A month ago, I found myself making cupcakes that looked like mini tubs of popcorn for my son’s movie-themed eighth birthday party. It took me three hours to complete them. I tweeted my frustration, to which a friend responded something along the lines of, “That’s why you work at Today’s Parent. I’d just put on a movie and be done with it.”
“I have to walk the walk!” I replied, “I can’t show people these ideas and then NOT do them myself! That would be hypocritical.” Sure, I felt satisfaction when the cupcakes were done, when the kids and parents saw them and freaked out at how cool they were. But I also felt THE PRESSURE. I’m a parenting editor for goodness sake! I need to turn it out!
What no one saw, of course, was how my kitchen looked like a tornado hit it, how my 5-year-old insisted on “helping” (more like “helping” herself to more marshmallows), how my husband said I was crazy for going overboard, or how I forgot to feed the kids anything but those marshmallows all afternoon. So if the perception from your side of the screen or magazine is that we are somehow doing parenting better than you, I’m here to tell you that is SO not the case.
I think that’s why Today’s Parent Editor-in-Chief Karine Ewart’s February editor’s letter got such amazing response this past month. In her honest post, Karine revealed that no matter how many books or studies she’d read, no matter how she convinced herself her babies would not sleep with her, at the end of the day they had to throw it all out, eat their words and do what was going to work for their family. I can see the US Weekly headline now: “Editors — they’re just like us!”
On Wednesday, I gave an interview to Tralee Pearce at The Globe and Mail on the new parenting buzzword du jour: “resilience.” We laughed like old friends because, as people who write about parenting, we have to research all of these buzzwords and then filter them to parents. Yet here was Tralee, a parenting expert just based on the amount of research she does on the subject, second-guessing her parenting strategy in light of this new term. And here I was trying to sound all “I know what I’m doing” for the interview, but yet I found myself reading the tips in the article with keen interest.
When The Globe‘s photo editor contacted me with a tight deadline for taking our photo for the piece, I suggested the before-school madness: “Why don’t you come by at 8 a.m. and capture the morning chaos?” I imagined pictures of me shaking my daughter off my leg impatiently as I tried to style my hair, yelling, “Can you JUST. PLEEEEZE. GET. YOUR. COAT. ON!” (If that doesn’t teach resilience, I don’t know what does.)
The anticipation of the photographer’s arrival lit a fire under all our butts. I had my makeup done and my hair started when he arrived. We were all dressed and fed by 8 a.m. — a miracle! The photographer, Chris Young, showed up with a camera and a charming English accent (is there any other kind?), feeling guilty about leaving the insanity of his own morning routine to his wife (he’s a dad too) to photograph ours. I was prepared to unleash our averageness to the world, and then something magical happened: Instantly my kids were on their best behaviour.
By 8:15 a.m., my kids were dressed in full Canadian winter regalia and out the door — too early to actually leave for school yet. “You’ve got this down,” remarked Chris. “This isn’t normal!” I countered, mentally drafting an offer to his wife to lend him to me every morning for 15 minutes. I could send her my own husband with his video camera, creating the same effect at their abode. Win-win!
So next time you see a photo of a parenting editor looking all calm and composed with perfectly styled and impeccably behaved children, remember, a picture is not always what it seems. Maybe that should be the next parenting trend: getting photographers to follow us around. What? It’s not helicopter parenting if we outsource it, is it?