parent opinion

OPINION: Dear mums, please stop faking your "hot mess parenting."

I’ve noticed a parenting trend, and it’s got nothing to do with helicopters, lawnmowers or scrunchies.

I call them the Fake Hot Mess Parents – and they’re ruining everything.

Allow me to explain. Have you noticed how much celebrities love to talk about the hard, unglamorous parts of being a parent… all while being wrinkle-free and red-carpet ready? It’s as though they think being a Hot Mess Parent makes them seem more bohemian and fun.

Case in point: Kylie Jenner’s Instagram Story last Christmas. Observe:

Kylie Instagram
I do not look like this. Image: Instagram

Jenner’s caption contained some Hot Mess Mum elements, so perhaps you could be fooled into thinking that she’s “just like us”: leaving a party early, not being able to get changed, doing baby-things instead of fun-things.

But also her baby is wearing a matching sparkly bodysuit so... the above is irrelevant.

And for the genuine Hot Mess Parents at home who see this Instagram Story, the message they receive is: This is what a Hot Mess Parent looks like. If you’re messier than this, then you’re doing it wrong.

As someone who happily identifies as a Hot Mess Mum, let me tell you: being an imperfect parent is not supposed to look cute. I would never have had that picture outside the party, because I find it hard enough to go out in the first place, what with babysitters being expensive and me being constantly exhausted.

Carla Gee
I'm tired.
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Being a Hot Mess Parent is real, and I wish these fakers would stop trying to steal our brand.

If celebrities love to fake it, you can be assured that Regular Joe and Joanne in the suburbs are doing it, too, because I am surrounded by humble-bragging, perfect parents who like to pretend they’re messy – and they’re totally not.

Take, for example, a school cake stall. The true Hot Mess Mum – me – will handle it in a typically disastrous fashion: panic upon receiving the note, then a shopping frenzy for ingredients to make a “simple” rocky road, then trying to cut up the marshmallows as the kids “help” (i.e. eat said marshmallows while also dropping them on the floor), then almost crying from the stress of making a stupid chocolate slice, and then dealing with screaming, sugar-crashing children because their dinner is late after the rocky road disaster and now there’s ants all over the floor.

The crookedly-cut, half-set rocky road will then be delivered to the school’s front office, only for it to not appear at the bake sale. Why? Hopefully, because it was sold early. But most likely, because it was too hideous for public consumption.

Time to Make Friends With Mum Guilt (post continues after podcast.)

The Hot Mess Mum has made everything more difficult and disastrous by trying her best to make something, instead of just buying it at the shops.

The Fake Hot Mess Mum, however, will tell everyone that she just can’t be bothered to make something for the cake stall. When asked about it directly, she’ll say, “What cake stall? I’d completely forgotten. Look, my kid is wearing two different-coloured socks!” And upon inspection, the kid’s socks will look exactly the same, although the Fake Hot Mess Mum will claim that one of the socks is a tiny bit grey, while the other one is white.

What the Fake Hot Mess Mum was really doing was distracting you, so that she could swiftly go to the David Jones Food Hall to pick up organic ingredients.

The next day, the Fake Hot Mess Mum will turn up with trays full of exquisitely decorated cupcakes, in three different flavours, and decorated with home-made buttercream, fondant and sprinkles. These cakes are better than your wedding cake. The Fake Hot Mess Mum will laugh and say that she just “whacked it all in the oven” and “slapped it together”.

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Bad Moms
What, like it's hard?

This makes the legit Hot Mess Mum feel even worse, because she really did just “slap together” her baked goods, only hers looks and tastes awful.

I wish that these perfect parents would just own their perfection. Enough with the self-deprecating jokes. I would love it if they admitted that they try really hard, that they spent all night baking and decorating, or that their kids stayed at their grandparents’ place so that Mum and Dad could focus on the baking. I want them to say that they care so much about their kids and their parenting of them, rather than pretending like it was all a funny accident.

When I became a parent, “the imperfect parent” was the type I expected to encounter. And yet, it was never what I saw in reality. I saw pristine houses with not a piece of popcorn squished into the rug, I saw perfectly executed birthday parties where every detail was themed. At school and daycare drop-off, I rarely see any other super-late parents. I felt – and still feel – as though I was the only one who was a disaster, no matter how hard I tried to get things right.

My failed search to find other Hot Mess Parents has led me to develop two theories. One, there are some people out there who are just genuinely better at doing kid-related things, and they need to give themselves some credit and own their success.

And two, there are lot of other Hot Mess Parents out there, but they cover up their messiness. I’ve tried to do this – and it’s exhausting.

Carla doing Carla
Just doing me.
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Can I suggest that we all let our guards down a little? If you’re not perfect, and if you stuff things up, then laugh about it and try again. Don’t try to cover up your mistakes with a layer of shiny, fake perfectionism. Who knows, amongst all of the mess, you may make friends with a parent who is just like you (hi, I’m over here), and if you combine forces, perhaps you could even help each other with this kid-raising thing together.

And through all of this, our kids will see us accepting our flaws, and hopefully they'll become the types of adults who will cut themselves a break.

Carla Gee is a Canberra-based writer, reader and cartoonist. You can find her on Instagram.

Are you a proud Hot Mess Parent? Tell us in the comments.

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