If there’s one thing we can all relate to as parents, it’s the fear that we are failing our children. I think it’s something all parents have experienced at some point in our lives, doubting ourselves for the choices we make, the time we spend together, the things we have, and the things we don’t, far too aware of how our lives outwardly appear to others. I know I’m guilty of that absolutely.
And I guess now, with social media so prevalent in our lives, it’s even harder for us to live with these daily comparisons. I only have to scroll through my newsfeed to feel inadequate that my house doesn’t look quite as orderly as others, that my children don’t look quite as angelic, or our meals quite as healthy, that our weekends are not spent foraging for pinecones or icing perfectly golden gingerbread.
And when it comes to Christmas those feelings can become magnified as we are completely inundated with a flurry of photos taunting us on social media. And, this year, I am noticing it more than ever.
Because whilst some of us have spent hours creating the most perfectly decorated trees, hilarious scenes for our naughty elves, and extravagant advent calendars, filled with perfectly wrapped gifts and personalised treats, many of us haven’t.
And that’s okay, we are all different; we all have different ways to celebrate and spoil our children, there’s no right or wrong, no judgement here. But what I find really tough are the countless comments I see from other parents who haven’t gone to these lengths, who say, quite simply, “I feel like a failure.”
I find it incredibly sad that parents are left feeling like failures because they haven’t bought a beautiful wicker hamper and filled it with unique and adorable gifts from Etsy, because they aren’t spending their days creating origami snowmen or hand painting salt dough Santas to hang on their tree. I find it disheartening that others feel they have failed their children because their weekends are spent at home, watching a film in their pyjamas, instead of flocking to the nearest Santa’s grotto, snapping photos of a Winter Wonderland, to share later on Instagram of their #PerfectDay.
It breaks my heart that some parents feel they have let their children down because they didn’t get their hands on this years must have toy, that they aren’t dressed head to toe in matching fair isle pyjamas, that the items they flung into the trolley during the weekly supermarket shop are now somehow deemed as inadequate.
I find it desperately sad that we are measuring our success as parents in comparison to others.
Because the truth is, being a parent is bloody hard work and there is already way too much pressure on us to keep up with the crowd. And as a blogger it’s impossible to escape from, surrounded by beautiful social media accounts and creative yummy Mummies, and I’ll hold my hands up and admit that it does leave me questioning my own efforts. I find myself aimlessly scrolling through instagram, admiring beautiful flat-lays of book advents, 24 individually wrapped books to open each day, and extravagantly designed nativity costumes, hand sewn or expensively bought (a pillow case and a tea towel on the head no longer cuts the mustard apparently).
And then there’s the goddam Elf, an irritating little sprite which takes over our lives for 24 days of the year, which initially seemed like a harmless bit of fun but now, all of a sudden, there’s Elf outfits and vehicles, there’s multiple Elves, one in every colour, there’s websites and Facebook groups, a whole array of time consuming, and often expensive, ways to create a tableau of mischief every morning for the children.
And like we didn’t have enough on our plates already with Christmas stockings and an ever growing list of gifts, we now have the Christmas Eve boxes to contend with – hampers which have escalated from new pyjamas and a DVD in an empty shoe box to carefully whittled wooden crates, embossed with individual names, filled with an array of festive goodies, beautifully illustrated books, luxury cocoa and hand made marshmallow snowmen.
And all of it, every little extravagance, is shared across social media. But for whose benefit?
Because in all honesty it feels like it’s not for our children’s benefit at all, or even really for ours. It feels like it’s very much for others to see just how wonderful we are as parents, how impressive our celebrations are together, to portray our lives in a way that is certainly ‘instagrammable’, but is completely and utterly lost on our children.
The truth is, I know that my children couldn’t care less if their Christmas pyjamas are presented in a Tesco carrier bag or a hand made wicker basket; whether they receive a bundle of expensive gifts in their stocking or a 3 pack of Kinder eggs; whether our Christmas tree is hand grown and imported from Lapland or dragged down from the attic covered in cobwebs; if their Christmas presents are wrapped in left over birthday wrapping paper or cocooned in a flurry of tissue, ribbons and bows.
And yet the truth is it wouldn’t look quite as lovely plastered across social media, would it?
And so I guess the important thing to remember is this: whether you buy your children just a handful of presents or a thousand perfectly wrapped presents; whether your Elf on the shelf is zip wiring down your stair case in a carefully fathomed miniature pulley system, or simply eating Nutella from the jar for the fifth year running; whether your children are wearing hand-made angel costumes, made from twenty layers of finest tulle, or rustling across the stage in a bin bag; in every Pinterest fail and non-instaworthy moment, with every burnt mince pie, and every over-tired post Christmas party melt down….
You are enough.
So lets just stop comparing, let’s stop competing, and let’s just cut ourselves some slack. Remember that everything we see on social media is just one tiny snippet of a day, one moment in time that others want us to believe, and isn’t necessarily a true reflection of our lives at all. Remember that some people have far more time, far more money and prefer to celebrate far more extravagantly than others. Remember that sometimes we share those moments out of pride, out of guilt, out of habit, out of a need to compete with our peers, or seek affirmation that we aren’t failing our children after all.
And sometimes we share those photos simply because we live in a world where we share every aspect of our lives, so why shouldn’t we share the good times too? It’s not about bashing those who do it, or even looking to blame them for our own feelings of inadequacy. It’s about realising that actually, none of it matters if we just focus on our own families, and our own celebrations, and remember that regardless of all the money in the world, all the opportunities we can provide and the presents we can lavish, the very best gift we can give to our children is time, and love, and being enough.
And you are.