We all worry about whether or not we’re a good parent. You only have to go onto instagram to see the hoards of inspirational quotes proclaiming ‘you’re good enough’, to realise we’re a little bit obsessed.
Are we doing enough? Are we giving them enough?
Enough greens? Enough one to one time? Enough life experience? Enough fun? Enough pocket money? Enough love?
It’s hard to know, isn’t it? When is enough, enough?
It’s only natural as parents to want to give the best of ourselves to our children. We put these pure beings into the world and it’s our job not to screw them up.
But after days of ferrying them around, cleaning, hoovering, feeding, changing, organising and entertaining little ones, it’s no surprise that our ‘best’ starts to wear a bit thin.
We shout. We nag. We loose our cool.
We immediately question whether we’ve messed them up in some small way.
(By the way, when I say we, I mean me, but I’m really hoping I’m not the only one).
I’ve only had 13 months experience in the job, but using this and looking at the 30 years experience I’ve had watching my own parents, I think being a good enough parent comes down to some fairly simple truths.
Give them love
Give them enough love to have self confidence and security. And give them enough tough love not to completely bankrupt yourself.
“Please mummy, can I have… “
Give them time
Give them enough time each day so that you’ve bonded over something. Even if it’s just a shared moment where you’ve laughed together or simply had a hug. Time really is the greatest gift you can give to anyone, and especially a child. Whether you’re spending time together learning something new, playing a game, cooking or even just travelling together in the car, make the best of these moments together. Time is the one thing we don’t have enough of, but giving it makes the biggest difference.
Putting yourself first, some of the time
Putting yourself at the bottom of the pile is only going to build resentment that will bubble up like a poison. Making time to do something you love brings some well needed balance back into the parenting equation (which is something like 98% give and 2 % take at times).
You were a person before you had children so making time to prioritise that person by doing things that make you feel good (whether it’s a manicure or going to the local pub quiz) will refresh your appetite for parenting, and therefore make you a better parent.
Develop a thick skin
As soon as you become a parent, you’re suddenly game for judgement from anyone and everyone. Whether it’s the shop assistant that judges you solely on the day your kids were running wild in the fruit aisle, to your mother in law or even your own sister, your parenting style will be reduced to single moments (the day you gave them nothing but pasta to eat, that time they played on the tablet all lunch).
Whether you feed them nothing but organic veg or nothing but Haribo, you’ll be criticised, judged and berated, publically and behind your back about 1001 parenting decisions you’ve made.
Being a good enough parent means you own your parenting decisions and will have grown a thick enough skin not to give two hoots about what anyone else has to say about them.
Feel the guilt and shake it off
We’re obsessed with guilt aren’t we? We’re supposed to feel guilty about everything and anything. The time we do or don’t spend with our children. The things we teach them, feed them, say to them. Yawn.
Guilt is a national bloody past time. Let’s be grown ups here. Being a parent is hard. Getting it right all the time is impossible. Beating ourselves up about it is pointless. The G word creeps up on all of us from time to time, feel it, then move on.
Trust your gut
There’s no better parent for your child than you. Never forget you have an in-built gut instinct to help you make the right choices for your little people.
And that includes the big choices and the hundreds of small every day ones too. Being a good enough parent means giving a lot of control over to your gut, and just getting on with it.
Accept you’re a human
You’re human, and your children are too. (Unless you’re a fur mumma, in which case this article is not really for you – see Huff Post pets).
Your children need to know that people are flawed and that the world is a complicated place, with confusing decisions (like Brexit), contradictions (like Michael Gove) and peculiar twists of fate that sometimes can’t be explained (like Donald Trump).
As parents it’s hard to admit, but giving them a perfect childhood is kind of impossible, so accept that giving them the best you can is undoubtedly going to be good enough.
It’s all you’ve got, so it’s going to have to be.