parent opinion

4 signs you're 'parent signalling', the new humble brag modern parents are guilty of.

After clawing our way through lockdowns, 2020 made us all reflect upon what really mattered in life. 

Our health and our families. Our social media feeds quickly filled with green smoothies, açaí bowls, runs along the beach and boot camp visits. As Erin Docherty defined in her recent article, this ‘health signalling’, is the latest humble brag. 

The humble brag is, as defined in the Oxford Dictionary, "an ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud". 

'Health signalling' is most definitely that. 

But 'as a mother', I am also witnessing a trend that can only be called ‘parent signalling.’ 

Watch: Be a good mum. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

Whilst locked down in our ever-shrinking homes with our little energised humans, not knowing what to do with them and questioning how daycare, kindergarten and school teachers do this every single day, social media feeds soon filled with photos of fun-filled family activities. 

Homemade playdough recipes, sweet treat baking, pasta necklace threading, finger-painting and endless walks to the park. The picture-perfect parents. 

Now just to be clear, ‘parent signalling’ doesn’t cause harm (just as 'health signalling' doesn't.) But it can cause frustration (and possibly heavy drinking?) when trying to replicate such activities as slime making, tie-dying or volcano construction. 

So, here are some examples of ‘parent signalling’. It can range from the newborn baby, Anne Geddes-esque photoshoot, of the perfectly sleeping bub with white linen-draped across baby and parents. 

Listen to Mamamia's parenting postcast, This Glorious Mess, on confessions of a half-arsed parent. 

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Or picture-perfect photo of the caravan trip across Australia, with the kids playing on the beach whilst you enjoy a cold brew and a cheese platter filled with local produce. 

The funniest thing about 'parent signalling' is that most of us parents are guilty of it - and the reality behind those photos is quite different.

In the first example mentioned, the bub’s poonami likely left a trail of poo throughout the photography studio.

And in the second, you know the journey to that campsite was accompanied by relentless shouts of 'are we there yet?' from the backseat. 

It’s not just me, right? Here are some other signs you might be parent signalling. 

1. You rush to take a photo of your child’s recent award/certificate/medal.

Do you share pictures of your children proudly holding their certificate of participation or student of the week award? When in all truth you know the teacher has a drawer full of those awards and by the end of the year, all the kids will have them?

I am a big culprit of this. 

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2. You create a veggie garden with your child, and everyone knows it. 

Have you set out to teach your children where food truly comes from? 

Well done green thumb, you planted those annoying but free seedling packets from Woolies. Now you have juicy red cherry tomatoes or Dianthus (what the hell is that anyway?) growing in your backyard and everyone needs to know about it. 

But in all honesty, it is the one seedling box out of fifty that didn’t die. 

3. You post pictures of successful Women’s Weekly birthday cakes. 

You post a picture of your successful birthday cake from the tried and tested Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday book.

From the swimming pool filled with jelly cake to the train cake (thanks, Monique Bowley) to the mouth-watering chocolate piano (Jacinda Ardern, I am looking at you, girlfriend). 

You forget to include that the cake took you two days to make, several trips to the grocery store, third degree burns, and by 1am you turned to drinking hard liquor. Please refer to Hamish Blake’s social media feed. 

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4. You post a picture of your child sleeping in their car seat.

Posting photographs of your children peacefully sleeping in the back seat of your car is one of the most subtle but powerful humble brags. 

You snap a picture on your phone as your child drifts off to slumber after a big day out, possibly at the beach or a local farm. 

Your photo excludes the buckets of sand that now live in your car as your child refused to clean off their feet after a screaming match about having to leave the beach as you sumo wrestled them into their car seat. 

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Anyway, more than anything ‘parent signalling’ is not to be used to invoke guilt, rather to be used as inspiration. 

Inspiration to wake up when every bone in your body wants to sleep, inspiration to play that game with your kids, inspiration to take that kite to the park, inspiration to smile when your son/daughter spills that glass of milk that they had to have.

But don’t feel bad if you don’t wake up every day with the energy of a Blue Heeler, because parenting is hard. 

Feature Image: Instagram / @jenjen_10

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