How did I become ‘that’ parent?
Updated: Feb 7
Oh how smug the ‘pre-children’ version of me was.
She thought she knew all there was to know about good parenting. And she would sneer every time she saw an example of ‘bad parenting’. She was determined to do a much better job when her time came. She would never become ‘that’ parent.
She was never going shout at her children in public. She wouldn’t need to. They would never dream of misbehaving.
They’d only eat sweets on special occasions.
Bedtime would be non negotiable. And they’d sleep for a solid 12 hours, every single night.
And, crucially, she would never, ever stick them in front of a screen just to get some peace and quiet.
Then, of course, she actually had children. Slowly she found herself morphing into ‘that’ parent.
No one ever actually becomes the parent they expected to be, because parenting is a role that’s impossible to get right all of the time.
So why do I still feel so guilty that I didn’t become the mother I always envisioned I’d be?
I’ll tell you why: it’s because we’re conditioned to think there is a parenting ‘benchmark’ that we all need to match up to.
Even before you begin to think about starting a family, you already have a sense that there are a set of unwritten parenting rules - things that you’re not supposed to let your children do because of the ‘damage’ it’ll do to them.
But have you ever noticed that most of the things on the ‘must never do’ list are things that we’re guilty of doing as adults?
How many of us can say that we aren’t spending too much time staring at our smartphone screens, for example?
Or which of us can honestly admit that we’ve never overindulged in unhealthy food or drink?
All of us, to some degree, have a weakness or a bad habit that we’re desperate to shake. If we didn’t, there would be no need for New Year’s resolutions. But do we blame poor parenting for our lifestyle choices? I certainly don’t.
It’s almost inevitable that our children will grow up to form their own bad habits, so it’s ridiculous to think that sticking to the rules all the time will somehow result in flawless offspring.
No mother in history has ever raised a perfect child. You don’t need to feel guilty that you weren’t the first.
Of course, if you’re letting your child stay up until midnight every night so they can stare mindlessly at an iPad while munching their way through a sharing-size bag of Haribo, you might want to reassess your parenting strategy.
But if you find yourself breaking the so-called ‘good parenting rules’ just so you can keep a bit of harmony in your household, it’s not the end of the world.