Wednesday, 9 November 2011

There's no such thing as a perfect parent...

This has been something I've been meditating about since I saw it as part of a comment on a blog (sorry, I can't remember which one!). It sums up beautifully something we all need to remember when being a parent is tough or we're being hard on ourselves for our perceived failings as a parent. The commenter used this quote:

There's no such thing as a perfect parent, but there are a million ways to be a good one. 

Parents seem to have been fair game for some time now. We're judged by everybody and parts of the media don't help. (Naming no names but the main culprits sound like Fail and Distress.) We judge each other too, encouraged by the presumption that we're all failing as parents, or at least not as good as the parents whose children are long grown up and who've forgotten what dealing with a small child is like.

We're part of a society that expects perfection, yet it is impossible to achieve. We're human, after all. We make mistakes and we learn by making them. It doesn't help that we have a blame culture where someone loses their job seemingly for every cock-up they make. Nor does it help that parenting involves dealing with a variable - your children. They are all individuals from the moment they are born and have different needs and wants, likes and dislikes. There is no manual, despite a lot of people making their fortunes writing parenting books. None of them can agree, because there is no single right way to raise a child. The government tries to standardise "advice" but fails because what works for one often doesn't work for another, even children of the same family.

Yes, children all have similar basic needs. They need food, clothes and to be kept safe, healthy and warm. Probably most importantly, they need to be and to feel loved. That's it. Beyond that, they will enjoy different things and some will require more input from their parents than others, have different interests and temperaments. As a parent, your job is to make sure they have their basic needs met and then to do your best to ensure their other needs are met, along with the inevitable compromises that arise, dependent on your  circumstances.

Gratuitous lovely (old) shot of my children. Just because. 
Everyone needs to give parents a break. You may not agree with the way that someone parents. Fine. They may just have different values to you and that's allowed. It doesn't make them a bad parent. A bad parent doesn't meet their child's needs, does some unspeakable things to them or allows such things to happen to them. Most parents wouldn't dream of doing that. Their children are probably the most precious things in the world  and they want only the best for them.

No-one else can truly judge someone's parenting because they do not know or understand the child in the same way that their parents do, and they are not living their life. Perhaps, if we stop judging parents, parents will stop judging themselves harshly for bad days, making compromises because they are tired or need to work, making choices that aren't perceived to be "ideal". Parents often beat themselves up for "bad parenting", when if they stopped to consider whether it was, they'd soon realise it really wasn't. True, you might make choices that aren't ideal or best practice but this isn't a perfect world. We're all muddling through and sometimes the best we can give isn't all that great, we know that. But you know what? You're still good parents. The decision may not be all that great, but the children will come to no harm, they'll be looked after and cared for, they'll be fed and clothed. We often compare ourselves to what we perceive to be perfect parents but that's their public persona and who really knows what goes on behind closed doors?

So cut yourself some slack the next time your inner critic calls you a bad parent. Your best IS good enough, and on the occasions when all you can give is less than your best, that's good enough too.

Believe in yourself as a parent. You'll feel so much better for it. There IS no such thing as a perfect parent. And a million (or billion) ways to be a good one. 
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