Vanessa Lachey wants to make one thing clear: Parenthood is far from perfect, but that’s what makes it a “beautiful mess.”
As a mother of three to Phoenix Robert, 2, Brooklyn Elisabeth, 4, and Camden John, 6½, Vanessa knows that raising her children with husband Nick Lachey doesn’t always go according to plan.
The couple, who rarely have time to themselves, typically spend their days carpooling their kids to school and activities, helping with homework, making meals and getting ready for bedtime. On top of that, the pair also balance their own jobs — Nick, as a touring member of 98 Degrees, and Vanessa, as a current host on Top Chef Junior.
Things may get chaotic and busy, and can sometimes lead to inevitable parenting failures, but Vanessa knows it all comes with the territory — something she’s perfectly accepting of.
“We all have fails daily and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent,” the 38-year-old star, who recently partnered with WaterWipes in conjunction with the release of the documentary This Is Parenthood, tells PEOPLE.
“We all are constantly struggling daily, but that’s also the beautiful side of parenthood,” she continues.
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“I have tons of fails,” Vanessa adds. “Probably daily fails that range from something as simple as missing the bus to school because I couldn’t get [the kids] together at the door, to forgetting something that they were supposed to bring for their project at school, to snapping at a knee-jerk reaction and saying something you regret … they range.”
For Vanessa, the new 16-minute global documentary, which highlights the realities of parenthood, particularly struck a chord with her due to the fact that it accurately showcases the difficult aspects of raising children, which isn’t always portrayed in the media.
Her argument was backed by a recent WaterWipes global survey, confirming that more than half the parents (55 percent) around the world felt like they were failing within the first year of parenthood. (Of those statistics, 60 percent were moms, while only 45 percent were dads.)
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“It’s a global issue, no matter what culture we’re in, no matter what economic background we have. We are all struggling with the same feeling of inadequacy as a parent,” Vanessa explains, adding, “Failure is life, but it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.”
Part of the reason that Vanessa says she and other moms tend to find it difficult to embrace their failures is because of the unattainable “perfect parent” image that social media can often create, as well as the natural tendency of comparing oneself to others.
“We’re all human and we’re gonna constantly compare ourselves,” she tells PEOPLE. “We need to stop beating ourselves up as parents. … It’s the norm to not be so picture-perfect.”
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There was even one recent instance where Vanessa admits she questioned her own Instagram post of her children wearing matching outfits for fear that she would encourage this unrealistic standard.
“I made sure to put in the comments, ‘Don’t let these smiles fool you, this is not an everyday thing [and] this is not normal,’ because I don’t want another mommy to look at that picture and go, ‘Oh, well, of course she put that picture up,’ ” she explains.
Adds Vanessa, “We’re all guilty of [only showing the ideal side of parenting on social media] because our kids all do cute things and we all want to share it with the world, but there’s also another side that people are afraid to talk about because it’s making yourself vulnerable to criticism.”
Despite being fearful of negative feedback on social media, that hasn’t stopped Vanessa from speaking candidly about her experience as a mother, including her son’s battle with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which left him hospitalized shortly after his birth.
“When I crossed that bridge with Nick and I was walking through the unknown with him and the baby, I had nowhere to turn and it terrified me,” she explains of her decision to publicly share Phoenix’s story.
Vanessa adds, “I hope I can be a sounding board for people … to become aware and encourage them to educate themselves.”
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Now with the experience of being a mom to three little ones under her belt, Vanessa says her perspective on parenthood has evolved over the years.
“I thought I had figured out,” she explains of her first pregnancy with Camden, noting how everything was perfectly organized and ready for his arrival. “Then comes this little person, who, every pitch they throw is not a fastball down the middle — it is a curveball.”
Instead of having expectations, schedules and plans, Vanessa reveals motherhood for her is now about “embracing the fails, the unknowns, the spontaneous moments, and embracing the now.”
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“For me, it’s been about being able to accept all the unknown and not feeling like I’m not prepared or I’m not a good mom and realizing that this is parenthood,” she says. “This is who I am, this is how I’m gonna be a better mother and a better wife and a better friend — by not having it all in this perfect cookie-cutter fashion, but realizing that it’s a beautiful mess.”
She also hopes that by speaking out about the imperfections and challenges of parenthood, it will change the stigma and global conversation to empower moms and dads around the world.
“If we actually stopped and realized that we’re not all failing, we’re really trying to just be good parents and good people,” she tells PEOPLE. “It’s just changing the way we think. … We’re not gonna change the hardships in life and the failures — that’ll still all be there — but we’re not gonna see them as that.”
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