Striving to Be The Perfect Parent?
“I feel like I’m failing at everything.”
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard, thought or said these words since I had my daughter three and a half years ago. My friends and I are a mix of stay at home mothers, work at home mothers, students, part time workers and full time workers. Regardless of our situations, we’ve all said it at some point.
We all want to do what’s best by our children and our partners. We all make choices about how much or how little we work, who cares for our kids and how often. Some of us due to circumstance don’t really have a choice. None of us is 100% happy. I know my friends have at times envied me being at home full time with my kids, being able to accompany them to different activities, knowing I would be the one who saw their first steps and comforted them when they were upset. Meanwhile I’ve envied my working friends for being able to escape home at least a day or two each week, and wondered if my kids are missing out on socialisation because they’re plonked in front the television while I try to study.
These are just a few of the comments from my friends when I asked if they ever thought they were failing:
“I’ve failed in my plan to be where I wanted to be by 30. Other 29 year olds without children are getting the good jobs.”
“Nothing in our lives has gone according to plan since we had our daughter, we don’t own our own home, we haven’t been able to travel the world. I want to be a stay at home mother, but I often feel like I’m doing a subpar job.”
“I’m 40 and apart from being married to the right person, I haven’t really done anything in life that I wanted to do and I think it’s too late now.”
“I use disposables and store bought baby food.”
Time magazine recently made headlines around the world and spawned a plethora of memes across the internet with its cover featuring Jamie Lynne Grumet breastfeeding her 3-year-old son. What amazed me was the reaction from other women. While extended breastfeeders weren’t happy at being portrayed as extremists, everyone else seemed to see the headline, ‘Are you mom enough?’ as an attack on their parenting skills or decisions. Everyone’s so worried about being judged, they’re not realising we are our own harshest critics.
One of the biggest guilt trippers for me is the supermum blog. I’m sure you know the type—mothers who bake cakes worthy of any French patisserie, sew all the family’s clothes, come up with creative craft ideas to do with their kids, and take professional quality photographs of it all to post on their blog. How can someone like me, who can’t even cut in a straight line, ever compete? Then there are the career women, who by my age are sometimes onto their second successful career, making big bucks, and still managing to find time to have beautiful children and travel the world.
I refuse to believe that anybody’s life is perfect. Next time you look at another woman and think they’ve got it all figured out, think about what she might not be telling you. Maybe she makes fabulous food and takes great photos, but is unhappy with her weight and scared to venture in front of the camera. Maybe she’s throwing herself into her career because she wants another baby and her partner doesn’t. Maybe she’s running marathons and looking svelte in her skinny jeans, but her house is a pig sty.
Bottom line? There is no one size fits all plan for the right way to live or the right way to parent. Instead of wasting time thinking about what we’re doing wrong, we need to focus on what we’re doing right. Comparing ourselves to our friends, family members or celebrities is getting us nowhere. That’s not to say we shouldn’t strive to be better parents and better people. Of course we should. But we should do it for ourselves and our families, not because we’re trying to live up to some mythical standard of perfect womanhood.
Georgina Scambler is a journalism student and mother of two who has spent the last four years juggling off campus study with full time parenting. You can follow her on Twitter @heytheregeorgy.