Parenting is tough, but it gets even tougher when we spend too much time comparing ourselves to our own ideal image of what a perfect parent should be. And as much as I love social media, I also know that a constant barrage of perfect images can be discouraging to those of us doing our best every day!
That’s why I love Quaker Canada’s new campaign to #stopCOMPAREnting. It’s time to show the real side of parenting in all its disorganized, wild and wacky glory! So I’ve decided to embrace some of the ways that I will always fall short of reaching my own parenting ideals. These are four reasons I’ll never be a perfect parent…and I’m okay with that!
1) I will not create perfectly balanced, Pinterest-worthy lunches.
I have two boys in school five days a week, which means I pack just under 400 lunches in the course of a year. And I am a little ashamed to admit that I’ve probably ogled twice as many beautiful, themed Bento lunches on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram. From checkerboard cheese to rainbow fruit kababs…who wouldn’t want to surprise their kids with a masterpiece like that?
But let’s get real. I have just over an hour each school morning to make breakfast, make lunches, get my boys dressed, check agendas and get everybody out the door. They’re happy with a wrap, some fruit and a Quaker granola bar, so I am too!
2) I will not let my boys paint in the house.
Make no mistake, I am a big believer in the importance of creativity. In fact, both boys go to the only fine arts school in the province. They are free to sing a song, dance a dance and colour with crayons as much as their creative little hearts desire.
But paint…is…messy. It doesn’t matter how hard they try to keep it clean, I know I’ll be scrubbing paint off places no paint should ever have been for weeks if I let them get those brushes out in the house. They go to a fine arts school. They get plenty of opportunities to paint. I’m saving myself the hassle of having to deal with it.
3) I will not create themed treat bags for every Easter, St. Patrick’s or Groundhog Day party.
I love to cook, bake and put together crafts for kids. I really, really do. And when I have extra time around a holiday, I will sometimes create fun treats for my boys’ classmates. But I do it only when I choose to, because I found an idea that looked too cute not to try or because I had a surplus of baking supplies on hand.
In recent years, my boys seem to come home from school on every holiday with an assortment of elaborate gift bags from classmates. Valentine’s Day almost rivals Halloween as far as their candy haul. I’m A-Okay with that. In fact, I love it and think the parents are superstars. But I probably won’t be taking part. I’ve got other things going on.
4) I will not set hard limits on screen time.
This is one area where I do struggle with finding balance. My boys are in front of a screen more than they should be, and I know it. But at the same time, we now live in a world of technology and with my job, I’m in front of a screen even more than they are. I don’t need to set a to-the-minute guideline for the time my boys spend playing silly games or watching their favourite YouTube stars. I can tell for myself when they’ve been watching too long, since they start getting snappy and irritable. When that happens, screens go off.
But imposing a set time just gives me extra work since I then have to be watching the clock. My boys play with their toys all the time. They play outside. Some days they don’t turn on a screen at all. Other days they spend hours playing video games. It all evens out.
If you’re guilty of comparing yourself to those perfect parenting images online, it’s time to stop, take a step back and embrace the reality of parenting. Check out the Quaker #stopCOMPAREnting website and enjoy some of the images of real parents in real situations…fun, unscripted, fantastic situations! And don’t forget to share your own real parenting images on your favourite social network using the #stopCOMPAREnting hashtag!
As much as I’ve sometimes wished I could be as perfect a parent as the ideal images I see every day, I’m even more proud of the parenting I’ve managed, imperfections and all. My boys are polite, friendly and outgoing children that regularly receive compliments on their behaviour from adults. They are both strong students with above-average reading ability. They’re active and love meeting new people. Zackary is scatterbrained (a trait he gets from me), and Benjamin whines more than he should. But overall, I could not be prouder of my two guys. And I figure such great kids must mean I’m doing a pretty good job!