The Future of Parenting: Under Pressure

Following on from our previous posts on our Future of Parenting in partnership with Trinity Mirror, we take a deeper look at the emotional aspects of parenting and the varying impact it can have on people’s lives. This largely stems from the pressure that parents feel under; our research showed that 57% of parents feel pressure to be the perfect parent and what better time to take a look at this than the holiday period?

Historically, this is the time of year when parents are most overlooked, to the extent that they pass the credit of a lot of their work to a man in a red coat; a feeling that McDonald’s have captured excellently in their Christmas advertising.

The advertising industry often up weights its family-focused communication and it’s often the parents that are positioned as the facilitator of all things, and everyone else having all the fun.

Parents feeling under pressure may seem obvious, especially when you consider the unrealistic depictions of parenting that we are bombarded with, like below. Is anyone’s house that clean?

When we’re bombarded with images like this in advertising and media, it isn’t surprising that we’re feeling the pressure. An interesting aspect of this is that this pressure means different things to different people; our Your Voice panel helped us explore this. To some people this is about staying on top of various tasks, a feeling I think lots of people can relate to; for others, it’s about giving their children the best life possible.

I often feel under pressure to deliver, it can sometimes be difficult to keep on top of everything especially when I used to work so it could be a difficult task juggling housework, paid work, and ensuring everyone is clean and fed! I often feel a bit underappreciated”

FEMALE, 18-34

“I do push my self to the point of breaking for my kids and I don’t tend to spend money on my self so my kids can have the things they want or need so they can have the best life I can give them, but even then I still feel like I should be doing more

MALE, 45-54

For many people, this builds to a constant pressure, which often results in finding it difficult to switch off; this is a widely discussed debate in the working world. Perhaps it’s comforting to know when you’re finding it difficult to switch off, that you’re not alone. In fact, only 25% of parents find it easy to switch off. We’re often juggling work commitments with family commitments and the pressure we put ourselves under to do well in everything often means that we have the worst of all worlds – never feeling like we are fully focused on anything.

“The ideal version of parenting differs from mine, mainly due to me finding it hard to switch off from work and focus on the kids when I get home”

MALE, 40-44

But does any of this mean that people think that they’re failing as parents?  We asked our research participants what they thought a good parent looked like and which traits they feel they have as a parent.  We found that parents think that a good parent should be able to multi-task, prioritise, put their children first and be honest but not necessarily be authoritarian or pushy.  And we found that we’re doing quite well on these more rational aspects of parenthood.

Hopefully, this is a comforting finding, that perhaps one of the biggest barriers to parental well-being is the pressure that people construct for themselves. It is in this regard that brands have a chance to act as reassurance for parents; an excellent example of this is SMA’s “You’re doing great” advertising.

We also asked about the more emotional, supportive elements of parenting and saw that, ideally, a good parent would be even-tempered, affectionate, encouraging and supporting.  However, when we rate ourselves as parents on some of these elements, we see that we fall short slightly, particularly when it comes to being even-tempered and affectionate.  So it seems that it is emotional support (and thinking that we lose our tempers too much!) that we judge ourselves most harshly as parents.

I think it’s fair to say that it is common knowledge that parenting is not easy. As I write this I can see a couple giving every moment of their attention to keeping their child entertained on a 2-hour train journey. Perhaps then, we can say that parental pressure is sometimes unwarranted. Brands can act as helpers not hinderers in the perceptions and depictions of what parenting is and what’s important in the role of parent. Parents themselves can take comfort from the words of SMA and know that a lot of the time “you’re doing great”. This is not to say that every approach to parenting is right or wrong but that we can be our own biggest barriers to our own mental wellbeing.


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