Today I read a wonderful post by Birth Without Fear. It brought a tear to my eye, and inspired me to write something (which is no mean feat, I can tell you).
January writes so passionately and emotionally about how, as parents, we don’t have to be perfect. We can still be great, and that nothing can take away from the joyous moments of parenthood.
Whilst reading this post, it suddenly hit me what has been wrong all these months, years, etc. This whole time I have been trying so hard to do everything “right”. Don’t leave your kids to cry, breastfeed until they self wean, never praise them, never shame them, always boost their self esteem, follow their lead, never shout, etc etc etc…. I’m not for a second saying that these ideas shouldn’t be heeded – I am a firm believer in unconditional parenting and I have spent years striving after being an unconditional parent myself.
However, my mission to be the perfect unconditional parent has actually led me to be a pretty shitty mum.
I worry all the time about the things I say and how I say them. Every time I open my mouth I wonder, “will my kids be telling a therapist about this one day?” Every time my three year old and I get into a battle of wills over watching one more programme on Cbeebies (with me terrified that 15 more minutes of screen time will melt his brain and seal his fate as a blithering TV addicted idiot by age 20), every time I raise my voice because I’m fucking stressed and exhausted because my baby nurses all night and berate myself for losing my temper.
It’s just not worth it.
I am not a perfect parent. I am loud, I lose my temper, I fucking relish the peace that our twice-daily TV time brings. I am crap at playing, I’m stubborn and have tantrums that rival my toddlers’.
A couple of days ago, it pissed down with rain all day long. We decided to say To Hell With the World, and spent the entire day in our jammies. We put the duvet on the floor and danced on it. We did some cleaning together. We played. We watched TV – about 3 hours in total, spread through the day. I raised my voice a couple times, but it was no big deal. I apologised, nobody got upset, it was fine. In fact, the whole day was better than fine – it was fab and I loved it
I feel like I’ve had an epiphany. You really can only do the best you can do. And if the best you can do involves some undesirable parenting practices – bribery, praise or use of electronic babysitters – then it’s likely to be MUCH better than the you that’s trying to attain some unreachable goal. Just because somebody else has the temperament to live and parent in a certain way, doesn’t mean that I have.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive to do better – of course we should. I’m not saying we should all embrace our crappy traits and never try to do any better. I just think that, with all of the trying and striving, we can forget to just be in the moment with our children, enjoying them and creating memories that will stay with us until we are old.
So I will continue to co-sleep, babywear, breastfeed, make an effort to spend quality time with my children, try my hardest to speak to them nicely and set a good example to them. The remainder of my parenting energy will be spent ENJOYING my children, not panicking about how many times I’ve said “well done” or “good job”, or about what kind of effect another episode of Mike The Knight will be having on my child’s psyche.
I am a good mother. You are a good mother. Believe it.