Honest Mums vs. Perfect Mums

Sam faiersBeing a big fan of trashy reality shows, and a fellow resident of Essex, I was very excited to watch ex-TOWIE star Sam Faiers in The Mummy Diaries last week. In an interview, Sam had promised an honest, warts and all look at her journey as a new mum so I was looking forward to a good dose of realism. Sadly, what I got instead was a glossy advert for how to be the ‘perfect mum’, complete with stain-free clothes, flawless make-up and easy breast-feeding.

I attribute quite a large chunk of my postnatal depression and anxiety to the wildly unrealistic ideas I had about being a parent prior to becoming one. Ideas perpetuated by advertisements, rose tinted friends and family and, apparently, reality TV stars. When I discovered that actually not all births are beautiful and magical, breastfeeding is painful and sometimes impossible and that coping with relentless sleep deprivation is actually a tad different from clubbing until 3am, I came crashing down to earth with a terrified and mentally unwell bump.

I understand that experiencing a mental illness made the first six months of my life as a mum that much more difficult than it is for someone who is well, but the majority of mums I speak to, those who didn’t have PND, still struggled often during those first few months or years. Becoming a parent is an enormous and often unsettling transition, perhaps the biggest of anyone’s life, and coupling that with feelings of worry, isolation and lack of sleep makes it a tough time for many new mums, quite understandably. To make matters worse, our Western culture deprives many parents of the support networks from extended family and community that are often present elsewhere.

‘Perfect mums’ are taking a bit of a battering right now. The recent comedy Bad Moms smashed it at the box office and triggered a wave of knowing chuckles across the globe. Closer to home, the success of awesome books, like The Unmumsy Mum, definitely demonstrate a shift from mothers wanting to portray themselves as always having their shit together to being almost proud of their parenting failings. I absolutely applaud this and I’m a huge advocate for total honesty when it comes to child-rearing. If you’re a friend of mine, and a parent, rest assured that you are one of the awesome, honest ones because I make a conscious effort to only surround myself only with parents who are willing to rant with me about toddler tantrums and, therefore, make me feel better. Parents who judge can judge elsewhere.

On a similar vein there have been some questions raised about how healthy it is to be so negative about parenting, and have we shifted so far in the other direction that boasting about needing wine every night after the kids have gone to bed is a step too far? Maybe. In my mind, it’s all about balance and individuality. One person’s gag-worthy perfect mum moment is another person’s happy place. For example, I love to do creative activities with my son and I know many others who do too. Posting pictures of something my son and I have created on social media may be seen by some as a ‘perfect mum boast’ but the reality is that this is the side of parenting I enjoy where there are many other aspects I don’t. I try to make sure I share reality in this space, and reality is often a combination of rants and triumphs. And vitally, that’s okay.

I want to say thank you to the Good Enough Mums. Those mums who share the good and the bad with honest, frustration-filled words and who stamp their feet with me. Who love their kids with the ferocity of a lioness but admit that they sometimes don’t even like them. You make the bad days bearable and the good days even sweeter.

So do perfect mothers actually exist? Of course not. I strongly believe there must have been at least one moment when Sam Faiers was pacing the living room at 3pm with greasy hair. There just weren’t any cameras there for that, which is a shame. Do mothers attempting to portray themselves as perfect exist? Sadly, yes. My bitter, inner bitch would say these women are doing so with the sole aim of making other parents feel bad but really I’m sure they only act this way because they feel an unbearable pressure from society to hold it all together, and this can’t be good for anyone. Be brave, ‘perfect mums’; let the facade slip for minute and come join me for a cuppa and a cry – you’ll feel better for it.

And as for Sam Faiers, I’m hoping this week’s episode tames down the shiny a little and shows us more of the whole truth. The trailer contained a shot of her baby actually crying, in the night (gasp!), so that’s a positive sign. Showing us a perfect mum life doesn’t help anyone, but showing us the truth can save someone. I’d like more reality in my reality TV, please.

Cuddle Fairy
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37 comments on “Honest Mums vs. Perfect Mums

  1. Love this! I also feel massive pressure to be this perfect mum especially with things like Facebook showing rose tinted versions of people’s lives but I’m right there with you with my current greasy hair and bags under my eyes from no sleep last night! #bestandworst

  2. Of course there is no perfect Mum but it doesn’t stop us all trying to be as perfect as we can manage in our own way. For me that’s cooking good meals for them and not worrying about make up and how I look but we all have our own idea of what’s important and makes us feel good and worthy that’s fine. Oh and yes to the wine, because I enjoy it even if I don’t need it! #BlogggerclubUK

  3. This is really interesting. I haven’t watched TMD yet but I will as I am obsessed with Reality TV & watched The Baby Diaries back in Feb. Personally, I feel that the media/TV producers et al have a responsibility of sorts to portray the real side to motherhood. Like you say the warts an all. I don’t want to see the glamour, the perfection etc, I want to see the struggle to breastfeed, the wake ups throughout the night, the real tough, raw side of it. We’re in an era where everything is glossy, everything is manufactured, lets see the other side and appreciate how hard being a parent is for the celebs, not the ‘front of OK magazine’ type stuff. #bestandworst

  4. I quite agree, I cannot stand to ‘perfect mum’ portrayed by the media because it does add unnecessary stress and pressure to new mums. On the other hand, like you, I sometimes feel like I can’t share my parenting wins as they’re seen by others as ‘perfect mum’ boasting. But I think it would be so much easier to be a mum if we could all just share our wins and fails together, either way xx #bloggerclubuk
    Claire recently posted…Borth Animalarium – a Seaside Town in SeptemberMy Profile

  5. I am somewhere in the middle on this. I do appreciate the blogs that tell you exactly how it is, but I also like the ones that give you something to aspire to. I personally try and keep my blog upbeat – it helps me to think positively and to look for the good things that are happening. I love being a mummy and I strive to give it my best because I know so many people who haven’t had this opportunity. I also think it’s important to protect the children – constantly ranting about how awful your kids are and how hard it is being a mum could have a negtaive impact on your children who feel like you don’t like them or they’re really naughty, when actually they’re just behaving how any child would behave. #BloggerClubUK
    Lucy At Home recently posted…Bloggers Bluff #06: Hooks and DragonsMy Profile

  6. I can’t see how judging other people for being perfect isn’t… in fact… judging.

    Sadly I see more and more mothers complaining about their kids and their lives and telling everybody how much wine they need every night. I can’t imagine their kids would feel good reading this in their 20s or 30s. If parenting is so stressful and horrible, why did they have kids?

    I don’t complain, is this making me “fake”? I think not. I just don’t want to talk about things that annoyed me anyway. If I would have a child, I wouldn’t complain. I don’t say anything bad about my husband, dog, job, house, extended family, so I wouldn’t say how hard it is because the hard and bad moments pass. If someone thinks I do this because I want to make them look bad, that says more about them and less about me.

    We are all different and we should accept that. We are pressuring ourselves, so we can stop that if we want to, or strive to do better if it’s possible.

  7. This is right up my street. I haven’t seen the show but I’m going to try to catch it. I spent too much time reading blogs by perfect mums before having my baby and assumed it would be like this for me. I was wrong! Every mum has the greasy haired pacing at 3am thing. I’m sure the tv show was heavily edited to portray the glossy bits. I tried for ages to be the ‘perfect mum’ then realised I was getting nowhere. Walking to the park with my pyjama top under my coat, greasy hair and socks from yesterday is more realistic. Better that then running yourself ragged. #bloggerclubuk

  8. So true!! I follow an ex blogger on insta and her stories are flipping hilarious. her eldest with no pants on, refusing food and effing and blinding in for good measure. That’s parenthood and it needs to be like that! I must admit I post nice pics online but like the write about both sides. It’s not fair to portray being a parent as perfect…the whole thing is messy, knackering but yet so rewarding!! Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst x
    Sarah Howe @runjumpscrap recently posted…Best and Worst Week #70My Profile

  9. There are far too many pressures to be perfect in every aspect of life, and it can be very deflating if you are just a normal mum hoping to watch The Baby Diaries to see that everyone’s journey on motherhood is kind of similar. We all have struggles and down days – I’ve not yet watched it but it’s recorded. I didn’t like on the advert how they were saying Baby Paul has his first modelling gig – I mean wonderful, he is an exceptionally gorgeous baby but of course he is going to get those opportunities. I would much rather just be a mum. End of the day the outcome is all the same, we do our best 🙂 #bestandworst
    Lex Jackson recently posted…Homemade & Hearty: Slow Cooker Chilli for the Family.My Profile

  10. Such a good post – genuinely felt it could have been written about me! Feels like there’s pressure to be one or the other – perfect or a bad mum with the two groups facing off against each other in a way! What about us good enough mums who like having perfect moments but are also melting down in the middle of the night?! Especially for new mums, it was such a shock to me to find out that breastfeeding ISNT as easy as they make out in the movies. Made my first few months such hard work! #bloggerclubuk
    Devon Mama recently posted…The Six Stages of Making New Mum FriendsMy Profile

  11. I’m sure Sam has bad days when she hasn’t washed her hair etc. but if you’re going to be filmed you’re going to make sure you look good and to be honest she’s probably got a hair and make up person there before they start filming! It would be nice to see a bit more of normality, but the glossy stuff sells sadly! #BloggerClubUK
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  12. There is nothing I love more than speaking to another parent and realising that theyve been through the same or a similar experience with their children to me. Those are the moments that you need when you feel like your failing as a parent, or you feel like youre the only one that has certain parenting challenges or experiences. Its all about balance, I love seeing those picture perfect moments of families and little ones, but I equally love seeing the follow up picture two minutes later showing the same angelically smiling child on the floor throwing a tantrum, because I can relate to both 🙂 Emily #BloggerClubUK

  13. Oh you are so so right – reality in our reality TV – it’s a shame as I thunk more people would have respected her for being more honest – I didn’t watch the programme but I know that mums are the most supportive sympathetic group and they would certainly have sympathised with Sam and not criticised. Maybe the next one will be more real – here’s hoping. Great post! #BloggerClubUK

  14. I’m all for honest motherhood and think it’s really important, some days I have my s**t together and that feels great, other days i don’t and that doesn’t feel so great, we’re all in this together and need to support each other through it. Really enjoyed reading your post #sharingthebloglove

  15. I think the problem is that nobody would watch Sam Faiers with greasy hair, huge eye bagsm having a total meltdown (like me most days) so no matter how ‘honest’ it is always going to look perfect! I do feel lucky to be a parent now, in the time of the unmumsy mum, where people feel they can talk honestly about how rubbish it can be. I like to feel I write honestly – I made some play dough yesterday (the perfect pinterest mum that I am :-P). It took 3 hours and I neglected my child the entire time. Thankfully my husband is at home on half term to parent! #sharingthebloglove
    chocolateandwineandillbefine recently posted…Autumn Play Dough IdeasMy Profile

  16. I agree it’s all about Good Enough Mums as far as I’m concerned – perfect mums boo! But over negative mums not good either. As with everything in life, it’s about striking that balance and keeping it real. Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely x

  17. I’m totally want more Good Enough Mum’s in my life – you need that balance! It does women a disservice to pretend that birth, breastfeeding and becoming a parent is all smooth sailing. It’s a really interesting one – I do think that society wants to see perfect mums with glossy hair, and if that’s what brings in the viewers I get why they’ve gone that route. But I think the real nature of things is a big part of why bloggers are so appealing – that they’re relateable, and tell it like it is, the good and the bad – and there is definitely a big appetite amongst mothers to know that there are other women going through the same ups and downs as them. Thanks so much for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

  18. I weirdly wanted to watch that show too, having been glued to the Sam & Joey TOWIE days. I agree, I’d kind of like to see Sam rocking with vom on her shoulder but I guess that’s not the TOWIE way to approach anything!
    Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub
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  19. HI Laura – so much of this resonated with me, as I too have battled PND with my 1st and yes, unrealistic expectations were certainly a huge chuck of the reason behind it. With a teeny bit of wisdom after 6 years and 4 kids, I wonder why mums just can’t be real with each other – we all know what its really like, so why cant we just be honest and share the tough stuff and messy bits!!!

    Im yet to watch mummy diaries as I love a bit of trashy TV too!! xx #bestandworst

  20. Good Enough Mums are the best! I watched the show and yes it was all shiny and made to look like a breeze. There was a hint that she was struggling when her son wasn’t settling and she was meant to be in an interview and I felt that they edited out the bad bit. The bit were she was pacing up and down outside trying to get him to sleep. But then I guess that doesn’t make good TV! It will definitely be interesting to see how the series develops. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove x
    Laura – dear bear and beany recently posted…Sharing the Blog Love…#17My Profile

  21. You’re so right. If people manage to live a perfect life then fine, but it shouldn’t be portrayed as something that everyone can manage. There are so many factors which determine how well a mum / family will cope with a new baby. Having loads of family to help or money to pay for help (as I would suspect this Sam lady might – cleaners, nanny’s, nightnurses?) make a massive difference. People shouldn’t feel bad for having help but shouldn’t make it appear that they’ve done it all single-handedly. It creates a completely false image. Like you, the reality shocked me and continues to shock me. I love being with my daughter and enjoying our time. But good grief it can be hard… Thanks for writing a great post which calls all this out! #CoolMumClub
    Angela Watling recently posted…I really love being a mummyMy Profile

  22. Love this and I’m actually writing about it at the moment for a website I write for. It seems that there really is a divide with some portraying the perfect life and others portraying a horrific life as a parent. For me, it’s all about finding the right balance. I don’t want to read somebodies account of life that I know full well isn’t true, nobody loves EVERY SINGLE MOMENT of being a parent, and everyone loses their sh*t sometimes, but at the same time I don’t want to hear somebody calling their child a d*ck or riding on this “trend” of slagging off your kids. Neither are honest, and neither make for good reading. The blogs I love are the ones that I can laugh with, sympathise with and that warm my heart all at the same time. Great post.
    five little doves recently posted…#minichefs Num Noms challenge – Review and Rocky Road recipe!My Profile

    1. This is literally what I was about to comment. I am proud of trying my hardest as a Mum, I would never claim to be perfect or make others feel bad for their own choices as a parent, and at the same time I am not going to act as though I hate my own child for site views and facebook shares…. We all have good and bad days, but I feel so lucky to be a Mum when so many who wish they could be can’t be, good days and bad days I will always try to be the best Mum that I can be.

      Stevie x #PicknMix
      A Cornish Mum recently posted…Meet the Parents – A Cornish MumMy Profile

  23. I like the idea of ‘good enough mum’s’. My Instagram pictures are always perfect but if people take the time to read the captions or my blog I’m always honest with my daily struggles. I laughed about the greasy hair because that is my current hair situation. On the good days when I’m coping well I forget how hard it is and think it’s a breeze then I have my hard days and wonder how I’m ever going to survive. I really feel for mum’s that have PND because it must be like having a bad day, every day. I was so worried I would get PND because of suffering depression for 18 years but somehow that disappeared during pregnancy and hasn’t managed to creep back in yet (fingers crossed). I like watching shows like the mummy diaries because I know it’s not real and I like looking at pretty perfect things. I prefer reading the honesty in blogs and Instagram captions because I know that’s real and I can relate.

  24. I agree that motherhood is a series of rants and triumphs. There’s no such thing as perfect – we all have good days and bad days and it irritates me that once again the media seems to want to pit women against each other. Great post. x #coolmumclub

  25. Great post! I’m definitely an honest mum, I love my boy but there are times when being a mummy and dealing with a little person can be very testing and I’m definitely honest about it all! Funny enough the other day I was telling my friends about my bright idea to try and paint at home with my son, which in my head seemed like a great idea – yeh it wasn’t! He didn’t want to wear an apron, he didn’t want to stick things down, instead he wore the paper out painting in one place, he didn’t want help! Kind of similar to my baking idea, another disaster! But I do love these memories as they’re funny and will give me some good stories when he’s older! I do have friends who try to be ‘perfect’ with my angel wakes up at 4am but it’s OK because she’s an angel …erm what, it’s never OK to wake up at 4am!!! I’m also a trash TV addict and have watched The Baby Diaries and I def see what you mean about it being too perfect, but I suppose that’s reality TV for you! x #CoolMumClub
    Jaylan – Diapers at Dawn recently posted…A Mummy’s Winter EssentialsMy Profile

  26. The mummy diaries is a bit pants but as a trash tv addict (what sublimanal messages are they putting on this type of programe) i know il still watch haha. Its not real life is it, wheres the poo and sick and milk vom stained clothes.Also when she said Im a good mum I know I am, yeah youve not had to deal with a toddler yet then wel score the parenting skills 🙂
    I also think sometimes being a not so great mother has become trendy. I try to be a good parent to my boys and do the best I can theres not much else you can do really. #sharingthebloglove
    kris recently posted…From breast to bottle- A Haberman ReviewMy Profile

  27. Brilliant post. I think you’ve just summed up how most of us feel. I didn’t watch the programme you’re talking about but it sounds typical. It’s annoying how we as Mums put our stories out there so we all know we’re not alone for a tv show to come along and try to gloss it over. We’ve had that kind of image in our heads for too many years. Too many years where Mums haven’t spoken up. Now we are that’s how it should stay. Real. Congrats on the featured post. Well deserved. #sharingthebloglove
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  28. I think perfect is in the eye of the beholder. I expect those perfect mums don’t see themselves as perfect. However some do have easier babies and do manage to keep doing the things they used to do. Not everyone finds motherhood hard. Some seemingly perfect mums are being honest (although maybe they’re just portraying the censored bits).

    I’m not maternal at all, didn’t want kids, then decided I wanted to try. I had an extremely easy pregnancy, I was fit and healthy throughout, had a painfree 13 hours induction on a drip, ended up with a cs that was a breeze in the park, with me only having a bit of back ache until I realised that changing a baby leaning over a bed wasn’t the best way to do it. We had 1 really horrendous first night at home before we realised he needed more warmth to sleep, and other than that N was text book waking every 3-4 hours, then sleeping through from 10 weeks. Yes breastfeeding didn’t work, but we tried and I wasn’t worried about not doing it because he was feeding well from a bottle. Yes, he wee’d out of every nappy in the early stages, but he slept (anywhere) and ate well, weaning was easy, was a happy baby and toddler, and settled easily at nursery and then school. We’ve been lucky, we have an easy child who didn’t go through terrible 2s. It’s been an unexpectedly easy ride, but it just worked, even with a pants OH who didn’t do much.

    So I think it’s often unfair to tar all perfect parents as liars. To the outside world, maybe ours seems perfect, but our relationship isn’t what it was with having a family being the only thing that’s changed, and I struggle to get N to do his homework, and he’s certainly not the brainbox at school I was praying for. Oh, and I’m still struggling to lose the 5 stone of baby weight and more I put on nearly 6 years later! People say perfect mothers judge – yes, under my breath I do think ‘I wouldn’t have done that’ or ‘I know what worked for us’, but likewise mums who struggled are judging ‘perfect’ mums too.

    I think a lot of people’s worry about being perfect puts pressure on them. But ultimately, other people can’t put that pressure on you. It’s the way you relate to the outside world. The same as people feeling pressure about being skinny and blaming it on media culture. I’d love to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight, but that’s my choice, my feeling of being healthy and fitting into clothes, nothing to do with media and pretty models – who are just that, models and a fairytale. I don’t aspire to be them. The same as I took parenthood in my stride- it’s just another step, and each mum has it different. I believe it’s a much healthier outlook to take things as they come than to worry in advance and have expectations on how perfect things will be.

  29. I join you in applauding the Good Enough Mothers. No-one gets things perfect. We all have days when we do better than others but ultimately you can only to the best you can do. And shame on all those who make you think otherwise.
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  30. Love honest posts and love this one in particular! We do our best, no need to be perfect. And yes, some things are not as magical and beautiful as people often define them. Breastfeeding didn’t work out for me (God, how painful it could be!), but that was OK. They insisted I should keep trying, I did what I could. That’s it. I am a happy mum, not a perfect one. 🙂 x #SharingtheBlogLove
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  31. Yes to this! i think either end of the scale is what gets publicity at the moment. I too had PND and a lot of it was down to the complete shock at how hard it really is. I try to be brutally honest on my blog, there is a real mix of happy and sad/tough days. I think that’s only normal as a Mum.
    Thanks for linking to #PickNMix
    Eilidh x
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  32. Great post. There really is no such thing as the perfect parent and this portrayal in the media does annoy me as it just makes the rest of us feel inferior. We do have to be careful not to go too far the other way though and it does seem to have become ‘cool’ to talk about how much wine we drink at the end of the night. Parenting is hard and yes sometimes we need to reach for the wine or chocolate at the end of a loooong day, but deep down we wouldn’t change it for the world, because our kids are our world. I defintetly prefer the honest approach when it comes to talking about parenting from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows x
    Alana – Burnished Chaos recently posted…Words To Live By #4: Be CuriousMy Profile

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