This 5 year old little lovely is Super Lady. Super Lady comes out on special occasions, like parties, or when called upon to face big challenges, like y’know tasting barley for the first time or using a noisy hand drier.
This pic is her appearance for a friend’s superhero birthday party. We’d spent the morning choosing her superhero outfit, complete with cape and fur boots. We were all set for her public outing. It was a busy time, we had family visiting, but I was sure we were going to make an effort and get her to the party.
As I put the phone down from taking the photo up pops an email from the birthday boy’s mum starting “We were sorry to miss you at the party yesterday…”. I barely read the rest as I looked down at Super Lady’s expectant face. “Are we going now?”, clutching the freshly gift wrapped batman eggcup.
And through my head rings the familiar “sh*t sh*t sh*t” followed rapidly by flavours of “how can I have done this? How can I be such a rubbish parent? Why can’t I get it together?”
How can it be this hard?
Then comes the forensic examination - calendars not synced, notifications missed, assumptions made, all just basic failures. And then the tears follow, hers and mine. Oh yes, and the guilt. Familiar, familiar guilt.
But what I’m left with is the nagging doubt that it surely can’t just be me. I’m a professional person. I run a big business involving large teams of people. I am praised for my communication skills. I’ve got a PhD in frickin’ computational fluid dynamics for Pete’s sake why can’t I adequately coordinate the lives of four people?
It turns out that I am not alone
Forums, blogs, social media are all stuffed with parents with similar stories. With similar feelings of being at times overwhelmingly out of control, flying by the seat of their pants and battling just to keep afloat [aside: this is often sweetly called “juggling”, which makes it sound fun and amusing and like you’re in a field at a sunny festival surrounded by yurts stuffed with craft beer. Which you most definitely are not]
And when you dig around it is not difficult to see where the squeeze is coming from. Almost 70% of working families have both parents in work, and in the 26–35 age bracket in almost 8 out of 10 cases both parents work full time. This age bracket also experiences the highest levels of burn out - over 40% of these parents reporting they are burned out most or all of the time. Added to the practical challenge of combining parenting and working, we have social and personal expectations to contend with; a recent survey found almost three quarters of parents feel pressure to be the ‘perfect’ parent.
Combine parenting, working and the pressure for perfection and is it any wonder that we are experiencing some sort of personal breaking point on a regular basis?
All sounds pretty bleak. But now I am doing something about it. With a small group of other busy and stressed people, we launched Our Canary. To answer this simple question:
How can technology help us manage the job of being parents?
We believe (and know first hand) that parenting is hard and the burnout is real. We believe technology can help; technology that serves people. Stress, overwhelm, guilt and conflict are our enemies that at times get in the way of us enjoying our family lives. We believe that everyone deserves to feel like a capable, valuable, lovable person who is doing a damn fine job of ‘juggling’ every single ball/club/hoop/flaming torch life throws at them, finding maximum joy, fun and connection along the way. Everyone should have a chance to win at parenting.