Being a parent is challenging. These days, whilst we have the added benefit of information at our fingertips, we also have the added pressure that this constant flow of information places on us, not to mention the pressure we place on ourselves in comparing ourselves to others through social media. With this information overload and the added insight into people’s lives (bearing in mind that this is only what they are willing to share publicly), there is a lot of perceived pressure on us as parents to have it together all of the time. We are served articles and stories about what we should and shouldn’t be doing as parents, how we should be interacting with our children, how we should be spending our time, etc. Whilst these articles and stories are often very informative and give us some great tools, we need to remember to take only what information we feel is useful to us, and remember that every story shared has a context. It is essential that we set realistic expectations for ourselves, and that we remind ourselves that it is okay not to be okay all of the time.
Take what you need
Every day we have the opportunity to sift through lots of information. We might be served articles on parenting, breastfeeding, sleeping, playing, schooling, disciplining, etc. It is important not to feel obligated to take on board all of this information and that we only take what is of benefit to us and to our situations. It is also worth noting that, with the exception of those pesky ads, we control what content we see in our feeds and if certain information is affecting the way we feel then we can simply ‘unfollow’ these pages. We are all different and these websites or pages that we choose to follow are trying to cater to all of us, and therefore we need to be the ones to determine what information is right for us. It might be approaching school holidays and so the articles on activities to keep kids entertained might be relevant to you, or you might have had a rough night with your little one, so a story on how others have approached sleep with their bubs may be of interest. Whatever your situation may be, knowing that you don’t have to constantly question your parenting methods based on the different information you are served every day is key.
Context, context, context
With so many stories and personal experiences shared, it is important to remember that each one has its own context. Whilst we might read someone’s story and feel that our experiences are not quite on par, we need to remind ourselves that their backstory could be very different to ours. They may have differing levels of support, whether that be spousal, family, financial, etc., they may be experiencing different challenges, and have different interests, passions or priorities. All of these things, and more, make our own journeys unique, and can mean that some of us might have it together in one area (or at least appear to 🙈), whilst some of us might be kicking goals in other aspects. Also, just because someone appears to have it all together, doesn’t always mean that they do. Remember, parenthood is challenging for all of us.
As parents, adjusting our expectations is something that we shouldn’t be strangers to. For example, how different are our expectations of a ‘perfect’ Friday night now!?! Becoming parents is life changing, and therefore, our expectations should also change to take into account our new responsibilities and what we can realistically achieve, whilst caring for ourselves (keeping stress levels to a minimum) and our children. Pre-kids, our expectations of a productive day might have been a solid 8 or 9 hour day at work, getting to the gym, getting to the supermarket, making a healthy dinner and having a clean house. For some of us, a productive day now might mean showering and getting out of our pyjamas, or getting a few loads of washing done, or getting out of the house for a social outing, or putting in a full day of work and getting home in time for dinner and to tuck the kids in bed. Whatever it is, we need to make sure our expectations are realistic and that we’re not putting too much pressure on ourselves. If we have a busy week planned then perhaps the housework might have to take a backseat, or if we happen to have woken up feeling a bit demotivated then maybe it’s ideal to have a pyjama day or call a friend or family member for support. We need to remind ourselves that it is okay to have an off day (we like to call them CBF days 🙊) here and there, and it’s important to do what works for you.
Take the pressure down
There are always going to be days that don’t go to plan (you know the ones with epic tantrums, poo explosions, nap strikes.. etc. 🙈), but it is essential that we acknowledge that these days are all part of the journey and that every parent has them. There will be days when we might read an article or story and have one of those awesome fist pump moments because we feel like we’re doing something right. Then there will be days where we might read something and start to doubt ourselves. These are the times when we need a reminder to only take the information we need and what will work for us, to remember that each story has a context and that we are all unique, and that our expectations of ourselves need to be realistic. Remember that whilst everyday might not be good, there is something good in every day. You’ve got this!