24 January 2017

Huge welcome to...

Hello! Today I have a guest post from Stephanie (seppicino on Instagram) about the modern face of parenting, take it away!

The Modern Face Of Parenting

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  My own upbringing is testament to this; I grew up in a small town where most of my extended family also lived.  We shared all of the major landmark occasions together; birthdays, Christmases etc. but having parents who both worked full-time, the wider family network was relied upon on a day to day basis, too.  For years, Granny came to ours in the mornings to get me ready for school, aunts and uncles could often be called upon last minute to pick me up from dancing, and of course I’d spend many an afternoon round at a cousin’s house kicking about the garden, end up staying for dinner and getting dropped off home just before bedtime.  That was my ‘village;’ those were the significant people in my life who helped raise me, who’ve shaped who I am and who loved me just like I was their own. 

Fast forward a couple of decades and I’m now a mum myself to two young boys, grappling with the day to day of family logistics and have found myself distinctly without so-called ‘village.’  Not in theory of course, all of those people who were there for me growing up are still there, but like many others of my generation, I reached the university stage of life and skipped town - or in my case; the country.  I grew up in Northern Ireland but have lived in England (previously Liverpool, now London) for almost 14 years.  My Australian husband has been in the U.K. for over 11 years now, so unlike my parents before me, I have no family round the corner, no siblings to call if I’m late for the nursery pick-up, no cousin to ask to take the boys for an unscheduled afternoon – so who do we have?

Well, actually, we’re not as alone as we might at first seem.  We have around us a different sort of ‘village’ who we can depend on for just about as much as we would our own family.  This village is made up of our various circles of friends – some who have their own children, some who don’t.  Some we met pre-baby, some we’ve met because of our babies.  But the one thing they have in common is that they’re there for us, willing to offer advice, a shoulder to lean on or a bottle of wine (medicinal, of course) whenever we need it.

During my first maternity leave, the incredible women I met through my NCT classes were a lifeline.  We got together most days and chatted all things baby and as time went on, all things un-baby too.  We got into a routine of swapping babysitting favours so we could have some me-time or an evening out with our respective partners, and during my second pregnancy, I even came to rely on some of them to give me a bit of respite during the sickly first trimester.  Without them, it’s safe to say, I’d have been pretty miserable.  As well as this network of parent pals, we’re lucky enough to have a few of my closest school friends and their partners living nearby; they too babysit for us, or are happy to come round to ours for a take-away now that our life isn’t exactly pub friendly and every time, they come with hugs, kisses and chocolate in abundance.  They love our sons and the beauty of old friends I suppose is that - much like family - when they say they want to help, you know they mean it.

When I became a parent, I had anticipated some of where I’d seek support; that I’d turn to my own mother during the stressful days as much as the good, that the friends with children older than my own know more or less everything.  But what I didn’t quite expect is that almost unwittingly, I’d become part of an enormous, world-wide club, where membership - irrespective of colour, class or creed – is lifelong, where everyone is welcome and everyone is celebrated.  Club Parenthood.  And our clubhouse?  Instagram.  Obviously.  Initially a distraction during the middle-of-the-night newborn feeds, it’s come to be much more than just a way of killing time.  It’s an incredible source of information and inspiration.  Who I follow very much reflects my life and whilst I do I follow some dads, it’s the women, especially fellow mums, whose feeds I most enjoy.  These women are numerous and varied and all in their own way, brilliant.  Some of them are far-flung, real-life friends or family members whose posts are a way of keeping up to date with what they’re up to, what they’re lives consist of and more importantly, how their little ones are doing.  I see milestones and favourite toys and holiday snaps – none of which I’d be able to enjoy without the Instagram window into their world.  Contrary to this, lots (and lots and lots) of them are in effect complete strangers, in many cases I don’t even know their real names yet they are a part of my life, my online community.  Some, I follow because they offer up incredible mum-wisdom, others present amazing recipe ideas, (I have a fussy eater on my hands) some delight in sentimental reflections of motherhood and others, if I’m honest, are gorgeous, have gorgeous children who wear gorgeous clothes and lead gorgeous lives and well, being a voyeur to that is a lot of fun - as long as you don’t start comparing your teeny tiny two-bed terrace to their apparently palatial home.

Unlike many of the accounts I enjoy, mine doesn’t have a lot of followers, but out of those who do follow me, most are also women - often mothers - and most I don’t know ‘IRL.’  I’m not sure why they follow me – what it is about my haphazard attempt at raising two boys that appeals to them.  My feed isn’t exactly pretty, I don’t have a particular aesthetic I’m going for, the majority of my posts are humorously (I hope) ranty, sarcastic and peppered with swear words.  The only thing I ever try to be is honest - I’d hate for anyone to think I was filtering out the bad bits in order to get more likes;I never want to pretend my reality is something it isn’t.  Plus, I’m really terrible at taking photos.  Without the patience to mess around with lighting or composition, the reality is there to be seen whether I like it or not.  So the only reason I can think of to explain their following me is as an act of solidarity.  In my honesty, I write about teething woes, weaning woes, sleepless nights as well as immense feelings of gratitude, awe, frustration.  In short, I write about motherhood.  Recently I’ve noticed that whilst people mostly double tap the pictures of my lovely sons, it is the posts where I write about how tough I’m finding it all that encourages people to actively make a connection.  Often my real-life friends will send a text, ‘I saw your Insta, you alright?’ while the not-quite-real-life friends will comment below the posts offering words of encouragement.  In fact, on this very day I posted about my uncooperative baby who loves an all-night party (‘party’ being used loosely here – the reality is nothing at all like any party I’d actually choose to attend) and a woman I’ve never met before messaged me to remind me it’ll pass and to stay strong.  I replied with some lame attempt at wit (my go-to response to most things) but really, I was bowled over and grateful that she’d taken the time to write to me, a complete stranger to tell me I’m doing ok.  Like this lovely, lovely Insta-mum, I too have messaged people I’ve never met before to offer advice where they’ve asked for it or just to reach out when I could relate to something they’ve said or done.  Some have replied, some haven’t but all I hope know that those words were sent with sincerity and kindness at their core.

In a world where more war-crimes against women are being committed than ever before, where victims of domestic violence are being publicly told they deserved it, (remember Rhianna and Chris Brown?) where political leaders are apparently so terrified of women that they openly molest them into submission, I am proud and thankful to be part of this club where parents celebrate parents, women celebrate women and mothers celebrate mothers. 

I’ll probably never live just around the corner from my mum, I may never be able to pop over unannounced to my sister’s for a cup of tea but my little family is not without support.  We have it in abundance, from old friends who cancel Friday night pub plans so we can go round to their place with the babies, have half a glass of wine and fall asleep on the sofa, to the new who look after my boys while I go for a run in exchange for allowing them a date night, to the online friends on a smart-phone somewhere sending heart emojis.  It’s easy to feel alone when your nearest and dearest are far away but there’s love and support aplenty if you know where to look.  Often just a coffee shop, a text message or an Instagram post away.  This not-so-secret, not-at-all exclusive club for mums and dads alike, offers us a glimpse at the real face(s) of parenting.  Whether they know it or not, these friends, parent-pals and Insta-mums keep me going, keep me sane, make me laugh.  They are my champions and my cheerleaders.  They are my village.  

No comments

Post a Comment

Blog Layout Designed by pipdig