If you hang out on social media, it’s pretty easy to feel overwhelmed and underconfident, isn’t it?
Recently, I’ve been really looking at what we’re presented with on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis on social media, and it’s got me thinking about the messages we’re being presented with and how they subconsciously make us feel we must live up to up their perfect expectations. As a first-time mum-to-be or a new mum (or dad for that matter), the emotional roller-coaster that is preparing for the arrival of a baby is real. And a lot of this social media stuff just adds fuel to our feelings of overwhelm and underconfidence.
When I was scrolling through, I found myself getting a little cross…
Well, actually, a lot cross - for YOU, for me, for all of us that are living real lives in a real way with real highs and lows, and real challenges.
What I saw was post after post of perfect people living perfect lives with perfect partners in perfect places. I didn’t see many pictures of real people just like you and me, living real lives, doing real things. Even the pictures of real people were presenting the happy side of life - after all, not many people choose to put that shocking picture of themselves up on social media, do they?!
What we see on social media is what people have chosen to present to the world. And, of course, that’s the perfect side of things. Of course, this thought isn’t new… what I was thinking was the impact of all of this on our parenting…
You see, what I saw was all sorts of perfect.
- Perfect body
- Perfect relationship
- Perfect location
- Perfect nursery (beige, of course, and all new and all matching)
- Perfect birth (popped them out while smiling and loved every moment!)
- Perfect baby (always smiling, always clean, never a poo-filled nappy in sight!)
- Perfect playroom
- Perfect bounce-back body (now with just enough stretch marks to ensure that you know they’ve struggled for their baby)
- Perfect parents
- Perfect lives (with probably a perfect beachside home!).
And for those people who live in this perfect world, good for them, but for the rest of us, I think we need to focus a bit more on the reality we’re actually living so we gain a real perspective, a sense of quite how brilliantly we’re doing each day in the tiny little wins that we have.
You see, what I ended up seeing was that the ‘perfect’ that was on display wasn’t perfect but was rather manufactured, carefully created and curated.
But as we scroll through, it’s so easy to be sucked in, to only see the perfect picture, to notice how perfect it is and to begin to compare ourselves to the people or things in the picture. We start to aspire to have what they have, to look like they look, to go where they go, to be as they’re being. To be perfect, but what about the bit that’s out of shot of the perfect picture? What about the bit that they chose NOT to show?
First up, let’s get one thing straight - nothing in life IS perfect. What we don’t see is the massive row they’ve had over the setup of the perfect picture, the cardboard box that’s been rigged up to hide the camera from the sun so shadows aren’t blotting out the picture. We don’t see the things just out of shot that would really show us what is ACTUALLY going on…
Good on those who can keep their body perfect throughout their pregnancy. I am chuffed for them that they can. BUT as far as I see it, they’ve either worked super hard for it, don’t eat (and where’s the fun in that?!) or are naturally thin… Of course, I’m not saying you should stuff white pasta and butter down your chops at every turn (though some days that IS TOTALLY what we all want to do!!) but rather, let’s just be realistic. For most of us, there’s probably a bit more weight gain than we would choose, but what’s important is that we are feeding our growing baby nutritious food and being kind to ourselves. Remember that every day of your pregnancy, your body does the equivalent work to running a marathon! Now THAT’S impressive! No wonder we want to eat rubbish!
The perfect relationship… well, I’m in the middle of binge-watching ‘Married at First Sight – Australia’ (honestly, I’m a little embarrassed to say I am actually quite hooked!!!). If you’ve watched the show, you’ll know about all the drama that happens every episode – the scandalous goings-on and just pure incompatibility between some couples, the delight and excitement that other couples feel as they think they might have found ‘the one’; but even in those more successful relationships, there are worries, doubts and questions along the way as they navigate this unknown journey together. You don’t need to look too far through that to know that no relationship, real, manufactured or nurtured for years and years is perfect… it just isn’t. Any relationship, no matter what kind, is made up of two flawed human beings - and that’s before you add in a tiny new baby, lack of sleep and the unknowingness of being a first-time parent!
Perfect location… like I said, just swing that camera right a bit… they chose THAT spot for a reason!
Perfect nursery - now this one gets me! Because you see, Insta-perfect nurseries are all beige or grey or cream, sometimes with accents of colour. What these nurseries don’t take into account is what is actually the best thing for the baby or the mum and dad who are using the room, and they just drive desire for buying a heap of new stuff which ultimately costs a fortune and ends up in landfill (I told you it got me grumpy!).
Your baby doesn’t know the difference between a nappy changing station or the top of a chest of drawers that you already have. What’s important is that it’s a good height for you to change the baby on, or you could in fact, just change the baby on the floor on a changing mat that you push under the cot when you’re not using it. You don’t need to go out and buy a new fancy piece of furniture that you can’t use later on, unless, of course, you want to!
Then what about the toys, the accent colours etc? Well, for your newborn, anything that’s further away than about 20-30 cm is too far away for them to see clearly anyway. But, as their eyes get stronger, they will be able to see more, and we want to encourage that. So, pop a mobile above the cot - this will catch the breeze and help your baby to try to track the movement of the pieces (which is the beginning of the skills needed for learning to read). It doesn’t need to be an expensive, fancy mobile (unless of course YOU want that), they’ll be just as happy with a mobile made from pictures cut out of a magazine and stuck on to cardboard (if you want to know more, this is one of the activities in the Oliiki app in the pregnancy activities – making a mobile).
What else goes into the beautifully designed nurseries really is more about room décor than it is about your baby’s development. So think carefully about what you NEED to buy… I promise you, your baby doesn’t need heaps and heaps of stuff, the perfect mural on the wall or hundreds of soft toys unless YOU want it. In fact, if you put too much in the room it stops being a restful place, which after all, just defeats the original purpose! Just like you probably wouldn’t want to sleep in a super busy room full of loads of stuff, neither does your baby.
The perfect birth – well, what can I say… I planned to have my baby in a field of sunflowers with the sunlight behind me, wearing a long flowing white dress and smiling all the while… 3 C-sections later, I have 3 healthy babies. A perfect birth in my book is one where the baby arrives safely and the mum is well, and that’s kind of all you can ask for, I would say.
The perfect baby – ok, that just makes me chuckle… all babies are perfect in their own special way AND none of them are perfect in their own special way! That’s what makes them perfect!
Perfect playroom - this is where my rant actually began. I was on a social media feed where the person unveiled their new nursery.
It was STUFFED full of toys, murals, and things. It was an onslaught to the senses. There was so much stuff in there, that there was nowhere for the children to actually play! Honestly, and I can’t stress this enough, your baby doesn’t need heaps of toys - they REALLY don’t! According to one study from the University of Toledo, Spain, too many toys actually distract from creativity, focus, sustained attention and imaginative play. In their study, the depth and length of play with four toys was better than when a child had 16 toys to choose from.
Perfect bounce-back body – at this point, I’m honestly bewildered… embrace being a mum, be kind to yourself, wear your scars and lumps and bumps with pride. When your last baby turns two, think about doing something, but until then, being kind to you is the most important thing! Obviously, white pasta and butter is STILL delicious at this stage but scoffing it on a regular basis isn’t being kind to you, is it?!!! 😉
Perfect parents – no such thing. There are, however, parents, just like you, that want to do the very best they can for their baby and want to start out on the best foot, giving their baby the best chance in life… those parents often seek help along the way. (Why wouldn’t you?! And that’s where the Oliiki app http://ow.ly/BlJv50zxBum and Oliiki Thrive membership club come in (sign up to the waiting list here http://ow.ly/lwer50AZsXw))
Perfect lives – ok… now I’m laughing out loud! What even is the perfect life? For me, it’s one where we are all IMPERFECT and accept that we’re just doing our very best, we are bumbling along, learning as we are going, making mistakes, trying again and having a bit of fun along the way, surrounded by those who love us and those who we love. I can’t think of a more perfect life, can you?
Right, I’m off to set up my photo shoot for my perfect Instagram shot to go with this blog… 😉