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Why do we view parenthood through rose tinted glasses?

A week off over half term has had me musing rather more about how we do tend to set ourselves up for a fall when it comes to parenting

In my head half term was going to be walks through the woods, afternoons doing jigsaws infront of the fire and family time together enjoying having to clock to watch – of course I had those images in my head, I’m bombarded on all sides by images of how a perfect family should look and act – newsites, TV, films, Facebook, Pinterest – every single one full of images of that put my expectations into a totally unobtainable place

If I had been sensible I’d have avoided all of these images or at least recognised them as the works of fiction they really are

When it comes down to it, good parenting is having a day where you manage to have one moment where you look back and think ‘I wasn’t so bad then’ – the fact that the rest of the day contained potty training disasters, everyone falling out and a flat refusal from 3 out of 4 family members to even take one mouthful of your lovingly prepared meal is not important, you hit the magic one thing that was ok and that’s all you should be focused on

Those images you see, they are all just one moment – a friend of mine described her family going off for an autumn photoshoot in the woods – the images captured show a family all looking fab, smiling at the camera and enjoying larking around in the autumn leaves – the reality was a super stressful rush to get everyone out of the house, getting the time wrong, the wrong sort of weather, one child falling into a puddle and at least one of those hissed inter-parent conversations about whose fault it is that this is all not going according to plan…  but the image shows a family that could fall out of the pages of a Boden catalogue

One of the reason I love blogs is that they provide a window in the real world of being a parent – a world that includes frequently getting it wrong and admitting to more than the mirror that what happens away from those fleeting moments of getting it right is not pretty and mostly involves shouting.  Perhaps blogs are replacing the wider community of parents we would have had around us in the past – they are the older relative or friend taking new parents to one side and admitting that they too have dropped their child on the head BUT it didn’t seem to do them much harm, that we’ve all gone for bananas and yoghurt for supper because you can’t face cooking BUT it is ok and you aren’t the only one doing it, that there are days when letting them watch half an hour of TV can be the difference between sanity and madness and that it can be good for everyone to have a bit of downtime

Being a good parent should be a statement of intent rather than a stick to beat ourselves up with – those pictures we see are one snapped second rather than the reality that makes up the 24 hours a day, 7 days a week world of actually being a parent

By being honest about those times when things aren’t picture perfect we contribute towards a more rounded view of the complexities and realities of what being a modern parent really means

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26 comments to Why do we view parenthood through rose tinted glasses?

  • Totally agree. I had an interesting conversation with a friend who took issue with a (quite foolish, if I’m honest) piece in Grazia last week on finding motherhood ‘not enough’. My friend felt that in years to come this piece could upset the writer’s daughter. Fair enough, it may; one can only hope that the relationship between mother and daughter will be good enough to withstand something that was probably written to fill column issues & pa the rent.

    But my response was to my friend’s point was, why SHOULD we pretend, if we don’t feel being a parent at a particular stage of our child’s life is totally fulfilling? Everyone is different, everyone will find different stages of their kid’s development easy or hard. Personally I find my sons more engaging now at 9 & 6 than I did when they were newborns, but I have friends for whom the height of their mothering experience was caring for their child before they could talk. And that’s the point. I’m no less of a good mother (I believe) for finding being a mum harder when my sons were younger than my friends who sailed through that stage were. If by sharing that experience I can help people who are struggling but think they are they are alone in their difficulties, then I’m happy to do so.

    (Sorry – long comment. Great post!)

    • Totally agree – don’t think it does children any good to think that they are the solve focus of their parents – mine benefit from benevolent neglect and it makes them learn things themselves but also to realise that Mummy and Daddy were real people before they came along (this is also one of the reasons I work)

      I’m sure our parents were more honest about this – I certainly remember my mother saying that she thought it took until we were at school to be interesting

  • Couldn’t have put it better myself!

  • So true. Sometimes I’m worried I swing too far the other way though. I tend to be very frank about the tough bits of my day to day parenting (3 boys under 4!), and end up with offers of help and sympathetic looks when I’m actually having a great time overall!

    It’s a very good point about pictures too. Facebook is the culprit. I did actually post a ‘realistic’ family holiday photo on my blog last week… an antidote to all those cheesy Facebook family snaps!

  • I have always viewed my success as a parent in terms of how other people judge my children. This something I learned from my Mum many years ago and now with my eldest having just turned 22 and graduated from Uni, and my youngest 13 and already a seasoned traveller, I have come to the conclusion that I am doing OK.

    So what pearls of wisdom did my Mum bestow upon me:

    It doesn’t matter what problems you think you might have with your kids – as long as you can take them anywhere, with anyone, and know that they will be polite, well-mannered and not play up – you have won the battle!

    When she first told me this I thought she was crazy, but she has been proved right over the years. My children can be driving me to distraction at home, but as soon as we set foot out through that door, they know where that line is and they never cross it. They also know that if company comes to the house, the line is there too and it never gets crossed. The result is I have 3 children, who are by no means perfect (thank God), but who are polite and well-mannered, who have never embarrassed me in restaurants with bad behaviour, or thrown tantrums in the supermarket.

    Only this morning, my neighbour told me how wonderful my youngest was. She had taken him in the other afternoon when it was raining and he arrived home from school to find me and work and his house keys on the inside of th e house instead of his pocket! I am about ready to kill him, but all she saw was the sweet, kind and wonderful boy I know lives inside the demonic exterior – To me that’s a win!

    Have a great day
    Lou 🙂

  • I love this post. It reminds me of what I blogged after my long awaited and anticipated Centreparks Holiday :http://muminthesouth.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/post-holiday-blues.html

    I struggled through this half term, then felt guilty at my relief when sending my Things back to their respective childcare this week.

    Getting a balance seems impossible. I like your idea of a single snapshot being enough. Sometimes it has to be!

    Maybe we could start capturing the “best” moment of the day and blogging it?

  • My dad asked me the other day (in relation to blogging) “But what ever became of privacy?” And I responded that while there will always be some things that we shouldn’t really share with others, mostly “privacy” could be said to equate with hiding, pretending, and failing to share information that could really help another person. In that sense, privacy truly has a dark side.

  • TheMadHouse

    I work hard to set myself realistic expectations when it comes to parenting. I try to make sure that I do not have pretty images in my head. Half term for us was all about recharging batteries and just spending time together and it was brill

  • *nods head in agreement*

    Cracking post – you’ve nailed it. For me, Facebook is often the worst culprit. I think sometimes people are so eager to convey a prettified picture of cosy family life that they don’t always show the real stuff. But then, these are the same people in real life who I often find told me their children slept through the night at 6 weeks and they bounded out of bed two minutes after the birth, feeling ready to take on the world with a bungee jump. It’s not real. But the pictures look nice.

  • Hear hear.

    I think too, though, that there’s a lot of nostalgia in it as well. If you are (as I am) generally a pretty positive person, you tend to forget the bad bits in hindsight (that works for childbirth too – hence the people Molly encountered, I imagine), and so you remember that walk in the woods as sun bathed and full of laughs, and the hilarity of x falling face down in the puddle… not the whinging of “we’re bored, and are we nearly there yet” and the screaming and the mud and the gritted teeth as she wipes it all over the car which you’ve just had cleaned, for the first time in six months…

    Not to mention that a little distance I find helps me realise that all the stuff which drives me insane about my children is actually quite amusing kids being kids stuff when viewed with perspective. It’s only at the time that you want to actually rend them limb from limb. (resolved, generally, by screaming at the top of my voice, banishing them to their rooms and opening another bottle…)

    That’s probably all too private for Katriina’s dad, so I apologise to him too!

    • Actually that’s a good point – I know how bad things got when Littler was small but time has made it all sort of fade and I probably sound rather blasé about it all now

      It’s also one of the reasons I take my Mum’s view of the world when we were small with a pinch of salt…

  • Ooh, you’ve done us all a favour with this post because I needed to hear someone say “It’s ok not to be a perfect parent.” I know that gets said a lot on Mumsnet or where ever but I think your words summed it up better! I was nodding along, thinking of the hard time I gave myself today because I let my 3 year old watch TV while I caught up on work – and I am only doing the work to get money for the family! arrgh, the guilt! 🙁

    • Do NOT beat yourself up – the tv has good educational things on and sometimes we just need them to be occupied so we can do some thing else. Read a great thing about the benefits of ignoring children a bit to teach them self sufficiency

  • BethW

    Hi Hannah! I stumbled upon your blog and I am really impressed with your writing and ease of putting out so eloquently in words what a lot of us only really think about. 🙂

    I know what you mean. The comment about the photoshoot is too real for me. As a photographer, I know the real deal behind the happy photos. And you are right, that one great photo is only a moment–a second–in half an hour of what would mostly be chasing, bribing, negotiating and coaxing.

    I try to take some nice portraits of my kids every now and then, but the everyday picture is toootally different! They fight, they moan, they wind each other up and annoy each other like you wouldn’t believe. And too many times in the day, I feel like I don’t know what I am doing and wonder WTH was I thinking?!

    I am hoping though that when they get older and I can relax and look back at it all, what I will remember would be the one-second happy moments and the difficult ones would just be funny stories to torment and embarass them with. 🙂

  • Well said…words like this chip away at our tendency as parents to set unrealistic expectations and then beat ourselves up for not meeting them. It’s such waste of time that could be better spent!

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