I am the worst mum in the world.
Am I the worst mum in the world?? That is, sadly, what I was starting to believe…
I have been reading blog after article, after blog recently that has left me and my parenting ego feeling bruised. The blogs have ranged from experiments in frugality, by not spending a single penny on child based marketing products, to why they have taken away their toys, to why they don’t have a T.V or tell their children lies – including about things such as Santa Claus, or the tooth fairy. There are links below to these blogs.
I COMMEND these mum’s I really REALLY do! I admire their resolve and their attitude and their thoughtful way of parenting. I have nothing but respect for each of them – YET- It left me feeling guilty. Guilty and ashamed that I don’t parent in this way, guilty and ashamed that I don’t apply so much attention to detail to my parenting. So I decided to write this blog post for the less than perfect mums out there- the mum’s just like me!
I would like to make it clear that I don’t blame the mums who blog about their great, positive, thoughtful, careful parenting, in the same way I don’t blame a skinny model for making me feel insecure about my body. I am in charge of my own feelings. And this post is about taking charge of those feelings, banishing the guilt and hopefully moving forward in a happier healthier way.
Here is my list of cardinal parenting sins.
1) I shout at my children.
A lot more than I want to and probably more than psychologists would say I should for their mental health & well being. But there it is I do it! After 15 times of saying “Don’t push, don’t hit, don’t bite, put your toys away, dinner’s ready…” The 1st half a dozen times it’s said calmly, then I use their name, I get down to their level, I put enthusiasm in my voice, I make eye contact, I touch them to get their attention, I repeat, I ask them if they can hear and repeat again. When it still results in no action -I shout. And sometimes, I shout a lot sooner than this – if I have had a stressful day.I’m on the phone to the energy company about a bill they’ve overcharged me, after having been on the phone to the bank to find out what this extra payment is for, whilst cooking dinner, and doing pack lunches and checking work emails. Yes sometimes I shout at them sooner than I should. I’m not a saint.
2) I use the TV as a babysitter.
On quite a regular basis actually. When I am making phone calls ^^^^^ Or need to pee, or am selfishly trying to finish coursework for evening classes I am doing, because I ultimately want to give them a better life by having a better job. Or even just when I am cleaning the bathroom. (I don’t want my child to see me with my hands in a toilet bowl and chemicals around because it will only incite their curiosity!) I like a clean home so the T.V is often used. I have one ear listening to them giggle at Mickey Mouse clubhouse and learning counting with Mickey and frantically clean as quickly as possible so we can have time to do a puzzle before lunch.
3) Some time’s we don’t get time to do a puzzle^^, drawing, Play doh etc together before lunch…. :-(
I feel sad about that and DO try to make time, but it doesn’t always happen. Friends come round for tea, mum phones, unexpected work emails need dealing with. Or coursework deadlines loom.
4) Fish fingers and ketchup counts as a healthy dinner in this house.
Dinner times are stressful, my oldest is incredibly fussy. I insist that we sit at the table and not in front of the TV (we do some days as a treat!) But this is my one parenting rule that makes me feel like I am not a complete failure ( –Hurrah I am a wonderful mother- we eat together at the dining table!!) All be it Fish fingers! But in my defence they are served with carrots, peas and Sweetcorn and mashed potato and they always finish their plates!!!!! It is the one meal I can serve up and not fight with them over eating it. We actually have nice civilised conversations about school and playgroup, not arguments or bribery or cajoling, or whining (-and that’s just me “please eat your peppers- they make you run fast…the world’s strongest man eats broccoli-don’t you want to be the world’s strongest man one day?”) So we have Fish fingers more than once a week- but not every day! What can I say some days I can face the arguments and the hour long dinner time, and other days it defeats me and I take the easy option.
5) I tell them Father Christmas is real, the tooth fairy is real, Magic is real. Because I believed in magic as a child, I thought I could fly on rainbows and find the treasure and speak with the fairies in the garden and, you know what? I wish as an adult that I still believed in Father Christmas (Whenever I watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, or ‘Miracle on 34th street’ I actually kind of do believe a little bit….Ssshhh…) I also tell them that Santa won’t come if they are naughty and pretend to call him on my mobile if they are testing me and playing up. Not because I am denying my responsibility as the disciplinarian- but because I am beingCreative. And the best part of my Christmas this year was wrapping the children up with coats over their pyjamas and hats and gloves and looking up into the night sky to see if we could see or hear Father Christmas (apparently there was a comet/space station that was visible) We didn’t see it…. But I did see the Magic on their faces!! And yes, they look through magazines and see adverts (on the TV they watch too much of!) and they pester me for it. “I want that, I want that, ooh & that…” If it is something I cannot afford I will tell them about the bank account they have and that they can save up money they get given for birthdays or chores and buy it themselves or they can wait all year and ask Santa for it. Am I turning them into materialistic, consumer driven, ultimately unhappy grown ups?? Gosh!! – I Hope not!!!
6) Sshh… But I discipline my children…. and I’m made to feel ashamed of it! But if they are repeatedly naughty, rude or unkind or put themselves or others in danger they are disciplined. They lose toys for a day or if they are REALLY bad to the bin, they lose stickers and rewards and they have on one occasion had a smack. NOT a whack or a slap or a bruising or a beating but a smacked hand. (as yet I have not had to actually carry out the threat of a smacked bottom!)
I feel guilty for this but, that’s nothing new. I have felt parenting guilt since my son was born.
But NO more!!! Today I take a stand against the guilt that is pushed on us as parents from the media and the government and the health authority (‘working mothers are bad’, ‘breast is best’ ‘kids are obese’ ‘Kids are unhappy’) We cannot win – if we work we are guilty of neglecting our children, if we are stay at home mums, we are made to feel lazy or like we are spoiling/indulging our children.
In the UK at the minute there is a debate about being able to take children on family holidays during term time. The government feel our education is sadly lacking and that 10 days of a family holiday is too much and will affect our children’s ability to reach those milestones they place on them, those labels and tests that they have to pass to fit into a “normal” bracket. So what???
So they don’t pass the tests as they should, they may have to work a bit harder when they come back to school. But the time and memories they have with their family is priceless and irreplaceable. You can’t deny family time and expect children to still succeed. Surely we can find new measures for success that don’t involve our kids grades, or our bank balance or our waist line??? Measures that involve emotional security, happiness, contentment. FUN & JOY!!!
NOT MORE GUILT!!
By saying no to guilt of all of the above sins, I am embracing Joy. I will enjoy my children’s childhood before I turn around, and old father time has snatched it away. We are living in such a blessed and privileged society, but we don’t consider ourselves lucky- we just find more problems and more things to feel guilty about. Our children have access to education and food on a daily basis (& TV in my house) & Toys & Cuddles and Love.
I want my children to grow up to know that I am not perfect. To understand that I figured this parenting thing out along the way and I made mistakes (probably by the time they are 18 a lot of them!)
I want them as adults to appreciate that I tried my best and I want them to live in the knowledge that trying your best is enough. And being happy is enough. They may not understand fully when they are 11, or even 16 but I have faith that eventually they will be happy, healthy adults who understand. I don’t worry that I am turning them into consumer driven zombies because I am not that! I am happy. I am content to try my best, and fail sometimes, and wake up and keep saying “today is the day I do better”. So if they learn by example I am refusing to let them see a side of me that self doubts and worries and feels incredible guilt about all the things I don’t get quite right. From now on, they will see, a mother who is sure in her resolve to NOT FEEL GUILT. I will probably still shout & discipline & let them watch TV. I expect when they are 15 they will talk about how unfair I am, and how they wish they were adopted – but that is part of growing up. I am their mother, not their friend. I am (finally) comfortable in my own skin and don’t need their approval, or my parents approval or even societies approval. I know I am doing my best, and that will be enough.
There’s an advert for baby formula in the UK that says “We know mums, and take it from us – You’re doing great!” Yes we are. All of us. Even the really terrible, lazy mums like me who use the TV too much!!!!!!