It’s probably a bit late for me to start worrying about parenting styles now, specifically my own, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot. In fact, it’s something I think about a lot in general, especially if we’ve had a bad few days.
No matter how much I go on about stress free mamahood, not conforming to the idea of the socially accepted ‘perfect’ mum, or allowing mum guilt to rule my life, I feel guilty about my parenting just as much as any other mama.
The days when I have loads of work to do – guilt.
Longing for Summer so I can shove them in the garden – guilt.
On my period and cranky – guilt.
Hiding in the kitchen with coffee – guilt.
The days when I’m just not feeling it – guilt.
I could go on! Sometimes it feels like I’m just not happy with any aspect of my parenting. Have I really got any of it figured out at all, or am I just floating along through the days, drowning in coffee, just barely doing enough to keep them alive? Am I lazy parent? Should I be looking into alternative parenting styles?
Maybe all this stuff about stress free mamahood – not wanting to run myself into the ground trying to be the perfect mum that modern society thinks I should be – is just a way for me to absolve myself of guilt I really should be feeling. Maybe I really should be organising 4 activities a day, emptying our bank account for epic trips 3 times a week, and spending every waking minute with my 2 very precious tiny humans.
Bu then I remember why I do (or don’t) do what I do. I remember the bigger picture, and try to see ahead into the future. The reality is that in that future, in every future I can conceivably imagine, there is me and my kids. All a little older, hopefully a lot wiser. And all of us have needs in the present that will affect who we become in the future.
For me, there are two very clear options; the future that holds a very tired and drained me still running around after two very needy (albeit very gorgeous – biased much?!) kids. I see myself still collapsing on the sofa every night, except now it’s because I’ve been backwards and forwards to a dead end job I hate but pays the bills, rushing to a meeting at school because my darling boy punched a kid in the face for taking his football at lunchtime (or a musical instrument more likely in Wills’ case), and trying to get to the bank before it closes because my beautiful daughter needs (read: wants) the DM’s her best friend has and I need to extend my overdraft because she spent all her Saturday job money on hair products.
The other future I see isn’t perfect, because nothing and no-one ever can be, but to me it’s the better future. In it I see a mum (that’s meee) who is doing what she loves and has spent years building up and working for. She makes money for the family, and feels fulfilled (almost) every day. Sometimes she has to deal with incidents at school, but she’s usually able to talk them through properly with her youngest, darling, boy. It might take him a while, but eventually he admits when he’s wrong and makes amends. Her daughter knows the true value of what it means to work hard for the things you want in life, and she’s grown into a kind, hardworking, compassionate young woman who sometimes makes mistakes, but she puts herself out there and (usually) learns from the mistakes she’s made.
Don’t get me wrong; no one can predict the future, least of all me. And I’m certainly not saying that any take on parenting is better than another (you do you, mama!) I haven’t got it all figured out, who the hell has? I make huge mistakes, probably daily. I even stray from my own ideals sometimes, just for an easy life (*insert gasp of shock and horror here*), and my parenting tactics and style are growing and adapting with us as a family on an almost daily basis.
“All of us have needs in the present that will affect who we become in the future”
So no, I don’t organise thrice daily activities, or even thrice weekly some weeks! I do leave my kids to it, and actively
insist upon encourage them to play separately and independently of me. I push their limits, and refuse to do things I know they can do for themselves if they just try. I tell them that no matter what, we don’t give up. I talk to them about the world, about the mistakes both they and I make, and I show them the consequences of their actions – the good, bad, and downright ugly!
I let them watch TV (or wish they would in Wills’ case), and every lunchtime after we’ve eaten Amelia watches a film while Wills naps and I work. Except the days when she doesn’t because she chooses not to. On those days, when she peers round the office door and hands me something she’s been beavering away on (probably using supplies squirrelled from my craft box!) and tells me she loves me, those are the days my heart swells and I feel a moment of confidence that one day I might just get that second future.
Or the days when they fight, but as soon as Wills sees a tear in his sisters eye he puckers up for a kiss and tells her he loves her. The time we walked past a homeless man and Amelia went running back to give him her last chocolate coin. Even better the time she made me buy a three-course lunch in Tesco for a homeless man because I couldn’t explain where he was going to have his dinner. The first time I realised that Wills had stopped lobbing his plate on the floor when he was finished, and instead began to hand it to me declaring “finished!” Watching Amelia confidently ask a Barista in her ‘big’ voice for a;
“babyccino in a cup like mum’s, not too hot, with chocolate and vanilla sprinkles please!”
These are all things which might not seem like much now, but to me they’re the first signs that the lessons in life I’ve been trying to teach my kids have begun to sink in. They remind me that I’m not lazy, and that there is a bigger picture and a future we’re working towards as a family. We all have different parenting styles, and we each have our own reasons for them.
I’m doing okay, and so are you. x