I would like to start this piece by issuing a warning to you all, I am well and truly up on my soap box for this one, there will be ranting and there will be raving – the reason for this is because a) as usual I am suffering from sleep deprivation and b) because I am sick to death of parenting research. Right now, I am fed up with parenting statistics.
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There I have said it.
I help run a parenting website and I am sick to death of people that want to research and pontificate, on parenting trends and insights– why you may ask, do I have this irrational hatred?
Because we are all different, people!
And I feel that when it comes to parenting specifically, to generalise or try and group parenting concerns and trends, is dangerous because it leaves some parents on the fringe of these generalisations and that leaves them feeling marginalised, isolated and alone – a lethal combination.
So the latest research from the Baby Show hits us with the statistic that 68% of the 1,176 parents they interviewed “secretly struggle when they become new parents”. No shit, Sherlock!
The only shocking thing about this statistic, is that it is not higher.
I would say 100% of people that become parents struggle at some stage. Anyone that says otherwise is lying so they, by default, fall into the “secretly struggling” part of this statistic and contribute to it as well.
I also don’t believe that it is just when you become a “new” parent that you struggle. I have 2 bundles of joy and I found becoming a mother for the second time, more of a shock than I did first time around, I think mainly because I assumed that second time around must be easier than the first, for the simple reason that I had already been there, done that and bought the t shirt.
NO, was the answer.
Turns out, I found the shock from 1 to 2 bigger than from 0 to 1 and the additional juggling of logistics doesn’t help matters.
The most disturbing factor for me in the Baby Show research is that 21% of the people that thy interviewed had “lied to their friends and family about coping well with parenthood to save face”. To save face…
Why, oh why, has parenting turned into some sort of competition?
Part of the reason I think is that families are far more disparate than they once were. Back in the day you lived on the same street as your Auntie, round the corner from your cousin and often in the same house as your mother. Now, parents are often separated from their familial support network and have to look elsewhere for support, often from strangers initially, who they hope over time, will become friends.
As we all know, first impressions are everything and so often with these new relationships, it is hard to be up front and honest about how you are actually coping. Additionally, to go on line and admit your deepest darkest parenting worries to a faceless forum, is often too much for many to contemplate so instead they tow the party line and battle on in private.
I also think that the way that brands and companies phrase their research questions has a huge impact on how parents answer them and the subsequent results that are fed out into the media.
For example: “Do you struggle with parenting?” is a very different question to “At times have you ever found aspects of parenting, to be a struggle?”.
A parent might, in truth, answer “yes” to both but when asked “Do you struggle with parenting?” Yes? Or No? To answer yes would make many parents feel like a failure so, rather than answer truthfully they tow the line and say “No” implying they are super Mum/Dad.
The same goes with friends and family. If a friend says “Wow, it is so great little Izzy is a dream and has slept through from day one, how’s Jack getting on?” you’re probably not going to admit that the little shit is up 8 times a night, feeding on demand, co – sleeping at will and turning you bat – shit crazy, are you?
So brands and companies, when you go out and do your research take a minute to think about what your findings might say to those left on the fringes of it. Remember you are dealing with a hormonal, emotional, sleep deprived bunch so please think carefully about how you pontificate on how we are coping.
Can we take a step back from all the research, all the evidence, all the advice and just accept that every parent is different. One size does not fit all. Everyone has different coping mechanisms, tolerance levels and support in their parenting journey so let’s not try and lump us all in together.
Different is good. Struggling is good, it shows you’re human. We are all in this together, doing the best job we can and that is good.