What is it about parenting that turns us all into our own worst critics, more so than in any other area of our lives?
When it comes to the other stuff, we generally forgive ourselves for having the odd ‘off day’. The occasional unproductive day at work, when you have a list as long as your arm of tasks that need completing but somehow only get around to completing a Facebook quiz to find out what your Game of Thrones character name would be. Days when your mojo goes AWOL. Days when you can’t rustle up some dinner (so last minute takeout it is then!).
In relationships, too, there are times we screw up. Forget to send a friend a birthday card. Do or say something hurtful to a partner in the heat of the moment. Sometimes we feel bad about it for a while after but rarely do we allow ourselves to live under a gloomy cloud of remorse indefinitely. That’s because we don’t assume that those days are a fair reflection of our overall standard as an employee/friend/lover. We just had an off day. An off couple of days, perhaps. It happens.
When it comes to parenting, however, we rarely allow ourselves the same slack. Or indeed any slack. On those hurried mornings when we forget that it’s jeans for jeans day at nursery and arrive to a sea of denim and a sinking feeling. Or after enduring hour upon hour of sibling scrapping, something snaps and we end up screaming in public, before dragging the offending children home by their coat hoods under the judgemental glare of other parents.
I know, or at least I do now after having been unconvinced for a long while, that I am a good mum. Sometimes it feels good to say it. I am a good mum. (In my head or quietly to myself, I mean, not out loud at the school gates as that might make me sound like a bit of a loser). I do my best for my boys; they are safe, happy and loved beyond measure.
I also know that there are days when I am not such a good mum. When I’m exhausted or frustrated, or a bit under the weather. When I’m preoccupied with work or just feeling a bit low. Sometimes I am all of those things at once.
When that happens, it is hard not to beat yourself up and very easy to find yourself falling headfirst into an I’m-not-good-enough vortex where you question your parental capabilities and say, ‘I just can’t do this today.’ The thing I have come to realise about being a parent, however, is that you do do it. On those days when you don’t think you can, when for whatever reason you’re not firing on all parenting cylinders and are in desperate need of a break, you still show up.
So no, your children might not always get the best of you but that’s only because the best of you isn’t always there to give. And rather than those ‘off days’ signalling that you are a bad parent, maybe just maybe it’s the giving of whatever you’ve got, when there is next to nothing left in the tank, that makes you an epic mum.
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