A comment I get quite a lot from people is that we’re making parenthood look easy. From a quick glance at my social media feeds, it’s not difficult to see why. My Twitter and Instagram are full of blissful, beaming baby selfies, adorable moments I’ve managed to capture, and ‘baby style’ posts, on days when I’m genuinely chuffed with what SB is wearing. My Facebook isn’t much different – I whinge about my own life (health is the subject du jour right now), but when it comes to parenting, it’s very rare you’ll see a complaint. Even when you do, it’s usually an observation on the less glamorous side of parenting – baby poo in my hair, being late for uni because of last minute baby sick disasters, sloppy drooly ‘kisses’ all over every inch of bare skin she can find – that sort of thing.
So I suppose, in a way, we make it look easy to the outside world. But is it really easy? My immediate instinct was to say yes.
SB is a dream baby. There’s no two ways about that; everyone says it, we aren’t going to deny it – we’re incredibly lucky with her. She’s got such a perfect temperament; very laid back and happy. She fits with our routine, doesn’t go crazy if we mess it up a little, giggles at everything. She’s slept through the night since about two months old, is very rarely ill, loves her food and is taking to finger foods like a dream, socialises happily, has very little separation anxiety, beams and waves at everyone she sees and is just, in general, a delight to be around. So if we’re making it look easy, a lot of it is because we have an incredibly easy baby – I’m not sure it gets much easier than this!
But also, I think our attitudes account for a lot of it. While D can be very anxious, he’s also incredibly organised, and loves everything to be in its place. This has rubbed off on me a little, and so we’ve both been quite successful at babyproofing. In the same vein, I’m quite laid back and happy to go with the flow – I don’t like making solid plans unless I absolutely have to. That flexibility has really come in handy with the unpredictable events having a baby can throw at you, and I think some of it has rubbed off on D, to make him a little more laid back too. We’re accepting of the fact that plans change, we don’t let it get us down. Equally, we know the importance of good time management, and being prepared well in advance.
A lot of people are very surprised when they hear that we are living two hours away from family, and so for the most part, we’re coping with parenthood as a couple. We can’t take all the credit for that, though – SB goes into nursery five days a week, while we go to uni and get our work done. We definitely wouldn’t be able to carry on with university without the nursery, and so that’s a major part of us ‘making it look easy’.
To some extent, it’s selective posting too. Of course there are times, in the grip of teething or during illness, when SB is massively unsettled, and screams constantly, and nothing can calm her. There are times when she is clingy and can’t be put down, and times when she needs constant entertainment. Most of the time, I use that flexibility again and just go with it – there’s no point fighting against it, so may as well drop what I’m doing and go with what SB needs. However, there are some times we just can’t do that. Times where we’re working against the clock to get university work done, or just trying to grab something to eat because we’ve not eaten all day, and it does get tough. Tears have been shed, and not just the baby’s. The thing is, I don’t post about that on Facebook or Twitter. The majority of my Facebook friends don’t want to read about all that stuff – if they’re the sort that don’t mind, I’ll send them a private message about it to vent instead. I post about it on the blog, because it’s not clogging up anyone’s timeline, it’s not right there where you can’t ignore it – you can choose to read, or you can choose not to.
I’d be inclined to think that after reading my blog, people might not be so sure that I make it look easy. In fact, I probably make it sound harder than it really is. A lot of what I read about parenthood when I was pregnant REALLY didn’t get it right for us, and we’ve found some of the biggest challenges to be smooth sailing. In the same vein, there are other areas – finger foods, for one – that others can just sail through, that we really struggled with. We ended up not doing baby-led weaning with SB because we were both so paranoid about her choking – it’s only in the last month that we’ve really started to introduce the finger foods, to the point where now, I feel confident giving her some fruit, or a rice cake. And again, the anxiety and fear isn’t something I’ll post about on Facebook – you’d simply see a picture of SB munching on a biscotti, and think “God, that’s another parenting obstacle they’ve just soared through”.
There’s a huge difference between making something look easy, and actually finding it easy. I do worry sometimes that, if I do only post about the good times and the easy bits, I could be seen as promoting teenage pregnancy – and, although I don’t regret anything, and it has worked out fairly easily in comparison to most for us, I wouldn’t advocate for starting a family until you are ready and actually want to have children.
It’s hard to strike that balance between making something an entertaining read, being brutally honest, and hiding the truth – I feel like a good blog needs to be painfully honest, but funny too, and the balance is not an easy one to reach without coming across like you’re either playing for laughs, or suggesting that being a young parent is smooth sailing with no obstacles at all.
If I could go back and find all the drafts of statuses I never posted, and the tired potential Instagram selfies I deleted, I think it would tell quite a different story – still a perfectly happy, healthy baby with all the positive traits I described above, but with a mother who is maybe a little more honest and a little less desperate to prove she’s coping. I wish it hadn’t taken me this long to realise that we don’t need smiling pictures or jubilant statuses to show people we’re coping – the proof is in our daughter, and it doesn’t get more definitive than that.