make claims that these methods work?

Let’s discuss what “work” means. Tracy and I talk with our clients all the time about measuring the change they see with us, not the problem. We are looking to create measurable change in order to shift perspective and lighten the load of the issue they bring to the table. Sometimes clients have 100% success. But for some, even achieving that 80% makes the work worthwhile.

Apply this to parenthood and the same is true. Honestly, I was happy with my kids sleeping through the night 80% of the time as opposed to the 0% of the time when they were born. That was a measurable change I could get on board with. The problem was that in that 20% of the time where they didn’t, I not only struggled with sleep deprivation, but with guilt that I had somehow messed it up, and fear that maybe the problem wasn’t solved after all.

If, in those harder moments, I had realized the 80% rule, I might have cut myself more slack and allowed that 20% to just be there. I mean, it’s there in my life too…in all of our lives. For example, I’m a very organized and tidy person, but 20% of the time my house is a disaster. I can’t stay on it every moment of every day.

Same goes for eating right, or exercising. I do both…..80% of the time. The rest of the time I’m microwaving a lasagne or making some great excuse about why I just can’t go for that jog today.

But since I accepted the 80% rule, these failings are easier for me to face. And I’d say I’m ok with them about 80% of the time. See what I did there?

Today I enjoy the fact that my daughter, who potty trained quickly, keeps her pants dry 80% of the time. And the other 20% I smile and say, “That’s ok honey! None of us are perfect all the time.”

Because we aren’t. The thing is, in my desperation to provide a perfect life for my little people, I will only send the message that I expect perfection from them too. And if they are going to love themselves, and relax into their own 20% – the part of themselves and of their lives that won’t be perfect, no matter what book I read – then I have to start by doing that too. My job, after all, is to show them how.

Kira Dorrian and Tracy Adams are Seattle-based Clinical Hypnotherapists and HypnoBirthing® Practitioners, each a mom of twins. Together they have created HypnoMothering™, a class designed to help prepare women for a gentle transition into motherhood, and a safe space for new mothers to be seen, heard, and supported.

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