We are now more connected to the outside world than ever before with social media exposing us to clever marketing and influencers portraying the 'perfect life'. No wonder parents are feeling more and more pressure to live up to the stereotype of a 1950s housewife or the playful father full of energy after a long day at work.
The reality is that the world has changed and thus the perception of what a good parent looks like is severely outdated. Firstly, the rise in the cost and standard of living has resulted in an increase in dual family incomes. With both parents working either full time or part time, certain household tasks have to be pushed aside. Secondly, the companies most of us work for are competing in markets experiencing a rapid state of change therefore placing extra demands on employees to keep up. These demands frequently result in parents putting in additional hours at the office and increased connectivity via mobile devices impacts on our ability to switch off at home.
So as a parenting community what do we do about it? How do we change the narrative and allow parents to accept being a good parent instead of a perfect one? Here are a few common misconceptions that we should kick to the curb.
The flexibility offering and perception has changed quite significantly over the years but there are still a few people around the workplace that are set in their ways and continue to push the traditional family values. One judgement we experienced was placing our little ones in daycare. "Its such a precious time, why do you want someone else looking after your child?" or "no one can look after your child as well as you". At the time there was part of me that did worry but upon reflection our kids have grown up to be extremely resilient and socially competent little humans not to mention being ahead of the curve when they started primary school. It's human nature for most of us to replay the judgement of the few over and over in our minds instead of listening to the support of the many.
Keeping up with the housework
Most of us are guilty of wanting a house so clean it sparkles especially when you are expecting visitors so let me ask you this, how often have you visited friends and family and noticed the furniture needs dusting or felt the need to start picking up the toys on the floor? Their house would need to be in quite a state for you to be concerned so why are we so caught up in ensuring our house is ready to grace the cover of a magazine and expending so much energy we are exhausted before getting to the stuff we enjoy? Don't get me wrong, having a house you are proud of is great and if you are anything like me I feel much more relaxed when there is no visible mess around, but it seems like we are working harder rather than smarter. At the end of the day, if you have people in your life that will judge you for having a few dishes in the sink then it is time to call them on it.
Kids need stuff to be happy
So Christmas rolls around for another year and you find yourself spending hours in the shopping centre or scrolling online stores trying to find the perfect gifts for your kids. When they open their presents on Christmas Day they are initially excited and play with them for a few days but then the novelty wears off. You are so exhausted from putting your heart and soul into the process so when they come to you and say they are bored you completely lose it. So why do we do it? We do it because we love our kids more than anything in the entire world and move heaven and earth to make them happy. So what childhood memories do you remember? I can't remember half of the toys I had growing up but I have several memories of playing outside with my siblings and friends. Don't spend hours trawling the shops and breaking the bank on expensive gifts, spend the time creating a cubby house out of a cardboard box or helping your kids build a fort with blankets and dining chairs.
Spending hours in the kitchen
It is obviously important to feed your family a balanced diet but should that mean we spend an hour in the kitchen every night preparing dinner? Last week I found myself putting serious thought into what we would prepare for dinner only to have hubby suggest toasted sandwiches. My initial reaction was that it was unacceptable but on further consideration I realised that I had once again fallen into the trap of what society deemed as acceptable. We certainly are not overly restrictive on what our kids can eat and like to treat them when we are out and about so when I realised how absurd my reaction was to hubby's dinner suggestion, I started to wonder whether I had started shifting us too far into the 'healthy' camp and forgot about keeping our diets 'balanced'. We grew up in an era where it was much more socially acceptable to have birthday parties at McDonalds and Mr Whippy was regularly chased down by a herd of excited children and as far as I can tell we seemed to have turned out okay.
Let's sum this up
All too often we hear of parents under stress and an increase in health issues triggered by pushing ourselves to the limit. We need to remind ourselves that we can't help our kids if we don't help ourselves. Forget what the mummy and daddy shamers will think because lets face it, the are just projecting their own issues. Ultimately, the impact of the pursuit of perfection outweighs the benefits so don't try to be a perfect parent, be the parent your child needs.