So many books, articles, and new studies are telling parents what we’re doing wrong in raising our children, and I for one am really sick of it. I am not a perfect mum. Some days I am a $*%t mum. I sometimes shout, I use ‘time out’ when I just don’t know what to do anymore, I don’t always ‘come down to their level’ when I speak to them and when I am in a rush I don’t have time to give them ‘options’. I may be a bad mum according to some books, and my children will probably tell me one day that I fucked them up, but I can say for a fact that I am doing my absolute best.
Everyone is talking about ‘good parenting’ these days and I for one feel very pressured by all the messages I am getting on how to raise my children ‘the right way’.
Apparently, I need to be ‘involved’ in their lives, but not too involved so that they don’t become needy. I need to teach them how to do things by themselves, and then stop helping them do things they already know how so that they don’t become lazy. I should not bribe my children, even if I am desperately trying to get them into the car when it’s pissing down with rain and I know that all it takes are those three magic words: “I have chocolate”.
I should feed them organic, homemade, non-processed, sugar-free foods and make sure they have their ‘five a day’ so that they are super healthy, but at the same time, I should somehow make sure they are not fussy eaters. I should introduce kale to the weekly menu and eat it myself to set an example, even though I fucking hate it.
I shouldn’t let them watch TV, even if it means 5 minutes of peace because I’ll be killing their brain cells and they’ll end up being stupid. I must limit the use of my phone and computer so that they don’t become addicted to technology, even if this is the only addiction I allow myself since having them.
I should ‘discuss’, not ‘decide for’ and I should never, ever say “because I said so”, even when they ask me for the one hundred time why they can’t put the cat in the dryer. I must never allow them to sleep in my bed, even if it means I get to have a better night’s sleep and a bit of a cuddle, or they will never learn how to sleep alone.
I should ask them how they feel and not what they do, and if I get that one wrong they’ll have deep emotional problems and never be able to express their feelings. I need to ‘encourage’ them but make sure I am not ‘spoiling’ them because there is no greater evil in the world than a spoilt child.
I must be warm, understanding, patient, attentive and caring at all times and if I make a mistake I need to suck it up and say “mummy makes mistakes sometimes” so that they learn that nobody is perfect, even if all I want to do in that moment is scream “you are killing me!”
Please don’t get me wrong, I am happy to have all this advice and ideas of ways to deal with the day to day challenges of parenthood.
What gets to me is the pressure I am under to get it ‘right’ and especially since I know in my heart that there is no ONE WAY of doing it.
You see, I can’t help the fact that I am sometimes tired and not always in the mood to be the superhuman these experts think I should be, and I’d like to think it’s not the end of the world if I take a moment for myself in order to avoid having a nervous breakdown.
I’d like to think that it’s not the end of the world if I allow my kids to sleep in my bed from time to time, cos lets face it; it’s not as if they’re going to want to sleep with me when they are 38 years old, is it? And I’d like to think it doesn’t make me the worse mum in the world if I enjoy spoiling them rotten sometimes because I can think a million other things that are far worse than a three-year-old throwing a tantrum in the supermarket.
But mainly I’d like to think that the fact that I love my children more than anything in the world, the fact that they know that no matter what, I have their backs, and the fact that I am always trying to be a better version of myself as a parent and as a human being, is what makes me a good mother, and THAT to me is as ‘right’ as it gets.
In my experience, raising children can be one of the hardest (and most rewarding) challenges in life even without all the outside added pressure. I have come to realize that if I want to keep my sanity I need to accept that all I can do is my absolute best, and hope that despite all my faults and mistakes, my children will grow up to be kind and happy people and that I would have messed them up just that bit less than my parents did me.
So on that note, I have decided to give myself a break and lay off the ‘must’ and ‘must not’ and trust that if my heart is in the right place, then maybe, just maybe, with a little bit of luck, and a lot of hard work, I’m not doing such a bad job after all.
This post originally appeared on Tova’s Blog, reprinted with permission.