Family Health

Pinterest parenting: How millennials are facing overwhelming pressure to be perfect parents

They won’t be parents until next spring, but Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are leaving nothing to chance. Over the weekend, it was reported that the couple – who are around 12 weeks pregnant – have already hired a top parenting coach in the shape of Connie Simpson. If nothing else, Harry and Meghan are determined to do everything right for their (very) little one.

Elsewhere in their blue-blooded orbit, new mums Pippa Middleton and Vogue Williams have made the whole parenting thing look practically Pinterest-perfect. Mere days after giving birth last week, serene and coiffed Pippa looked decidedly unlike a woman who had birthed something the size of a watermelon. Howth-born Vogue, meanwhile, returned to work as a DJ at the O2 Arena in London, sporting enviable abs a month after giving birth to son Theodore. But the working mum showed that she is only human (or rather, superhuman), doing double breast-pump duty before going to work. They’re not like us, these starry types, but there certainly seems to be a commonality to the millennial parenting experience. Where once a 70s/80s mum could chain smoke Rothmans in the car with impunity and boot kids out into the nearest patch of neighbourhood green until dusk, today’s parents seem bound by an entirely new set of norms and expectations. Adding insult to injury, an overload of information and the cult of perfection and parenting means that there could well be such a thing as being overly prepared.

As Vogue magazine posited this year, “millennials are the most tech-savvy generation in human history, and the most anxious. Coincidence?”.

Laura Doyle (30), a podcaster/writer for FamilyFriendlyHq.ie (and on lovelifeandlittleones.com), certainly thinks so. The mum-of-four (Kyle, 9, Noa, 4, Briar, 2 and Milla, 1) says that the wealth of parenting information available, coupled with the rise of ‘performative’ parenting on social media, has created a unique set of demands on today’s parents.

“We’re the generation who will scroll through Google instead of going to the GP, or scroll through dozens of parenting particles on Facebook everyday,” Doyle says. “You see so many new mum bloggers back in shape, wearing full make-up, out and about, and new mums think that’s the way it’s meant to be. Everyone is performing – they’re showing their best side, even if they are posting about something negative,” she adds. “I don’t think you’d find a person who will show the truly raw side of things.”

Joanna Fortune, parenting expert and author of 15-Minute Parenting, notes: “Millennial parents have access to more information about raising children than any generation before. One might think this is a great help to parents today and there are certainly gains to it, but it also drives this need to feel you are getting it all right all of the time. Parenting is not about perfection, indeed many would support me when I say perfection isn’t good enough, good enough is good enough.”

Much of the emphasis on the online bush telegraph, as well as the pressures of social media, have supplanted the traditional face-to-face support that many previous generations enjoyed.

“It really does take a village and, before, you might have been able to get help from a family member or neighbour, but now so many people find their primary support online,” observes Doyle. “It can be a very lonely situation.”

Yet in the millennials’ ongoing quest for perfectionism, there lies a serious roadblock. Financial pressures – a stew of rising property prices, zero-hour contracts, gig economy pitfalls and a treacherous work-life balance – has also affected parenting.

“A lot of working mothers definitely feel this kind of guilt,” affirms Doyle. “You feel bad not spending time with your children, you end up overcompensating with a trip to Smyths on the weekend and you have them in every activity going because you have work, which obviously comes at a price.”

Doyle also observes that the enthusiastic scheduling of children’s after-school activities is reflective of a generation keen to give their offspring every advantage possible in early life.

“Millennial parents tend towards structure because they are juggling multiple tasks (career, family, friends, hobbies) all at once, so tend towards strict schedules and rely on routine to achieve this. Of course this is difficult to sustain,” observes Fortune.

As mum to two-year-old Sienna, make-up blogger Grace Mongey recalls that she consciously decided to swim against the tide with a more laid-back approach.

“I never put that much pressure on myself to be perfect,” she recalls. “I never stuck with milestones or talk about ‘this is the way to do it’ – rather, I just went with my gut.

“I think people appreciate the realness if I ever mention my daughter on social media. I was on Instagram Stories the other day and Sienna had peed all over the place. I certainly wasn’t sugar-coating it.”

Fortune advocates the ‘good enough’ approach to parenting. “My book is about supporting parents to engage in 15 minutes of mindful play a day with their children,” she says.

“This is right now, in the moment, screen free, person to person time. My book is built on the premise that good enough is good enough and that small changes will make big differences in family life.”

Still, Mongey acknowledges that being laid-back is less the rule and more the exception when it comes to her generation of parents.

“I think people are completely confused and overwhelmed, and all the information seems to contradict the other information,” she notes. “As parents, we can seem advanced but it’s a catch-22. I’m scared to think about a time when Sienna is 20, and what life will be like for her then.”

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