Bad Parent, or Real Parent?

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Before I was an actual mother, I was the best parent in the world. My kids would always eat their vegetables, they would never watch TV and we would have quality dinner time conversations starting with ‘Today I am grateful for’.

I’m the first person to admit, this just didn’t pan out. I’m not sure if it’s today’s society, our busy lifestyles and parents trying to ‘do it all’, but somehow along the line between my childhood and my kids’ things just… changed.

The ‘Mummy guilt’ seemed to increase as my ability to deliver this perfect parenting decreased. I wanted my kids to eat their vegetables, but what I wanted more was an enjoyable dinner time without a battle. I wanted my kids to read books and have quality conversations as opposed to staring at a screen, but this bit of precious time allowed ME to read a blog, listen to a podcast or have a cup of tea.

Why do we constantly try to live up to an idea of a perfect life? Does social media contribute to us feeling like failures? I think yes. I’m tired of feeling embarrassed or ashamed because of something I have or haven’t done in terms of my parenting. Life has changed and so must the relationship we have with our children and the method in which we parent.

Parenting and lifestyles no longer fit into the 9-5 job that one parent holds, while the other stays at home to complete household duties. We are all in the firing line 24/7 with our work, kids’ activities, commitment to groups, caring for family members, volunteering at school… the list goes on.

Just because we no longer parent in the way that we perceived as ‘good’ doesn’t mean that quality relationships are not being developed. I don’t believe we’ve ever lived in a such a time where children are valued and considered equal family members. When I talk to my kids about the challenges I have each week in terms of logistics, I try and involve them in my problem solving and encourage them to help with the solution (for example, ’I have a breakfast meeting this week. I could ask my friend to take you to school or you could ride your bike. Do you have any other ideas how you can get to school safely and on time?’)

Including your children in your every day decisions lets them know that you value their ideas. I’m not saying let them run the show but letting them know their ideas are valid is an important step to building your relationship. Our relationship with our children grows at strange and different times and continues to evolve. Who’s to say a conversation in the car on the way to footy training is less valuable than a dinner time conversation ‘Today I am grateful for…’? We grab moments in life when they present themselves and make the most of them.

This brings me back to my opening statement. We are not ‘bad’ parents for letting our kids look at a screen or entertain themselves in alternative ways while we serve ourselves for a short, but lovely moment. I am choosing not to shame parents who I see at the park on their phone, because that is just a snapshot… I don’t know what the chat was on the way to the park or what it will be like on the way home.

We find moments to connect with our children in random moments – that’s the way the world has turned. We need to be flexible and model to our kids that we can be busy, but we are still connected with them and love them despite chaos.

I urge you to parent with love and connection when you can, and in a way that works for you. Only you can be the judge of that.

About the author

Megan Warren is an experienced primary school teacher, mother of two and step mum of three.  She developed Key to Kids in 2015 to help parents and educators connect with children.  Her simple and practical methods result in better behavioural outcomes and stronger relationships.

You can find out more about Megan and her business Key to Kids here.