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real talk

Here's why I refuse to lie about parenting (even on Instagram)

I *could* pretend that my family life is perfect and put it on social media, writes Ciara McDonnell. But I’d be lying.

I LOVE BEING a mother; let’s get that out of the way. My sons are my moon and stars and everything in between.

But sometimes, being a parent is horrific. There are evenings (more often than I would like to admit) that I feel like a wrung-out dishcloth and that I have achieved nothing that day except a half-arsed attempt at work and an extremely poor show at parenting. The truth is, growing human beings is really hard work, and no amount of Instagram photos of #perfectdays will balm the soul of a parent who has spent 17 hours trying to coax a four-year-old to eat a food product that wasn’t the colour beige.

Like, right now, I am living the dream as a freelance writer and parent who HAS IT ALL. I am sitting on my couch, frantically typing as my five and six year old pelt each other with Hot Wheels, pausing only to grab my face and roar into my ear “HE HURTED ME! HE IS BEING BOLD!”


It is 9.44am and I have served six different breakfasts, bathed one, chased the perpetually naked one around the house, struggled a pair of shorts onto him and thrown three cups of scalding coffee down my throat. I could, if I was so inclined, have photographed the six breakfasts and posted them across social media captioned with #growingboys #lovemylittleloves, but I choose not to. Because, frankly, who am I benefiting with these lies?

During the early days of parenthood, when I questioned my ability to keep my babies alive on a good day, I would sit in my living room, breastfeeding constantly and staring blankly at Facebook, wondering how all of these parents did it.

How did they manage to get themselves out of the house and to an idyllic looking field while wearing GINGHAM, for God’s sake? After spending a good few months beating myself with a baby-shaped bat and feeling like the worst parent of all time, I decided to call bullshit.

It isn't like this, you know. Shutterstock / iravgustin Shutterstock / iravgustin / iravgustin

I started writing about the lack of sleep, and the need I had (and still have by the way) for nobody to touch me for at least ten minutes a day, and how lonely it was, and, mostly, how I wished I could be a better person – someone whose baby gurgles happily while gnawing on a homemade watermelon ice pop as she stands, freshly pressed in skinny jeans and a white top and mascara. Lots of mascara.

Spa treatments

These days, when friends of mine are pregnant with their first baby I tell them to indulge in all the good stuff. I tell them to lie on the floor and smear food all over their faces for nine months, because they won’t get this opportunity again. I tell them to get as many spa treatments as possible and spoil themselves rotten.

Then, about three weeks after the baby has arrived, I come to their door and tell them that it’s OK to admit that they feel like they are about to vomit from tiredness and offer to take the baby while they have a nap and a shower.

I reckon that telling the truth about the bad stuff makes the good things infinitely better.

For instance, my sons have slept clamped to me like limpets since they were born. The cots we bought laughed silently at us from corners of what began as the ‘baby room’ and evolved into a graveyard of outgrown child accoutrements, while we struggled night after night to get the boys into their own beds.

Your insides actually ache

This summer there seems to be a change. Last night my six-year-old requested to go to sleep in his own bed. And stayed there all night. After six years of being kicked in the face every single night, I can’t tell you how sweet this is.

This is the thing about parenting. While it can be 90 per cent awful, that 10 per cent of otherworldly bliss outweighs the shit every single time. We all know it – we’ve all been there. When a day has been so bad that your insides actually ache and your voice is hoarse because you spent the hours between five and seven threatening to take away ALL TREATS EVER because nobody would eat their dinner, and you wash your face and peep in on the kids and there they are. Like flipping angels. Their gorgeous little faces blushed with sleep and twitching with dreams, and all you want to do is wake them up and hug them and say sorry but then you don’t, because, survival.

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Parents Panel: What’s one thing you tried to get your little one off to sleep?>

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