The illusion of the perfect parent
There is no perfect parent. There is no parent that has it all together. So why do we pretend that there are? Why are we as parents so quick to judge other parents?
We have gotten to a place where at times being a parents can feel so isolating. We are inundated with facebook photos of our friends' "perfect family" causing us to feel that no one has similar struggles. Well they do.
I am always acutely aware of this judgement and the expectations that parents have of other parents. Working with families for 13 years I have heard their struggles and their fear of being judged (by other parents and by me). Even as a parenting coach I am aware that I may be judged harshly because after all "I should know better". But just like everyone else parenting coaches have bad days, parenting fails, and do and say the wrong things at times. These moments are important, they are human. If these things didn't happen to me I wouldn't be able to relate to my clients. Trust me...I am in the trenches with you.
This strive for perfection is doing more harm than good. We are stressed and feeling incompetent. We forget that all of those perfect pictures posted on social media are just a short moment in time. This isn't an accurate depiction of another person's life. This doesn't show the argument that had with their spouse, or the tantrum that was very real 5 minutes before that amazing family picture was taken. We are inundated with only the positive causing us to feel that when we have hard times, this is not the norm. For those posting only the amazing pictures, they may be feeling the pressure to keep up the image of their life that has been created.
So why does this matter? It matters because it impacts us, which then impacts our parenting. It causes us to feel isolated. Parents are anxious to share their struggles because everyone else looks like they are managing just fine. It causes us to feel anxious, to second guess every step, to feel isolated and lonely. All of this will pour into our parenting. Parenting from a place of insecurity and anxiety can cause us to respond to our children in ways we didn't intend to. We aren't focusing on our children, their needs, and their best interests when we are driven by our own fears, anxieties, and issues.
This world of social media is the world we live in but it doesn't have to negatively impact us. There are some easy things to do, to allow you to keep it all in perspective. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1) Social Media profiles are not a full picture of someones life. When you find yourself comparing your life to your friend's life as depicted on Facebook, take some time to remember that this is a snapshot of what they chose to share. EVERYONE has struggles, bad days, and real life moments, even if they aren't sharing them with the world.
2) Reduce social media use. If you are still having a hard time try getting off of social media for a bit to see if you feel any differently. Maybe after a week off you have a better perspective on how it is impacting you. Maybe you need to make adjustments to who you follow.
3) Connect with people in person. Find a group, call your friends, connect with people in real life. Face to face interaction is so important. Get support and connect with someone in real life. This is the key to helping us all feel less isolated and to having more honest and open relationships. It is hard to hide behind a computer screen when we are face to face with other. Even phone calls are a great way to touch base and feel connected.
4) Keep it real. Be honest and genuine. Share the good and the bad. I am not suggesting you spill every detail of every bad thing that has happened but it is OK to acknowledge a struggle. Share your challenges and successes. If you do this those around you will too.
5) Focus on you and your family and not other people's perception of you. This can be tough. Stay in the moment and focus on what is right in front of you to avoid worrying about what others will think of you. There will always be someone who doesn't agree with something you are doing or saying. That is OK. That is what makes life and people interesting. Focus on yourself will also help you decrease any chance of you judging another parent.
As parents we need to support one another and life each other up. Whether we agree or disagree we are all doing the best we can in this very moment. We all mess up. We are all human. So let's offer support instead of judgement. The reality is that you never really know someone else's whole story.
Claudia Glassman is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Registered Play Therapist, and Parenting Coach who offers one on one coaching services. Claudia is passionate about helping parents find joy and gain confidence in their parenting abilities. Her vision is to share her knowledge and bring awareness to the importance of the relationship that we have with our children.