The “Good Enough” Parenting Theory

This Easter just gone, my daughter had her 10th birthday. I have been a parent now for a whole decade. You’d think I’d have got the hang of it.

I’m not sure we ever do, though – ‘get the hang of it’ – despite what the glossy mags, the internet, the celebrity mums and the self-help books would have us swallow. So I believe I speak up for many of us parents (I believe I do. Maybe I don’t. Maybe it’s just me. Shit.) when I stand up and say “I am a good enough parent.”

Yes, there are people who can successfully juggle raising children, keeping a tidy and well-fed home, their own job – or even business – and a social life. I know people like this, and it’s hard not to feel rubbish by comparison. They don’t even have tearaway, maladjusted children, or a nervous breakdown. They are lovely people, with lovely, happy kids. It’s so unfair.

Angelina Jolie, having it all. Sigh.

But yeah, so there are people like this, but I’m not one of them. And I suspect (congratulations if I’m wrong), neither are you. If you’re a parent, of course. And it’s taken me a while to learn, but …*pause for effect*… it’s OK to say that.

When my kids were little, and say dinner was late, because I hadn’t had time to wash the dishes, so couldn’t cook until I’d done that, and they were playing merry hell as their blood sugar level dropped lower and lower, so I couldn’t actually get to the cooking because I was spending all my time trying to stop them destroying the house/each other/the cat/my sanity, and so on. I would shout tearfully at whoever was nearest “Other people manage all this, why can’t I? What’s wrong with me?”

That was then. If I have learned one thing in my ten years of parenting, it’s that glitter gets everywhere. No, not that. Well, yes that, but more importantly, I cannot multitask. Trying to do two things at once means that both get done badly. If I try and work when my kids need me, my work goes wrong, and I shout at the kids. If I accept that work must wait, and give all my attention to being a mum, I instantly lose the stress, and so do my children. Parenting is not a hobby, it is a job. Treat it with the respect it deserves.

I once had the great fortune to meet Tony Benn. At that time, all my peers were forging ahead in their respective careers, and I was stuck at home with a 3-yr old. So when he asked me what I did, I replied, a bit embarrassed, “Oh, I’m just a mum”. He looked a bit shocked, and told me sternly, “Don’t say that like it isn’t the most important job in the world.”

Quote from “The Idle Parent” by Tom Hodgkinson

We must stop judging ourselves by comparisons. Comparisons with people who have personal trainers and full time nannies, comparisons with people who may be just as despairing as ourselves but never show it, comparisons with people who are stay-at-home-parents while we slog away at work, or who have successful careers while we’re stuck at home with CBeebies. Comparisons with people who are not us. This way madness lies.

Mea culpa. My charming son shows off his table manners.

My life isn’t perfect and stress-free. I have work to do too; bills don’t pay themselves. My children don’t go to umpteen after-school activities, have the latest electronic gadgets (hell, we don’t even have a TV, talk about pariah!), designer clothes, foreign language courses, ponies, whatever. But they are well-fed, curious, and happy. And so am I. And that’s good enough for me.

It’s true about the glitter though.

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About Disobedient Child

Digger, through and through. Also tagged as artist, crafter, voluntary worker, procrastinator View all posts by Disobedient Child

6 responses to “The “Good Enough” Parenting Theory

  • Joe

    I come from a mining / small town background and remember the troop of visitors through my Aunt’s house. And yes, they’d sometimes do stuff, take me out to play with their kids, keep me entertained whilst Aunty H. did other things, etc.

    That’s how communities used to work – 35 years ago… 🙂

    Like

  • vegbee

    Thank you, I NEEDED to read your words this morning. I am good at many things, but not all at once. I think I’d better let a few household things go hang while I focus on… hold on, can’t finish because the boy child wants to play… just THANK YOU 🙂

    Like

    • Disobedient Child

      Aw, you just made my day 🙂 It’s so easy to get bogged down in the things that *have* to be done (washing up, sweeping floor, answering emails) and push aside the things we *should* be doing (playing with kids). Your children will be much happier with a mum that joins in playing silly games than with a spotlessly tidy house, so yeah, cut loose. I had a friend come round one day, unexpectedly, and she took one look at the kitchen and set to washing all the dishes, cleaning the surfaces, and generally clearing up. I was MORTIFIED! But she’s from Zimbabwe, and she looked completely confused when I begged her to stop. ‘In my country, we always do this. You can’t look after children *and* clean your house; everyone knows this, so we help each other.’ What a culture shock, and I’m still not sure how comfortable I am with it, but really, it makes perfect sense 🙂 Who says we have to do it all ourselves?

      Like

  • Alex C

    I’m confused. You say “lovely people, with lovely, happy kids” like this doesn’t refer to you?

    I often talk about you with my friends when we have the old “babies/parenting” conversations. You are always my shining example of “good parenting skills” and my role model for motherhood. Your children are beautiful (in every sense) and I really hope when I have some of my own they are like yours.

    Nobody is perfect and so you don’t always keep a pristinely tidy house or have the ability to multi task efficiently?.. So what! This just demonstrates you are normal and inspires me with more confidence that it is possible to be awesome without having super powers 🙂 x

    P.s. If my opinion is grossly misguided please don’t burst my bubble – it really does support my positive outlook 🙂

    P.p.s. Your RSS feed seems to have broken as of this morning; it’s gone blank.

    Like

  • Giggly Mama

    Eek! Looks like I did the best I could with spelling as well…YEEESH!

    Like

  • Giggly Mama

    This is an very important post. This is my outlook as well. I too, am a good enough parent. 😉 I do the best that I can ans learn along the way.

    Like

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