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How to be the perfect parent.

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Ha! Sucked you in with the title of this post, didn’t I? Truth is, there is NO SUCH THING. Somewhere along the line, SOMEBODY (who I so would not be friends with and can go eat a proverbial…) decided we should ALL try to be PERFECT PARENTS and that we should “help” everybody else become PERFECT too. Those pointed glares at the supermarket or anywhere in public, really, are TOTALLY getting the point across, right?

Sometimes I get sucked in. Sometimes I feel judged and sometimes I (silently and inconspicously) judge others. It is human nature to compare, contrast and take a position on where we feel our behaviour and the behaviour of others sits on some kind of invisible scale of life. But isn’t it getting ridiculous?

Sometimes I am being judged passive-aggressively and sometimes it’s just a feeling in my bones as someone looks over at me or asks me weird questions about the habits of my child. Sometimes I just judge myself. I start imagining what other people will think if I am seen to do this or that. The opinions of those who shouldn’t get a say in my parenting techniques, preferences or abilities can rumble around in my brain. Sometimes those ‘voices’ stop me from writing meaningful blog posts or make me feel like I can’t be who I am as a parent. Other times, I fight these brain invaders and I win (by a smidgen). Either way, I’m kind of getting over the fact that I have to fight myself in the first place.

I need to stop feeling the need to explain myself to everyone all the time.

Oh, well we have never been able to exclusively breastfeed, because…

Yeah, my toddler is acting up today, because he’s (teething/missed his sleep/sick etc)…and it’s not really like him normally…

Oh, yes. The Little Mister is eating his pre-packaged supermarket purchased baby food, only because today…

Yeah, today I did turn on the television in his presence, but only because…

I thought about cloth/bamboo nappies, but I chose disposable nappies, because…

BLAH BLAH BLAHDY BLAH.

You would think I was feeding him booze or hanging him upside down from a torture rack just for funsies.

I do have very valid, considered and educated reasons for just about every parenting choice I make. I’m learning just like everyone else who is Awesomely Unprepared for each stage of parenthood, but I’m no dumb cookie. I read, I assess, I plan, I try. I change when necessary. I think about the consequences (short and long term). However, I do NOT owe an explanation to that snooty lady at the supermarket or that frienemy who asks weird, competitive questions about my child’s development while assessing whether I’ve done something wrong or not.

Here’s news. NONE OF US ARE PERFECT PARENTS.

We make little mistakes (which we often learn from very quickly). We do what we think is best, but sometimes it misses the mark and we end up at plan B, C, or D.

Here’s more news that will blow your brain right out of your brain sockets (I’m no doctor – brain sockets may or may not be a thing). EVERYONE WILL JUDGE US NO MATTER WHAT WE CHOOSE SO WE MAY AS WELL ENJOY BEING JUDGED FOR DOING WHAT’S BEST FOR US!

Sorry for all the caps. I’m feeling a little fired up.

Breastfeed? You’re too attached to your baby – how can you live your life? And god forbid you do it in public, you awful trashy moll (eek). What? You’re STILL breastfeeding?? That’s just gross.

Don’t breastfeed? You’re just taking the easy option and you don’t care what’s best for your baby. It’s like feeding your baby MacDonalds every day. Didn’t you try hard enough? It’s so SAD how everyone gives up so EASILY these days.

Attend various baby activity classes? You’re doing too much. Your child is being carted here and there just so you can prove to yourself that you’re a good parent.

Don’t attend various baby activity classes? Your baby is understimulated and is going to lag in its development. You think you’ve got something better to do?

Stay at home mum? You lack ambition and your children (especially daughters) are not going to learn how to be strong and independent. You’re just sitting at home watching daytime TV and whingeing about working mums. You’re an insult to feminism.

Working mum? You’re leaving your children when you should be spending more time with them at this precious age. How can you chase your career and leave your precious offspring in childcare? What? Are you sick of being at home with the kids? Well, that’s life, love. You should have thought of that before you had them.

And the list can go on and on and on. I don’t actually believe any of the things I wrote above, by the way. I am trying to get the point across that ignorant, judgemental people (who aren’t afraid to let you know it) will find something negative to say about your parenting, regardless of the choices you make. It says more about who they are than who you are.

With the availability of social media making these opinions more and more accessible, it can become bloody unbearable! We’re all judging each other! Here’s a list of the most annoying things parents do on Facebook, here’s the top 10 reasons parents are lame and boring and vapid and should get a life (there are actual articles on these topics but I’m deliberately not posting the links). There’s even an ugly flipside where we get all angry that people don’t want children or don’t have them (there is a distinction – a painful one for some).

Everyone has their own story and 90% of the time we can walk past each other and not have a clue what that story is. We’re not qualified to judge. Who do we think we are? We think one mum is an absolute super mum who we can’t live up to, when she’s really just overdoing it, her partner and kids suffering the fall out because she too feels the pressure – crushingly so. We think another mum is taking short cuts or isn’t doing enough ‘by the book’ (and there are plenty of books), but she’s actually fighting off depression or has a circumstance in her life which she is actually rising above the best way anyone could be expected to.

Like I said before, it is human nature to have judgey thoughts. We all have them. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t. We just need to think a lot more about how we treat those thoughts. Do we internally stop ourselves and think, “Maybe I don’t know the full story. I will keep that opinion to myself. This person doesn’t need it.”? or do we think we’re all that and a bag of chips, feeling like that person’s life would be empty and directionless without our oh-so-valuable input? Do we really have to raise that eyebrow? Do we really have to give a disapproving glare? Why is it so important to us that the person we are judging should know we are judging them (while we pretend we’re not judging them if we’re confronted)?

And just because we don’t SAY anything, doesn’t make us any less guilty. That sideways glance at the shops. That stony or awkward silence when someone gives the “wrong” answer about their parenting techniques. Those raised eyebrows when someone’s toddler chucks a little tanty (they tend to do that sometimes). That over the top suggestion on how to better parent a child, disguised as friendly advice. STOP BEING SUCH F*CKING BITCHES. Didn’t anyone teach us to be better than that?! Also, it’s incredibly arrogant and self important, don’t you think??

If you read this and you recognise aspects of your behaviour, don’t get defensive and angry. Don’t rant about how I’m a horrible person. The truth hurts. Just do better. Each day is a fresh start. Put good karma out there and people will appreciate it. That’s all I hope for. It’s only what I ask of myself as well. I’m trying to work on it every day.

We need to band together and support everyone who is raising our future generations. Some people need more support than others, but what we all need is compassion, empathy and genuine help that comes from a place of love, not a place of fear, ignorance or judgement.

That’s the best lesson we can teach our children. That’s what will make us good parents and role models. We can have children who meet all the right developmental milestones on schedule, they can weigh the exact right amount for their heights and ages, they can be great at reading, writing and mathematics. They can be athletic and physically strong. They can be eating only the best organic, fresh foods in all the right portion sizes. They can be a member of every recreational club in town, play several instruments and speak different languages. But what good is that if we teach them that it’s OK to be mean to those who simply make different choices to us? What does it mean if we teach our children to only judge on the superficial? If we show them by our actions that we don’t need to be compassionate or look deeper at someone’s situation? What does it mean if we don’t teach them real people skills? Or how to get through to someone in a way that does not isolate them or make them feel small? What good is it if we teach our ‘perfect’ children that they are better than those who are less fortunate or who don’t have all the same opportunities? Something to think about.

At the end of the day, I’m not going to care so much about the superficial. We are fortunate enough in life. My husband and I will be able to provide for our children (should our blessings remain as they are today) and they will have many great opportunities to learn and grow well. However, if my child reaches out to help another child/person and if my child stands up for a child who is being bullied because they’re different… If my child shows love instead of judgement – asks, “What do you need?” not “Here’s what you’re doing wrong”. I will not care that he watched Sesame Street for a bit longer than normal. I will not care that I was unable to breastfeed exclusively. I will not think about that day when as a toddler he screamed in the shopping centre because he was tired and teething and everyone thought I was a bad parent. I will be proud.

And on that note, I’m done. Rant over.

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