As if pushing a baby out of your body, staying up for midnight feedings and changing diapers is not enough, now you have to be “perfect”.
Maybe it has something to do with “momstagrams”, you know, those influencers with stick-thin bodies and glowing, surprisingly eyebag-less countenances who always seem so cheery when they are around their baby in what seems to be an immaculately-spotless house.
Dads are cut a little slack on social media. Apparently, to be the #BestDadEver (1,297,665 posts) one really just has to take the kid out for a walk or occasionally let the little slugger sleep on your chest.
Pressure on parents and kids
In the sea of these image searches, sit I, unshowered as yet, with eyebags that will probably need to be checked in at the airport, on and a mountain of clothes that need to be folded after I beat my deadlines.
However unkempt my appearance at the moment, my boys are happily champing away upstairs, glad to be done with their schoolwork for the day, waiting to be fed yet again as dinner time rolls around. After dinner, I will take my youngest out for a walk around our village grounds. Hey, maybe I can post that with #BestMomEver (only 922,976 posts)?
The way it is portrayed on social media, to be the perfect parent, one needs: a spotless house, great complexion, abs and biceps worthy of the Marvel Universe, and lots and lots of time and attention focused on the offspring. One needs to also use the best – best way to feed one’s child, best new gadgets and toys to keep kids not only entertained but also educational enough to prepare them for college applications, and best baby gear such as the “Ferrari of baby strollers” when you take them out about town (once things normalize, of course).
What is bad about this focus on being the perfect parent is that it puts so much pressure on both the parents and the kids. Because, of course, if you are the perfect parent, God forbid your toddler takes on a full-on public meltdown, right?
Impossibly high standards
Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, a professor of Human Sciences and Psychology and Faculty Associate of the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy at the Ohio State University wrote about “parenting perfectionism” in a 2016 article for Quartz. She described it as “holding oneself to impossibly high standards for parenting, and, perhaps even more important, believing that others hold you to impossibly high standards for parenting.”
This is very detrimental, especially for moms on social media sites, as they compare themselves to the success of others. Dr. Sullivan says, “Worrying about what others think of their parenting saps mothers’ confidence, leading them to experience parenting as less enjoyable and more stressful. When faced with inevitable parenting challenges, mothers with lower confidence and more parenting stress give up more quickly.”
A study conducted by Dr. Sullivan at the Ohio State University, showed that buying into ‘perfect mom’ syndrome is not only unhealthy, but also potentially harmful. New mothers who were worried what others thought about their parenting skills showed less confidence in their ability to parent. Studies also show that people who strive for perfection suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem and depression, as well as eating disorders. The chronic stress that perfectionists can experience is thought to play a role in these health concerns.
Dr. Sullivan’s advice to parents? “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Fun, not a competition
I wholeheartedly agree. Here’s my yardstick: If your parenting style leads to happy childhood memories that your kids will talk about someday - of the time you all went zipping through the rain, of using the laundry basins as ‘bathtubs’, or the time they made a mess in the kitchen because they wanted to make s’mores with sprinkles on them, I say it’s worth it.
In a Facebook group where one mom, after seeing everyone else’s living room organized as if they were ready for an interior design magazine shoot, lamented that she can’t have that because she has three little kids, I told her to train them to clean up, but not to stress about it. The time will come that she will actually miss having toys underfoot. I know I do.
Also, because I have impressed on them their roles in the household through constant and open communication, my boys, now aged 20, 16, 15, and 12 have taken on most of the household chores. They know that I am busy being the breadwinner and they took on the brunt of the work from cooking, and cleaning to laundry.
Parenting is a fun journey, not a competition. Raising happy and healthy kids who will cherish their growing up years is the goal. These are kids who grow up as great adults because they felt loved. Don’t be pressured into perfection and enjoy these growing up years. In the midst of all these, put self-care on your list too. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go take that shower.
● Ohio State News. "Seeking To Be The 'Perfect Parent' Not Always Good For New Moms And Dads." November 28, 2011.
● Quartz. "Science proves the myth of the 'perfect mother' actually makes it harder to be a good parent." May 7, 2016.
About The Writer
Maan Pamaraan is a single mom of four boys who finds fulfilment in her decades-long career as a writer for several publications, including (but not limited to) the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Philippine Star, Manila Bulletin, the Manila Times, BusinessMirror, the Daily Tribune, Esquire Philippines, FHM, Smart Parenting, and Real Living.
When she is not in serious journalist mode, she enjoys sitting in front of her laptop to write light-hearted anecdotes about raising her children along with general observations about life as a working mom. A survivor of an abusive relationship, her current advocacy is also that of lending a sympathetic ear for other women who have found themselves in the same situation.
Maan is a Bachelor's degree graduate from the College of the Holy Spirit.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.