The truth is that we spend hours a day trying to avoid being a parent. We look for excuses to get away from our children and to do something for ourselves. We feel constant pressure to be perfect and constant reminders through social media that we are not doing anything nearly exciting as what others are doing. We come up with opportunities to prove that we are good parents and take photo evidence to share with others to make ourselves feel better about the fact that we don’t always like this job, the hours, or the demands that it makes on our time or our sanity.
We are judged by others for the things that we do and for the things that we don’t do and we are judged by those who are similar and different, those with children and those without. Our biggest judge however is usually ourselves.
We criticise ourselves for our lack of time, energy, interest, motivation, money, skills or desire. We want to be perfect and we want to stack up to others expectations but we forget that we are all living in an illusion. No one actually has it all together and no one actually knows how to do it.
When our parents parented us it was without Google. They made it up as they went along and sometimes they stuffed it right up, but at least they were consistent. We are more likely to not parent rather than risk parenting proactively and getting it wrong.
We go into it with ideals, but no concrete plan. Our parents worked and worked hard. They didn’t play with us because that was not their job. They didn’t entertain us that was what siblings were for. They didn’t need to socialise us because we had kids in our class and we didn’t need play dates because we could just wait until Monday when we went back to school.
We made our own fun and often we were bored. We didn’t listen and we hated our parents when we were angry. We made a fuss and we got a smack and we got angry and then we got over it.
We wore hand me downs because that is what was available and we didn’t realise that it could be any other way.
We had a sense of protection and security, and regular meals even if we did not like what was served, and we didn’t have takeaway on every corner.
Our parents struggled but they never let on. They faked it as best they could and the good ones let us know that they cared and were prepared to talk about their parenting strategies when we grew up.
Now we have way too many choices and we are confused about what is required of us as parents. It is time to come up with a plan:
Be on your child’s side and understand their point of view. Love them and show them that you care, but do not seek to be everything and do not seek to take the place of other important people in their lives.
Let them live a slow childhood. One where time lasts a little longer and they can spend it playing what they like. Know that playing Barbies might be replaced with watching Barbie and that playing Lego may be replaced with building in Minecraft but don’t worry too much about this. Don’t force them to go backwards, be pleased that they are playing.
Make your own rules about how you want to parent and be flexible as your circumstances change.
Look for ways to improve your life but keep it simple. Create a relationship between yourself and your child that is independent of their relationships with others and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks of you.
Decide clearly what your job description is and get on with it as best you can. Do the same for your children and let them get on with theirs. It might still be hard but at least you can make it simple.