It sometimes alarms me how much public pressure comes with being a parent. The pressure to be seen to being doing well and handling things right feels so strong alongside the feeling that my performance as a parent is being judged. From how I feed my child, how well they sleep, how they behave, their academic success, their general demeanour and wellbeing – the pressure is on in every area from 0-18 and even beyond. In addition to this it’s scary how crazily high my expectations of myself can be. There is the constant need to feel to prove I am getting it right because let’s face it this is the most important job I’ll ever do. It’s just so dangerous because how do you measure “getting it right” as a parent?
If you measure parent success by outcome then in order for me to be an amazing parent it requires my children to be pretty much faultless. They need to respond calmly and always be happy. They must eat well, sleep well, behave well, perform well and yet have enough personality to not be bland or too robotic. I must model the perfect balance of calm, serenity, firmness, gentleness and joy – slightly superhumanly – whilst also allowing my children to be human.
As “Mum – who me?” pointed out a few weeks ago as parents guilt stalks us fairly relentlessly. The majority of parents want nothing more than to do a good job of raising their children, but it does mean that the pressure can be huge. We are human and so are our children which means that parenting is messy, complicated and a constant process of reassessing what I am doing and what works for my family. As fast as I feel like I know what works something changes and I am back to muddling through and making it up as I go along. Having parented a variety of children, including my own, I am massively aware that what works well for one child can be an epic disaster for another so just because it worked for one does not make it a failsafe strategy! Arghh!
The scary side of this pressure to perform is how many parents feel they must be ashamed of “faults” and “failures” in their child because somehow this is a reflection of their parenting inadequacy. Sounds bonkers?!?!?! It is and yet how many parents struggle to admit that sometimes they feel overwhelmed, that their child hits them, that they don’t know what to do, that their heart breaks for their child who is making really unwise choices or that they really currently are not that keen on being around their child and that parenting isn’t fun today?
The more I talk to parents the more I find so many of us feel the urge to present our “I’ve got it all together face” and yet feel overwhelmed with doubts. It’s scary and as I run a business with parenting being one of the areas in which I work, I am very aware of feeling that my parenting could be under the spotlight.
So whilst all the happy photos people post of Facebook and the tales of great moments are undoubtedly to be celebrated it’s also essential that we allow ourselves to get it wrong, to make mistakes and to pick ourselves up and learn from them – of all the things that build resilience in our children this has got to be a key factor – that we model life doesn’t go smoothly that we make mistakes and it’s ok to do so. Being honest and authentic about our parenting experience is a real challenge as it leaves us vulnerable to the judgement of others.
So, let’s be kind to ourselves, celebrate the many, many things we do well as parents and allow a little imperfection to be an acceptable and maybe even welcome part of our day.