“God, do you ever feel like the internet just frowns on you in all the ways you are fucking up being a mum?! Seriously I don’t need more fuel to the guilt fire. I wish this perfect parent syndrome would fuck off.”
I got this message from a mum of three kids under five. I’ve watched this woman ‘mum’ and felt awestruck by how natural, nurturing, empathetic and engaged she is with her kids. She’s clued into messaging around how we can be positive, conscious parents, but, right now, she’s feeling absolutely COOKED.
My friend was responding to a well-intentioned post from a parenting commentator we both like to follow. But, at a time when you’re feeling COOKED as a mum, good advice feels like more fuel thrown on the guilt fire.
"I find it really overwhelming being a parent in the era of social media. While it also has its benefits (Dr Google, or, why is my child doing XYZ), it is also a source of all the ways 'you are failing as a parent and ruining your child'. If the 'mum guilt' wasn't already enough, you are spoilt for choice on how to validate your fears that you are letting your kids down on a daily basis. I'm sure there are algorithms out there targeting parents and making a profit off their insecurities. It's an incredibly vulnerable place being a mum. I think those who have decided parenting advice is the hill they want to stand on need to make sure they are not stomping all over the minimal confidence parents are holding onto, but instead, building them up. Amen."
– Penny, mum of three under five.
We are humans before we are parents
The thing is, when you’re engaged in gaining knowledge to parent well, you are also keenly aware of when you can’t meet the expectations you’ve set for yourself. We will always be our harshest critics.
We are humans before we are parents. Just because we have access to knowledge, doesn’t mean we have the capability and capacity to implement it and execute it all of the time. It’s not realistic.
"In this house, your best will always be good enough." – Brené Brown
My friend was feeling overwhelmed, and justifiably so. Three children under five ... and that’s before you add a relationship, a household, two businesses and whatever else is going on. If your child was feeling overwhelmed, what would you do? You would soothe them, support them, and simplify things, so their nervous system could rest and regulate again. But, what do we do when a mum is feeling overwhelmed ...? I know, I’m hearing crickets, too.
"A mother is their world. The problem is not the mother, the problem is for the mother to be able to be their world, the world has to be there for the mother." – Dr. Gabor Maté
We’re so fortunate to have access to sound, researched, parenting guidance. We can follow credible professionals and have their voice in our ear when we need to navigate tricky territory with our kids. In a perfect world, we’d be able to do this all the time and feel secure in the knowledge that we’ve met every single physical, mental, emotional and spiritual need of our child, 100% of the time ... We do not live in a perfect world.
We need permission to be imperfect people in an imperfect world. Our personal resources of time, energy, and mental and emotional capacity and capability are limited. We cannot continuously give them out to others without having them replenished in ourselves.
To expect perfect parenting all the time, is a fantasy. The expectation of perfection of yourself or anyone else is unreasonable. If you’re doing your best, that is good enough – whatever ‘your best’ looks like at that moment. ‘Best’ is a spectrum. Normalise imperfection. Imperfection is reality.
Go ahead and make mistakes
Mistakes are reality. In fact, mistakes are gifts. When you show your kids it’s okay to make mistakes, they see how to make reparations, learn something new, ask different questions and persevere in different directions. Mistakes are how we find our way forward, refine, and make better choices. If your kids see you make mistakes, they know they can make them, too.
"Our kids make mistakes, and they know they make mistakes. If we're not making them as well, in a very explicit way, they will have a deep sense of inferiority – that there's something wrong with them." – Steve Biddulph, parent educator and psychologist
If you’re feeling COOKED ...
If you’re feeling COOKED avoid the parenting advice and consume cat videos instead. The redirection you need in that moment isn’t about being a better parent, it’s toward replenishing your drained resources. You need to be soothed, supported and for things to be simplified.
Be gentle with yourself, mama. You’re doing a great job.