Irish parents feel they can’t be honest about their struggles – survey

Many believe social media adds to the pressure to be a perfect parent

A culture of picture-perfect parenting causes more than half of Irish parents to feel like they are failing, research has found.

The online survey revealed that more than half of parents in Ireland feel like they are failing within the first year of parenthood, with mothers more likely to feel this way than fathers.

The study, carried out by WaterWipes, found that the feeling of parenting failing stems from a number of sources, from single-minded parenting how-to guides to flawlessly filtered Instagram feeds, with one fifth of Irish parents feeling like film and TV are key contributors and two fifths of parents feel advertising is a contributor. Similarly, two fifths of Irish parents believe social media adds to the pressure to be a perfect parent.

It leaves many parents feeling as though they can’t be honest about their struggles due to fear of judgment, with more than half admitting to putting on a brave face rather than being honest about their reality.


The figures, from YouGov Plc, come from 13,064 adults surveyed online, which included 888 parents in Ireland with children aged three and under.

More than half of parents in Ireland feel as though they cannot relate to the parenting images they see on social media with mothers feeling this more than fathers (59 per cent v 48 per cent).

This theme is replicated by parents across the world, with seven in 10 globally wishing there were more honest representations of parenting in culture and on social media.

"Irish parents clearly feel under huge pressure to get it right," said chartered psychologist and parenting expert Niamh Hannan. "I'd go so far to say that there is a cult of perfectionism around parenting. When an exhausted parent is feeling that somehow they are not measuring up to others or to their own expectations, what they really need to know is that they are normal. Everyone is going to struggle sometimes."

These views are echoed by mother of one and expecting, RTÉ 2FM radio broadcaster and author Louise McSharry. "I absolutely felt alone in the first few months of my son's life, and was convinced that everyone else was getting it all right, while I was falling at every hurdle. It was only when I found some like-minded mams to chat to about what we were experiencing that I realised we were all struggling.

“These days, I still feel like I’m falling at occasional hurdles, but I know that other people are too, and at the end of the day if I’m doing my best then that’s all I can do. The more honest we are about this stuff the better.” – PA