I often wonder if the parents of my generation are the first parents to feel like they are under so much immense pressure. This isn't to say parents of previous generations didn't feel it, but not to this degree. When I was a kid growing up, the internet didn't exist yet. There was no social media. If our house wasn't immaculate no one really knew (it usually was, my mom had a cleaning issue). I wore second hand clothes. I let myself in off the bus. I didn't wear a lot of sunscreen. My pediatrician and my grandmothers were probably all the parental advice my parents got.
Fast forward 30 years. Things have changed so very much. All of my kids wear sunscreen, but it's important to choose the right sunscreen. We don't do second-hand clothes. I know where my children are at all times, I even have a tracker on my oldest child's phone. And goodness forbid I post a picture without having cleaned my house first (yup that's laundry in the background. We wear clothes here). We are bombarded by a barrage of parenting books, blogs, seminars, and unsolicited advice from family and sometimes strangers. Even the pediatrician sends out monthly newsletters that are meant to be helpful, but half the time make me feel guilty.
The world we live in now we not only have to be organic, gluten free, dye free, and chemical free, but we should all look like a walking Target ad while we do it. The internet is filled with filters and "extra" moms. People throw parties when their child loses their first tooth. Every picture of the party is captured in the most flattering lighting. The entire family matches and everyone's hair is perfectly quaffed. My life does not look like that. And if we're not careful, we can start to feel like our lives aren't adding up either.
Our social media lives make us feel as if we HAVE to go over the top with everything. We're all competing with each other to throw the best party, make the best cakes, have the cleanest home. And if you feel like that brings satisfaction to your life I won't knock you. But if you just don't have the time, or you're not the best baker, please DO NOT make yourself miserable by trying to go over the top. It is OK if your cake isn't made from scratch. It's OK if you're exhausted and go to bed early and do the dishes tomorrow. It's OK if you don't want to throw a party when your child loses a tooth. And any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen.
And yet, with all of this competing with each other, it feels like basics are being left behind. I've met a lot of children who have parents who are acing this Instagram world. But many times these children are rude. They are mean to other children. And many more times these parents aren't truly present. They're "capturing" the moment on film, but actually missing the entire moment to get the best photograph. In our fight for perfection we're losing some of our values. Our days are so run by chores, cooking, and activities that we're leaving out basic lessons. Be kind. Be honest. Be loving. Be present.
Does it really matter how many followers you have on social media if your absolutely drained and miserable? Does the clean house give your child better manners? Does looking perfect all the time make your impressionable children feel better about themselves, and teach them to value good hearts over good looks? What price are we willing to pay for perfection?
It's great if you can do all of this. Your children might be little saints and you might still look like a super model who cooks like Rachael Ray and has a house featured on Better Homes and Gardens. Kudos to you if you can pull all of this off and everyone still feels whole and happy. But don't get caught up in the image of your life more than you get caught up in the quality of it. Take care of yourself, mentally and physically. We were not meant to be under the public eye 24/7. Why do you think so many celebrities have issues? Teach your children that it's better to be kind and good than photogenic. Let's raise good people. Let's be good people, not just good pictures.