There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. There, I said it!
I’m certainly not a perfect parent. This picture may look like we’re an idyllic, happy little family, but what you don’t see is that 30 seconds before it was taken, my husband was chasing after my youngest, who was chasing ducks, and I was shouting at my eldest for pulling leaves off the bushes.
Social media, in particular, has you thinking that the perfect parent exists, but I assure you that’s not the case.
It's easy to get swept up in parenting ideals on Instagram and Facebook, though. After all, who wants to upload a photo of their other half yelling at their kid or a picture of their little one throwing a massive tantrum in the middle of Tesco? We're a proud society and want to portray our kids as the little angels we wish they were.
Take any photo of a happy parent and child you see on Instagram – I bet you £3.21 (because that’s all the change I have in my purse) that the kid either had to be bribed to pose like that, or that the same day, the parent let the kid watch an extra episode of Bluey so they could finish their coffee in peace and play Wordle.
So why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be a perfect parent? Surely there are enough pressures in our lives without adding to them?
What is perfection, anyway?
What might seem like one parent’s idea of perfection, isn’t necessarily what another parent deems perfect.
Perfection to me would be:
Having everything organised the night before, so the mornings aren’t such a rush to get out the door
Minimal screen time during the day and not after 5pm
Healthy meals that are colourful and nutritious, and the kids would eat everything on their plates
Having the time and energy to spend quality time playing with them every day
Making memories together at the weekend, doing something as a family
Bath, story and bedtime at 7pm every night for the kids, with no arguments or pushback
Going to bed at 10pm and getting a good night’s sleep, ready for the following day
This just isn’t achievable for me. It’s a win if accomplish just one of these in a day, but to achieve every single one – day in, day out – I think it’s virtually impossible.
Plus, having strict rules and restrictions in place is no fun for anyone. As a family we like to go with the flow. Some may call it disorganised, we call it being spontaneous!
How to be a good parent
At best, I strive to be a good parent. To me, that means ensuring my girls are safe and healthy and that I get through the day with some sanity remaining.
A good parent sticks to their guns and does what’s best for their family.
Just because your friend Carly gets her kids to bed by 7pm every night, doesn’t mean she’s a perfect parent. Maybe she skips the bedtime story sometimes in order to stick to this routine? Maybe she gives her kids beans on toast for tea every night, because it’s quick and easy? These things also don’t make her a bad parent.
We often go and visit my father-in-law and don’t get home until gone 7pm. And then we still have to give them tea but we’ll often skip the bath to save a bit of time. Does that make us bad parents?
If the perfect parent existed, there’d be no such thing as mum guilt. Unfortunately, it most definitely is a thing – I feel it most days. Like, when my daughter wants me to do colouring with her and I have to tell her that I can’t because I’m working.
I’m not a bad parent for declining her invitation, because I’m doing my best for my family by working to be able to put food on the table and pay for her sister’s nursery fees (among other things).
As parents, we’re way too harsh on ourselves and don’t give ourselves enough credit. It doesn’t help that our little princes and princesses can turn on the waterworks and send us on a long, old guilt trip when we say ‘no’. But as I keep trying to tell my 5-year-old, I’m not doing it to be mean, I’m doing it because I love her and I want the best for her.
I’ll hold my hands up and say, I’m a grumpy cow when I’ve not had enough sleep. And as my youngest loves to start her day at 5am, I’m grumpy most of the time!
What’s more, my girls know how to push my buttons and will test me to my limits – especially at bedtime when they refuse to put on their pyjamas and decide to run riot, when all I want to do is collapse on the sofa with a glass of wine and a large bar of Dairy Milk.
We call it ‘the witching hour’ in our house, because they suddenly turn into little monsters and refuse to do anything they’re asked to do. And it usually ends in tears.
I take my hat off to anyone who can hold it together on minimal sleep when their kids are taking forever to eat their tea and begging for one more episode of Bing before bed.
Pick your battles
For me, it’s all about picking battles. My daughter won’t believe me, but I hate saying ‘no’ to her.
I’d love to let her stay up and watch The Masked Dancer every Saturday and take her for McDonald’s for tea on a Friday. But if I said ‘yes’ to everything she asked for, I don’t think I’d be setting a very good example. Plus, I’d be bankrupt because that girl has very expensive tastes!
On the occasions when I do say ‘yes’, I see her face light up and that makes me happy. If I said ‘yes’ all the time, she’d take it for granted and whatever she was asking for wouldn’t be a treat.
So, believe me when I say that perfect parenting doesn’t exist. And next time you see a photo of a happy, smiley family, just take a minute to imagine what happened before and after that picture was taken. I bet you there were tears and tantrums at some point!