Eimear Hutchinson: Smoke and mirrors when it comes to parenting

Sometimes, it is easy to think, as a parent who might be struggling or worried, that everyone else has their lives pulled together perfectly. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, says EIMEAR HUTCHINSON
Eimear Hutchinson: Smoke and mirrors when it comes to parenting

OPENING UP: It's good to talk to other parents, as more than likely they have experienced what you are going through. Picture: Stock

A FEW conversations recently have really made me stop and think about the impact of ‘smoke and mirrors’ in parenting. Among close friends or family we may let slip our different difficulties but for the most part (I think!) we all want to present an image of ourselves that looks like we have everything under control. 

I was chatting with a close friend who has a small baby and is still bogged down in those first few months of pure chaos. It’s funny how a simple question can trigger the opening of a flood gate but trigger it did and an interesting conversation ensued. She had an idea that everyone else had their lives as a parent pulled together, that other parents were calm and collected whereas she was filled with worry and self-doubt and she was struggling a little bit with that. It’s easy to pull this narrative together in your head especially when you’re tired, I have done it and I still get caught out. 

We don’t need to be parents of small children to sometimes court the idea that outwardly others seem to have a far better handle on life than we have and it can be a very depressing and also untrue conclusion to arrive at.

When you feel like everyone else is far more together than yourself it can be a very isolating place to find yourself in. Opening up the conversation can be tricky because none of us want to let anyone else think we’re struggling as parents, new or old. We don’t say to expectant mothers that the first few months can be tough, that your hormones may be all over the place and the tiredness can be debilitating and when they find themselves there it can be utterly confusing.

I’m going to sound rather old fashioned in saying that when I had my first baby almost eleven years ago smart phones and internet connectivity were still very much in the throes of the beginning of life as we know it now. Instagram didn’t exist, Facebook had the stronghold but the way people posted and consumed content online was different. I don’t feel like we were bombarded with images of picture perfect motherhood or endless reams of information and more importantly the draw we have to our phones now certainly didn’t exist ‘way back’ then! 

And for that I am very glad because if I felt pressure from every side to be perfect I think I may well have buckled under it.

I suppose like anything in life, whether that perception comes from what you see online or in reality, a lot of what you perceive is based on what you assume. You could see someone driving down the road in a new car and assume they’re doing well for themselves. You could see someone’s kitchen on Instagram looking perfect and wonder how they don’t have sippy cups or crumbs or Lego all over the counters. Recognising that we sometimes assume the best for others and the worst for ourselves comparatively is very important. We have the power to change the narrative by not dwelling on the comparison or simply not believing the initial view that we see. Instagram, in particular has, promoted a slew of people projecting perfection with filters and square lens dictations of how their lives are perfect but you can be sure there is a pile of Lego and sippy cups swept to the side and just out of shot.

It is not always easy to advise people who are caught in a cycle of feeling a little bit down and whose feelings of unhappiness are perpetuated by what they see in other people’s lives. We are conditioned into thinking, perhaps as a byproduct of covid, that our phones are the social outlet we always craved. I don’t believe they are, but it’s taken me time to work that one out. We need time out to give ourselves the headspace to think about what we want and not be constantly influenced by what we see out there in the world.

The two pieces of advice I gave my friend, things that have worked for me so they might not work for others, were to firstly consider picking up a book instead of the phone for some escapism. 

It’s less likely to send you spiralling down a rabbit hole of worry that is hard to claw your way back out of. And the other piece of advice, which I’ve written about before, is to give yourself the time to take the focus off others and be grateful for your own life. I put a huge amount of value in taking a few minutes in the day to be grateful for what I have. I take the time to do it on my walk with the dog, I could listen to a podcast or music but instead I listen to the birds and the little waterfall and I consider my luck. We may not have a picture perfect home but it is a happy, healthy home and that to me brings a sense of fulfilment that leads me to draw few comparisons with others.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more