The Myth of the Perfect Family

Social Media Overload

They say that happiness is when expectation meets reality. Of the two, one is flexible and one is not. Therefore, finding the joy in family life is about setting realistic expectations. it is not about being perfect.

But in the age of modern media, managing our expectations is more difficult than ever. We are constantly overwhelmed with images of “perfect” parents. These aren’t just celebrities or paid models. We’re looking at real people on social media– everyday strangers or even our own friends. These individuals appear to be living the dream of a perfect family life. You see them in pictures, sipping homemade lemonade, frolicking in breezy fields of wildflowers, or celebrating the recent team victory.

Picture-Perfect?

Scrolling through all these images of picture-perfect family moments can make us feel insecure about our own parenting, or to feel disappointed that  we are lacking this elusive “bliss factor” of family life. Even worse, unrealistic expectations can lead us to push ourselves and our family members to the brink of insanity trying to do and be everything perfectly. In fact, many of us (including the folks you’re admiring on the screen) are unknowingly living in perpetual competition with others and with ourselves, making the real joy of parenting ever more difficult to find.

Comparing Your Behind the Scenes to Others’ Highlights

Social media plays a huge role in how we perceive others and ourselves. Because real people are depicted in everyday situations, we believe that we are glimpsing the reality of others’ lives. But much like “reality” television, there is a certain “script” and purpose that lies beneath that representation of reality, and there is a frame used to include only the best moments and to leave the rest out of sight.

Even parents who post some less-than-glamorous moments of family life (like when the baby got hold of a marker and drew all over her face), they do so to cultivate an image of their family as being quirky, down-to-earth, or otherwise perfectly imperfect. There is always a frame in which people have chosen to display some moments, and exclude others.

Give Yourself a Break

So do yourself a favor today. Begin to understand the ideal of the perfect parent for what it is: a myth. Give yourself a pat on the back because you’re doing great. Your family is beautiful and strange and doing just fine. Don’t compare yourself to others or hold yourself, your spouse, or your kids to some impossibly high standard. Beneath the facade of perfection lies exactly what you’re looking for: the real joy of parenting.


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