I made a mistake last night. Have you ever done that? Made a mistake? I sometimes wonder if anyone apart from me ever has.
I love the internet, wouldn’t live without it. But one thing it has encouraged is this glossy portrayal of our lives, as if we were living in the pages of a magazine and not in real, messy, life. We share on Facebook and Twitter the moments that made us laugh and smile, not the moments that made us angry or cry. And it leads to this distorted idea that everyone else is somehow doing so much better than you. That no one else has ever made a mistake before.
My mistake last night was looking up tips on getting my baby to sleep. The way these Google algorithms work, you don’t always get the most relevant results, but the most popular ones. And Pinterest, I don’t even know what witchcraft they use. So I look up ‘baby sleep tips’ and among the results I see “How I got ALL my babies sleeping through the night at 6 weeks” or “The 8 things you are doing wrong”, or “The PERFECT sleep schedule for babies”. All I wanted was a reputable source, some tips based on my situation, and some trustworthy advice. All I can see are click-bait and thinly veiled humblebrags.
Oh the humblebrags. You know the ones: “Why I NEVER need to discipline my children”, or “How I meal plan on $3.27 a week”, or “I had triplets AND twins AND run 4 businesses”. Well, you get the idea. They always sound so self-assured. So confident. So nothing like me.
I get what they are trying to do. You need to click on the link so they can earn money. I do get that. And there are many people genuinely trying to be helpful. But what many of these humblebrag-style posts and articles do is add to the mum-guilt.
I’m not safe at the bookshop either. There are reams of books explaining why I need to be more of a Tiger-mum, or French, or Japanese, or natural, or scheduled, or attachment-based, or….. It goes on and on. I suppose not many publishers go for books that that say “Hey parent, you are doing your best and that’s ok.” Better to sell you the idea of what you could be doing better. Before my first baby was born I read about twenty books on everything from basic baby care, to eco-friendly tips, to brain development. It turned out to be the opposite of reassuring. The more I read the more I worried I was doing it all wrong.
I give myself enough mum-guilt. I don’t need it coming from outside sources too. Sometimes I feel like every day we play a game we never agreed to of “How many ways can I feel guilty today?” If I don’t do messy play at home I’m not providing an enriched environment. If I don’t feed them organic food I’m risking their health. If I don’t take them to toddler gym or nature play I’m hindering their physical development. If I don’t do STEM activities with them they will fall behind at school. Where does it end?
I’ve made mistakes and will make many more before my parenting days are through. I think that should be lauded more in our society. Mistakes show you are trying. And I AM trying. I’m fighting for them every day. With every fibre of my being I want them to be happy and do well.
Maybe I should be blinkering myself more when it comes to social media and the parenting bookshelf. Instead of focusing on what I could or should be doing, to focus instead on what I AM doing. Which is trying hard every day. Loving my children. Taking good care of them. Encouraging them, comforting them, and filling their days with love and laughter. Making mistakes and getting up and trying again. And again. And again.
That, to me, is good enough.