I am no parenting expert. I couldn’t tell you how to get your baby to sleep through the night in five easy steps and I don’t have ten handy tips for entertaining a toddler without turning on the television. I am often disorganised and feel like I overly-rely on raisins and fish fingers, but I do know that being a parent is complex, and the early years often relentless.
It is always how it has been – a juxtaposition of the wonderful and wearing – it’s normal, I know.
What’s different today though is the pressure placed upon parents. There is so much more of it, raining down in varying forms, tapping us on the shoulder and reminding us of all the things we’re not getting quite right. The support in many ways might be better and the advice now backed up by research, but there’s just a bit, well, too much of it at times. I can’t move for the long list of do and don’t style articles telling us how we should be raising our kids – because we of course need an entirely subjective and judgemental instruction manual. Ten things you should never say to your child! Fifty things every family should experience! Essential life hacks to keep your home spick and span!
It is endless… exhausting. And we are already so tired.
Social media is great in many ways, and adds another layer of informal support for parents, but it is also bursting with perfect little snippets of other people’s lives which can sometimes make our own feel lacking. I peruse my Facebook and Instagram feed during the night feed and see photos of the ‘great sensory play,’ the ‘freshly baked organic goods’ and the ‘fun family day out,’ while I half-heartedly mop up the small well of baby sick from inside my bra and try to remember the last time I had a conversation with my husband that wasn’t about children or sleep.
The refurbished kitchens. The theme parks. The date nights. The holidays.
The people living perfectly fulfilled lives in tidy, stylish homes. Except of course, this is just a snapshot. The outside of someone else’s life held up against the inside of mine; framed moments versus a messy reality.
That said, I genuinely enjoy much of what I see, and understandably, people are going to display the nice parts of their day and the best bits of themselves. That is to be expected and we see what they choose to show us. Just like in my home you will find photos displayed of our holidays and nights out, rather than framed black and whites of the toddler flipping out over socks or my husband and me having an argument.
Perhaps then, it’s the volume of non-stop shininess and perfection online which, put together, can skew our view of what normal life actually looks like. It’s not dishonest, but equally with everything else omitted, it’s not the full picture either. Is it even healthy for us to have so much information about what other people are doing? Do I need to know my ex-work colleague of ten plus years is out for cocktails, or that a friend of a friend is off on another fabulous holiday? Does this information enhance my life in some way, or clutter it? And is this lean towards over-sharing leaving us feeling like others are having a much better time of it?
However, as with tequila, what we see on social media should perhaps be taken with a small pinch of salt. Good and bad things happen to everyone, regardless of whether they document it on Facebook. The same people sharing the fun and beautiful also find things hard sometimes; and someone might actually be posting that perfect photo because they need a distraction. Maybe they are lonely, maybe they are depressed, maybe they need interaction they aren’t able to get elsewhere just now.
It doesn’t really matter why; we are all just keeping on – doing our thing – picking everyone including ourselves back up.
In life and with parenting, there will always be a certain amount of juggling. Every day can’t be an awesome adventure or non-stop play – and to be frank who would want it to be? It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, no matter how perfectly framed the snapshot, it’s really nothing to do with us after all.
So instead of feeling pressure to do more, be more, play more or clean more; I am trying to remember the true and bigger picture and just be. And through acceptance of being fallible, unglamorous and at times downright boring, I am enjoying being me – and a mother – so much more. Because actually, when it comes down to it, while living my life and raising my children, I would so much rather be a happy average mum than strive and stress over being a super one.