With Fathers’ Day following so closely on the heels of Mothers’ Day, it is natural for one’s attention to be drawn to the challenges that parents encounter on every step of their journey. Whether with infants/toddlers/teens/adults in relationships or marriages, there is no “switching off”, is there?
Once you get that coveted title—Mom or Dad—there’s no going back. You’re in it for keeps.
Parenting, unfortunately, is always something that one is totally unprepared for — even if one has spent years planning and preparing. And it is also something that one must do without the benefit of a definitive “How-To” instruction book that deals with all eventualities with a fixed right or wrong answer.
Decades ago, we managed adequately with common sense and an occasional reference to Dr. Spock (if we could find it amid the piles of nappies) or other “newer” material sent to us by friends and family who had embarked on their adventure of parenthood before us.
Today, however, there is an endless amount of confusing advice and confounding direction available literally in the palms of our hands, perhaps to provide for the complex challenges of current times — and that in itself is a challenge.
While there is benefit from online communities where you can share problems and gain guidance based on others’ experiences, it is also easy to look at all those images of shiny, smiling faces, colour-coordinated clothes and nutritionally appropriate foods and become convinced that everything is hunky-dory for everyone else — and you’re messing up really badly!
Life on a moment-to-moment basis
It is so easy to feel you’re negligent, derelict in your duty, and bordering on the useless because you cannot entice your child into taking a mouthful of any of the food you prepare; your children are eternally scruffy, forever pulling their hair or yours, and never throw a happy smile in your direction when you want them to pose for you. They’re more likely to throw the spoon they’re holding — or the plate — and there are tears and tantrums, torn shirts and scraped knees on a moment-to-moment basis.
So, yes, parenting in this time of social media could be a total nightmare if you are influenced by all the near-perfect pictures of online influencers.
Perhaps it would help to remind yourself that everything looks better in a photograph, especially if you’re skilled with a camera. Don’t we have adequate testimony of smooth sailing looking down at us from our walls?
We were terrified in that bobbing boat on choppy waters, convinced our child would fall out of our arms and be lost forever but the pictorial record convinces everyone that it was an exhilarating experience for both of us; we were frazzled and exhausted as we struggled to keep several toddlers’ sticky fingers out of the icing on that second birthday cake (and third and fourth) but those grimaces now look like grins, don’t they, and everyone seems to be having a jolly good time?
And let’s admit it, regardless, the memories of those moments are now cherished!
So, don’t allow the illusion of perfection in all those picture-perfect posts to ruin your peace of mind now. It’s wonderful if someone else really has a paragon of smart and healthy living as their child — just don’t let it make you doubt yourself or your child.
Everyone has ups and downs (who posts pictures of mopping up juice spills and floors literate with rejected scraps of food?) but they will be different ups and downs because each child is different and each parent is different — not perfect.
And each is indispensable to the other.
So believe in yourself; trust your instinct; be the best mom or dad you know how to be; enjoy your child’s differences and quirks and hopefully, in time, they’ll enjoy yours!
— Cheryl Rao is a writer based in India