Fiona McCade: Perfect Parents - give the rest of us a break
WHEN my son was a baby, we used to go to a play group. Most of the parents, and their kids, were lovely, but there was one woman who was more than lovely. She was perfect.
Not only was she the most Perfect Parent on the planet, her son was perfect, too. Right from day one, he had never been a moment’s trouble. He always slept right through the night, adored all forms of organic vegetable purée, and even on cloudy days, the sun shone out of his every orifice. Not since first century Galilee had there been such a child.
Whenever Mrs Perfect regaled us with stories of her joyful life, I tried smiling and nodding – I really did – but there was more to my dislike of this woman than simply being envious because, unlike her little cherub, my child never slept more than three hours at a time, spat out everything but breast milk, and wouldn’t stop squawking long enough for me to take a breath. You see, the bottom line was … I simply didn’t believe her.
Now, years later, I finally feel vindicated. According to a survey of 11,000 parents by the Netmums website, over 30 per cent have lied that their child never wakes in the night and over 60 per cent have told porkies about how they have no problems with sleep deprivation.
I knew it! I KNEW it! And if this many parents are admitting to fibbing about sleep-issues, can you imagine all the thousands out there who haven’t yet been able to bring themselves to ‘fess up about their other struggles?
I may feel better, but I still can’t understand this type of parenting one-upmanship. After all, who does it help?
Perfect Parents, please, do us all a favour and come clean. So long as you’re hiding behind a façade, in total denial and kidding everybody – and yourself – that everything’s OK, you’ll never be able to ask for support when you need it. Meanwhile, your stories of perfection, however improbable, make all the mere mortals around you feel even more depressed and inadequate than they did before. It’s a very vicious circle.
I can’t work out when parenting became a competition. Who is judging us? Where is the pressure to be perfect coming from? I don’t see it in the media, or in everyday life. On the contrary, most people seem to assume that parenting is tough and as a result, there’s loads of help and camaraderie to be had out there. So why doesn’t everybody gratefully receive it?
I can only assume that the Perfect Parents were crazy, driven, over-judgmental over-achievers in their pre-parenting lives and, as a result, can’t possibly concede that a helpless little creature, barely the size of a rugby-ball, could bring them sobbing, to their knees, in the wee small hours of every morning. They can’t allow themselves to show weakness in any shape or form. Either that, or they all have live-in nannies.
Me, I’m up for showing weakness. Heck, I’ll parade my frailty around town with multi-coloured sparklers on, if it’ll get me some succour. Every parent needs a hand at one time or another and I don’t see any shame in either asking for, or taking, help where it’s offered.
Honesty gets you tea, sympathy and the support of a lot of people going through pretty much the same thing. Lying just makes potential friends smile, nod and give you a very wide berth.
The fact is that bringing up baby isn’t a level playing field and luck of the biological draw plays a bigger part than many people might be prepared to admit. Every child has a different set of problems. What’s easy for one can be hard for another – that’s life – but one thing’s for sure: no child is problem-free, whatever their parents might say.
All you can do is help your child along and accept that they will develop in their own time and no faster. Point-scoring is meaningless, because every child is unique, so just relax, enjoy the good times, endure the bad, and as long as you do your best, you’ll be OK.
Remember, nobody’s perfect.
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