Being a parent is without a doubt an extremely rewarding role. It’s wonderful to see these tiny humans you’ve created grow into independent beings with their own minds. I know my husband and I feel very blessed to have 3 of our own tiny humans.
This rewarding role, however, doesn’t come without its own challenges, these challenges and low moments of Parenting are very rarely discussed by any one of us. It’s so easy for us to see, particularly in this world of social media, so many happy families and children living the most wonderful bright and smiley lives through these tiny little squares on our phones. But sometimes seeing these, particularly when we are having a low day, can make us feel like we are, as I often feel, ‘The World’s Worst Parent’.
I know I can frequently be guilty of only posting those happier moments in our life. I very rarely share the lower moments of parenting & this isn’t because they don’t happen here, because they do, daily. But I guess it is because in those moments it isn’t or doesn’t feel appropriate to be photographing them. These aren’t moments I want to keep as memories to share with the children years down the line, but then I often wonder if maybe they should be moments I should capture, not for the purposes of sharing with the children, but for the purpose of reminding myself that I am a good parent even when the challenges thrown at me are almost too much to bare. Maybe we should spend more of our time praising ourselves for the amazing job we do 90% of the time and spend less of our time beating ourselves up for feeling like ‘The World’s Worst Parent’ during those small moments where things are tough.
I know I for one find so many aspects of parenting extremely challenging, I try my hardest to be patient with my children even during the worst meltdowns known to mankind, to listen to their every word with intent and interest, even when they’ve spoken to me without even so much as taking a breath for what feels like hours about the same topic, whilst another child at the same time is hanging from my leg also making demands for my attention, trying to respond to their every need & demand, even when I’m too exhausted to acknowledge my own basic needs, such as get myself a drink for the first time since breakfast. But we all have a limit and some days we just can’t keep up with the high parenting expectations we have put on ourselves, or that we see portrayed through social media and this should be ok. But it certainly doesn’t ever feel OK and I know it always leaves me feeling terribly guilty.
We all know the days, when you have been patiently dealing with one meltdown after the other, for hours on end (literal speaking) you’ve tried every possible thing to make your child happy but everything seems to be failing. I know at this point, I have been known to break and have ended up shouting at my child, which never actually makes the situation any better and always leaves me feeling guilty. But I know it’s simply because I’ve reached the point of despair and we all have our limits of being able to cope.
Coping – This is an area of parenting that gets the wrong type of attention. You cannot judge a Parent’s ability to cope based on seeing one small snippet of their day/week or life. There are times when I’ve honestly believed I can’t cope as a Parent anymore, that I’m doing it all wrong, especially during the first year of each of my children’s lives. Sleep deprivation has always played a huge part of these feelings, but the rest of feeling this way has always been because of the judgement from others.
There are 2 distinctive memories I have of feeling unable to cope, both of these are from Ewan’s first year, as by the time Roo came along I had pretty much stopped caring about other people’s judgement of my parenting techniques.
Ewan was an extremely hard baby to breastfeed right from birth and at 3 days old he still hadn’t had a successful feed. I had tried everything to make it happen, but nothing had worked. At this point I was exhausted, beginning to feel all those afterbirth pains and my milk was coming in. On this day a midwife visited the house, I told her of my feeding issues and how nothing was seemingly working. She said that I must be doing something wrong for him to have not yet fed successfully, since he didn’t have tongue tie, she told me to lie down on the bed and to pass Ewan to her. She placed him on me and he latched. Now I had tried this way of feeding him so many times before without any luck, but she had been successful on the very first attempt. At that moment I felt totally hopeless and unable to cope with motherhood. I totally failed to acknowledge the fact that she was a midwife & had years of experience in this area, this didn’t mean I was unable to cope, it was because at that point I lacked knowledge & experience of motherhood.
On another occasion Ewan had been teething badly for days. He had kept me awake night after night without more then 1 hour of unbroken sleep at a time. I was again exhausted and loosing the will to live. We needed to take a trip to the supermarket, so I’d placed him in the trolley, which had instantly triggered his unhappiness and the screaming began. I knew my only option was to persevere with his screaming around the shop and to simply try to remain patient by ignoring his disapproving screams at being in the trolley. I continued to ignore his screams and loaded up my trolley, when a lady came up to Ewan and said ‘awww you poor little thing, all you want is some love & attention’. I stood there not knowing whether to cry or scream at her. She had judged my parenting based on walking up one aisle of the supermarket. She had no idea what I’d been dealing with throughout the days before, or the reasons why I was ignoring his screams. She wasn’t aware of how much of my days & nights I had paced our house with him in my arms gently rocking & soothing him. Or that I’d had no choice but to make that dash to the supermarket because our cupboards were bare. She made me feel like I couldn’t cope.
If your child happens to decide one day that the middle of Tesco is the ideal place to have the biggest meltdown they’ve had in months, this doesn’t mean anyone else has the right to judge your parenting. It should also not lead us to feeling like we can’t cope. Children are totally unpredictable and let’s face it these moments nearly always seem to happen at the most public & inconvenient of times.
That feeling of guilt when you have served your child nothing more then a bowl of cheerios for Dinner, because you know it will make them happy and quite frankly you’re too exhausted to make anything else or for attempting to win anymore battles with them that day, whilst you scroll through Social Media and see beautiful nutritious plates of food that are at the same time being served by other parents. This doesn’t make you a bad parent, they too have those days, it’s just on that day they’re winning at Parenting and today is just not your day.
For me there have been so many times I have been reduced to tears and overwhelmed with the feeling that I can’t cope or that I’m not a good enough Parent to our children because that day or week has just pushed me beyond my limits. The days where it feels like the world is against you and nothing is going to plan. You’re tired, exhausted but know that you have to continue on parenting and smiling. I’m certain these moments are a constant re occurrence for all of us, but it’s just they are often left unspoken about in the larger parenting community simply because sharing beautiful happy photos is a lot more favoured and much easier to capture, then those not so pretty moments of parenting.
We shouldn’t feel guilty for those low moments, they are not because we are bad parents, they are simply because parenting is incredibly tough. No one and nothing can prepare you for the roller coaster journey you begin when those tiny little bundles are placed into your arms. So next time you see a parent struggling to cope with their children as they walk through the supermarket car park, give them a reassuring nod of approval. This is something I always do to any parent I see having a tough time, or where I can, I offer to help. I feel we should all stick together for this journey and offer support to one another. No parent should ever be made to feel like they’re doing a bad job, simply because they’re having a low day/week. So, if you’re having a bad parenting day, try and see past all those beautiful photos you see on Social Media and know that you’re not alone.