When you become a parent, from the moment you start trying to conceive, there is an unbelievable amount of pressure to be a “perfect parent”, whatever that is….and so much guilt…all the guilt. As a woman with type 1 diabetes I have had even more pressure on me from when I was a girl of 12 years old, being told that I would never have babies, and if I dared, they would be born dead or deformed.
I proved them wrong.
But for all of us, there is pressure loaded on us from so many sides. It may be your family, parents, partner, sister, aunty, friends – often well meaning, but not always well informed – telling you about all of the things you should or shouldn’t be doing and sharing their own experiences which may be completely different to yours.
Then there is the information from media, advertising, social media and the medical profession. One of the worst things I see is all of the advertising that tells you how terrible you are if you have a dirty floor, a messy house, or a kids room that is not loaded with all the latest designer wares.
There are so many potential things that can go wrong, and it is easy to spend your entire pregnancy holding your breath. It doesn’t stop once they are born. Once your little one is here in your arms, there are worries about how to wrap them or whether to wrap them; how to lie them in their cot, or whether to have a cot or not; whether to co sleep or not; how to best carry and transport your baby and whether you should carry them all the time or not; whether to breastfeed or bottle feed, and what to do if that is not working out. There are messages about whether germs are good or bad for them and should you be disinfecting the whole house or sticking them in the dirt….what to dress them in and how to decorate their “space”; when to wean and what to feed them; whether tinned food is ok, or you should grow all of their food, harvest it, cook it and bottle it yourself. Whether to immunise or not and all of the bad things that can go wrong if you do either, or not….what exposure they are having to culture and social activities and over scheduling their time until everyone in the family is exhausted and there is not time for them to just..be….
On and on it goes until they are in child care (and worrying about whether that is good or bad for them), to the choice of kindy and schools, to the time they spend on screens (let’s not even go there), to their ingestion of sugar, or meat, or gluten; to whether or when in fact, they should have a mobile phone (we in fact survived childhood without them); what exposure do they have to online bullies (through those very mobile phones); are they mentally resilient and how to identify and deal with depression and anxiety; to their weight and risks of eating disorders; to monitoring their social activities; their course in life and whether they end up at university or working, or not working….it just never ends.
In the midst of all of this, you live your life with your babies and then suddenly they are children, and finally, they grow up. Yes, despite your choice of clothing, or bedroom design, or swaddling, or pram, or kale vs potatoes, or child care vs family care, or private vs public schools – they grow up. I know because I have one son who is 23 and independent, one who is 18 and one who is 8 – they are all unique, beautiful and human – and none of them had designer bedrooms, or the latest clothes, or expensive prams, or mobile phones in year 5 at school. All of them have eaten sugar and gluten, all of them are immunised, all of them went to child care and public school, and all of them have slept in various states from bassinets, to prams, to their own cot, their own bed, to planted on my face in our bed.
The most critical part of growing a child in my opinion is love and support – unedited, unending, open hearted love and support – and time. Your time and the moments you invest in really seeing your children, in guiding them to their best life, are the most important things you can give as a parent. They will not remember what you fed them as a baby, what they wore or how their room was decorated, unless it was something really cool and exciting like the time where our parents let me and my friends paint and graffiti my bedroom wall before it got renovated – that was something to remember! But what I remember most is the smell of my mother, the crazy jokes of my father, our family camping trips, the smell of a fire in the bush, cold mornings waking up in our camper van, walks in forests, family dinners, watching our favourite shows together, reading books, swimming in the sea on the first day of winter. These are the things that make a life.
When it comes to dropping the guilt – if you want to and can afford to and it makes you all happy – then go as hard as you want to create a styled room and dress your kids in high fashion – the idea here is zero judgement for any choices about these things, and I am not saying everyone should have a home like mine, or parent like me! I strongly support lots of makers and designers who are crafting the most beautiful things for our homes, including our children, and I adore styling my home and creating lovely images. However it should not be a competition or a comparison game.
It would be great if you could also consider sustainability in those choices, with eco friendly, locally made pieces, and adding some vintage and recycled where you can – better for you and the planet. Should you choose to create a very organised room and add some particular pieces to it, you go for it. What I don’t like is when people feel pressure of guilt if they are not doing certain things.
I am putting out the call to #dropthemumguilt and take a look at what really matters. In the current world where there is terror on every channel, we must take time to protect our children from these horrors. We must build resilience, love, passion to make a difference. And this does not come from a perfectly styled bedroom. It comes from time.
Are you with me? Use the hashtag #dropthemumguilt and share your real moments as a parent like this one of Maxwell’s real room in the raw, with love