parent opinion

'My number-one parenting hack: I wear noise-cancelling headphones.'

A parenting news story on the Sydney Morning Herald stopped me in my tracks this morning and perhaps not for the reason you might think.

The article was about how parents are reaching for noise-cancelling headphones in rising numbers. One mum spoke of how she uses headphones to get her through isolating moments and another, who did not even want to be named because she feared judgement, echoed the sentiment. 

First, I thought – hold on – are there people who have been parenting WITHOUT such distractions? I tip my hat to you super humans.

Second, and especially for parents of little kids like the anonymous contributor in the article, I do not believe that using headphones or earbuds while parenting is something to feel guilty about. 

My beautiful boys are now aged 12 and six and there is no way I could have parented them over the years without headphones and other such audio input.

Mums (and let's be honest the guilt doesn't extend to dads as much) feel too much guilt about everything. 

From what we eat and drink (or don't eat and drink) when pregnant, to our birth stories, our feeding options, our sleeping options. The list is endless.

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When I had my eldest son in 2010, noise-cancelling headphones weren't a thing. 

But during the day when all my baby wanted was to be held and fed, I had the TV switched to escapist British murder shows set in pretty villages, and at night I had the radio on. I sometimes had my laptop open so I could scroll Facebook's wall or read the various blogs I was following, and believe me if I had earbuds then, they would have been used.

It doesn't mean I wasn't present or enjoying aspects of those early days, weeks and months of parenting. But I found regular night feeds (especially in winter at 3am) lonely and quiet and so the soothing sound of the DJ's voice or some soft music was a comfort to me.

Fast forward to my second baby – born in 2017 – and my Bluetooth headphones began to take centre stage. I was a slow adopter of podcasts (I am ashamed to admit now) but once I found Mamamia Outloud and many others, I became obsessed. 

Podcasts and intelligent conversations made me feel like I was part of a community of women, even when alone at night. I needed that connection to my old self, the news, and other women and also to be entertained by interesting stories when it was impossible to pick up a book when feeding AGAIN in the dark.

I would have my headphones on while walking my sleeping boy in his pram around the park, or at home while he napped, and I took care of some of the relentless chores before dashing to pick my eldest up from school.


But I would also put them in my ears and place my hair over the top while they were awake. Not all the time, of course, but when I simply needed some stimulation beyond building LEGO towers or watching yet another episode of Grizzy and the Lemmings.

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How present did I need to be when putting away the seventh load of washing, anyway? How present did I need to be when I pureed up a bunch of veggies? Or made scrambled eggs? Pick dried Weetbix out of the cracks on my floorboards? 

There are MANY mundane and repetitive acts of parenting that are separate from the act of loving your kids and are much improved by wearing headphones and listening to podcasts.

Headphones (and podcasts) were especially helpful during COVID and when we all had to be at home together and couldn't leave the house. I shudder to think what I would have done without them.

I have tried having music on in the background when they have the TV on or are playing, and honestly, this just stresses me out more. I dislike, and get twitchy with, more than one competing source of noise and this is apparently very normal according to Professor Pamela Meredith from the University of the Sunshine Coast’s School of Health.

“A lot of people think that if you’re sensitive to noise, you must be on the autism spectrum or have ADHD, but that’s not true," she said in the Sydney Morning Herald's article on the rise in popularity of noise cancelling headphones for parents. 


"It’s certainly associated, but it can also occur with people with anxiety, PTSD, brain injuries – a whole range of things. It’s really very similar to how one person might love spicy food or how one person’s pain threshold is higher than others.”

So maybe while some parents can cope perfectly fine in a messy AND noisy house, others cannot. Me included. And that is okay. Just whack those headphones on for a moment and claw back something of yourself while still being present. I refuse to feel guilty about trying to stay calm and functional as a parent.


Now my boys are 12 and six, there are activities I like doing with my boys that need my full attention. 

We play handball in the backyard occasionally, we all eat dinner together most nights, and when they need me to help with homework, listen to their reading or chat about their day, I am there – no headphones.

We have a great relationship but they also know that I have to just get on with chores in the background while they play and that l enjoy podcasts. Sometimes I'll even tell them about what I'm listening to if it isn't too 'murdery'.

When they want to watch "cricket's all-time greatest moments" or some dudes throwing bowling balls off tall bridges (this is a thing) on YouTube, I am not interested, but I am happy to facilitate them enjoying their entertainment while I enjoy mine.

I can happily cook dinner with one eye on them to ensure there are no fights about which Aussie cricketer is the GOAT but be listening to my feminist audiobook in peace. Win-win.

This also makes me a better mum. A happier, more engaged and organised one. 

For anyone keen to invest in noise-cancelling headphones to help you parent, I have compiled the top five.

Pop them on your birthday wish list as they are mostly on the expensive side, but I can confirm well worth the investment – and absolutely no mum guilt needed.


1. Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation), $388.

These are even better than mine and are great for being super tiny and wearable under your hair/a beanie hat so kids won't even have to know you are listening to your latest True Crime updates. Great, too, for Apple die-hards like me who need IOS integration.

2. Sennheiser Over Ear HD 450 BT Headphones, $219.

According to PC Mag's 'best picks' these over-ear numbers are the best your money can get for top quality noise cancelling beauties. 

3. Sony Wireless WHCH520W Headphones in White, $79.

Another over-ear pair for everyday use. A good battery life too of up to 50 hours, so that should get you through a few episodes of your favourite poddie before you need to charge them up.

4. WeSC TWS - True Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds, $99.

Another smaller pair to hide under your hair, they apparently don't mind a little light rain or sweat so perfect for pram pushing in the park when you need something soothing in your ears. Also in neon pink if you want to embrace the current 'Barbiecore' trend.

5. Bose QuietComfort 45 Noise Cancelling Headphones, $429.

These budget-busters treats are according to PC Mag, the very best in the in the business. They have a fancy built-in mic for clarity on the phone or for use with Alexa voice controls. They also sound super comfy and can go into full quiet mode when needed or 'aware mode' for when you need to keep more than an eye on your little ones.

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Family Writer. For links to her articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Feature Image: Supplied/ Canva/ The Iconic.

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