I had one of those moments today – one of those heart-stopping instances in the supermarket when you turn your back for a second and your little one vanishes from sight. It wasn’t long before I found her under a display table with a fistful of Christmas figurines acting out a scene from The Polar Express. Needless to say I spent the rest of the evening berating myself for being a crap mother who took her eye off the ball. No Carolyn Donnelly Eclectic Bjork Teapot is worth the upset.
An onlooker – an older woman – spoke the kindest of words. She recalled something similar when her own son was young. There was no judgement, just understanding. She sweetly told me that I was doing a great job. So why then, with all of this sympathetic understanding and vindication was I struggling to believe her?
There isn’t a more self-critical, insecure creature on the planet than a parent. We invariably doubt our capabilities from the moment we become responsible for another little person. More often than not we convince ourselves that we are getting it all wrong. We constantly compare ourselves to others; the mothers at the toddler group don’t seem to have any bother with their kids’ behaviour, your cousin’s four-year-old eats quinoa and drinks vegetable smoothies, and Susan from up the road would never lose her child! So what’s wrong with you? Why is it that your children will only eat Cheerios and Cheese Strings and still haven’t nailed the whole empathy thing? And how is Susan’s house always so damn clean?
Maybe we should just stop with the comparisons and the self-reproach. Maybe we should give ourselves a pat on the back and a fist-bump for getting it right most of the time. Shit will happen. Things will go wrong and we won’t always be on top of our parenting game. Life with kids is infuriating and tiring and really, really hard. Sometimes we want to wave the white flag, offload them all on a relative and take to the bed with a box of Ferrero Rocher and a G&T. Those are normal feelings – healthy feelings. Is it time to stop agonising over our perceived failings and instead acknowledge that we might not actually be terrible parents after all?
A LITTLE PERSPECTIVE
We are keeping little humans alive. We are meeting their needs. They are safe. They are happy. They are healthy. They are loved. We are doing our very, very best. Some days are better than others but all in all we are doing a bloody great job.
There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. Great parents, however, are everywhere and I salute you all, especially when dirty nappies are hitting the fan.
- To the stranger in the library whose little girl swiped the books from the shelves in a fit of rage that only a three-year-old will understand – It could have happened to any of us. No need to apologise. I was glad to help. I think it was just that last one that hit the librarian. You’re doing a great job.
- To the father in the park whose little boy took a swing at my son on the climbing frame – It’s a phase. He will figure it out. Only last week my little girl was growling like a wolverine at a younger kid over the zip-wire. You’re doing a great job.
- To the mother who sent her daughter to Montessori in a pajama top, a tutu and yesterday’s underpants because she doesn’t have any fight left – You’re right. Surrendering is the way to go in wardrobe crises. You’re doing a great job.
- To the parent whose kids have eaten nothing of nutritional value for two days – It’s OK. They won’t starve. Crisps are basically potatoes. You’re doing a great job.
- To the mother in the supermarket who forgot her wallet and realised too late – That was really unfortunate. I would have been stressed too. That lady behind you was a right wagon and clearly doesn’t realise that going grocery shopping with three children is akin to flying a plane while a group of wild ferets climb around the cockpit, pushing buttons and attempting to open the emergency doors. I’m on your side. You’re doing a great job.
- To the parent who has just let the kids watch TV for two straight hours because you need peace – Everyone does it. Sometimes the incessant questions are too much. And who the hell knows if rabbits can catch colds anyway? You’re doing a great job.
- To the mother whose four-year-old has just hacked chunks out of her hair – Buy a bandana and hide the scissors. You’re doing a great job.
- To the father in the clothing section of Tesco, frantically searching for clean, dry pants for his visibly sodden two year-old at the pinnacle of toilet-training madness – I’ve been that soldier. Toilet-training is the WORST! You’re doing a great job.
- To the new mother who feels like roadkill and wonders what she ever did to deserve the pain of mastitis – Hang in there. It’s about to get so much easier. You’re doing a great job.
- To the mothers who go out to work every morning – What wonderful role models you are! You’re doing a great job.
- To the stay-at-home parents who have made sacrifices and changed their role in life completely – I applaud you. It’s bloody hard. You’re doing a great job.
- To the single parents who are on this insane journey alone – You are my heroes. You’re doing a great job.
- To my dear, dear friend who recently lost her own mum and, like me, now wonders how she can be a mother, without a mother – You can. She’s there. You’re doing a great job.
- To the panicked mother searching for her kid in the supermarket – Never underestimate the unpredictability of a four-year-old, especially in the vicinity of shiny miniature elves and Santa Clauses. You’re doing a great job.
To parents everywhere, nailing it most of the time…