The pressure to be the perfect Mum
Why does it seem that being a Mum today is all about keeping up appearances? The pressure to be the perfect mum, to look perfect and ‘perform’ while raising our children ‘correctly’ and supporting our partners can sometimes be too much. Even for the best of us. So why do we Mums take it on and add to the pressure that is raising children? Who are we trying to prove it to?
Christmas holidays this year brought it all home as I scrolled through the hundreds of posts from other families in their perfect pyjamas, with their perfect turkeys and perfect Christmas trees.
I have to be honest though. I am admittedly heavily influenced by the pressure to perform on social media and often succumb to the pressure to post the perfect image, hoping that I too can be viewed as the Nigella Lawson of Mums.
But the reality is (as it is for all of us I suspect) nowhere near perfect. We barely set the table for our Christmas dinner this year (I omitted that picture from my Christmas picture reel), we didn’t change out of our pyjamas all day and getting the perfect family photo was attempt number 48. And our Christmas tree? Lovely as it is, is slanted sideways and full of decorations that are homemade by my three children – so hardly the Selfridges of baubles.
Not to mention that our holidays have been blighted by a call to stay at home for 14 days due to exposure to Covid. Walks in the woods, shopping trips and seeing friends have all taken a backseat as we prepare for days and days of staying home. Needless to say, the television has been the perfect companion as I try to find the peace and quiet between endless demands for more snacks and food.
So the ideal I had in mind has really not shaped up to be my perfect scenario. Why does it bother me so much though?
The expectations on ourselves, as mothers
Mums, more than Dads I suspect, are expected to have it together and don’t often admit to the overwhelm and struggle that parenting can sometimes bring on. For mothers, there are always people who will ‘watch’ and comment on how well we achieve this perfection- or at least that’s how we perceive it. This includes ensuring our kids are well behaved, polite, quiet, good listeners, smile when spoken to, good in school and last but not least show no outward signs of being anything that resembles being a kid.
Likewise for Mums, we’re expected to wear all the hats: to be the perfect art teacher, discipliner, baker, chef, athlete and homemaker- all the while achieving 110% at our full time jobs if we’re in employment. No other time has brought this home more than during this pandemic when mothers have more often than not, borne the brunt of the homeschooling, care taking and homemaking burden.
Setting an example for our daughters through social media
But more than the women who see our posts, I’m more concerned about the example we are setting for our daughters.
My 9 year old daughter has become more interested in social media in the last year- accelerated perhaps by the onset of online teaching and learning and social interactions accessible only through digital media. She posted a series of dance videos in the summer as part of her excitement to become the new Piper Rockelle, an American preteen blogger whose followers number in the millions. Within 30 minutes of posting her video, she was harassing me to know how many likes she had, dancing with excitement when she had two more, and plummeting into a dramatic slump when the numbers had failed to go in the right direction.
It was an early realisation for me about how much of an influence social media will have on our kids. And the extent to which public perception and the desire for public approval can drive a teenager’s moods and self-esteem. It was a wake up call.
As the mother of three girls, I am acutely aware of how they are watching me. How my ability to take time out for myself and self-care will set them up for the future. How I talk about myself, about other women, even on social media, will shape how they interact with the digital world. I can pretend to teach them all the lessons I want but it will be in how I conduct myself, how I take care of others, and how I show them (and myself) love and honesty that will count the most.
What if we were all honest with each other about motherhood?
More and more bloggers and social media influencers are choosing to be real about the journey that is motherhood. Take The Unmumsy Mum who wrote about her parenting Off Days. Boy, could I relate. As did the thousands of her readers who shared, liked and commented on this article. And yet, the Unmumsy Mum, for her honest portrayal of day to day motherhood, has endured numerous hate comments coming from what I can only imagine are either childless adults or adults who forget what it was like having little ones in their home. Even if they do remember, the generation that was, is much different from today’s parents who enjoy many more hours spending time with their kids than that of our parents.
Self-acceptance and love
If more of us commit to be honest in 2021, the world could look so much different than it does now. If it became the norm to show each other the realisms, it would cause less of a stir. Sure, we all love to show the moments of beauty, but equally the moments where we look messy, imperfect and unpolished are just as beautiful. If that were the norm, we’d have a lot less unhappiness in this world, more acceptance and more people happy to stand in their truth about who they are. There wouldn’t be an ideal to uphold that is wholly unachievable.
I love my kids and, like all Mums out there, I would like the space to be able to say, ‘this is hard sometimes’, ‘I’m overwhelmed’, ‘I’m not perfect’ and… ‘I’m tired’. I want to be able to show myself and my children, that the moments when we choose to spend the day in our pjs, fail in parenting by allowing the kids to eat all the junk they like, succumb to yet another pizza night and… gasp, even yell at each other… are still okay. That nobody is perfect.
Imagine if our kids could grow up with social media that was honest and real about our faults and weaknesses. Ironically, we’d probably be less exhausted. Because keeping up appearances is more depleting than if we just admit the simple fact that we’re tired.