Thursday, September 29, 2011

Are You The Perfect Parent? No? Why Not?

It seems the world is full of perfect parents doesn't it?  Everywhere you look there are mothers giving us glimpses into their perfect lives, with their amazing and well-behaved children.  They never have to raise their voice to their kids, and never seem to have a hair out of place themselves.   Their houses are neat and tidy even! Whilst you and I are late, yet again, for the school bell, running down the street with one arm in our jacket, hair flying, struggling to put the other sleeve on whilst wrestling with our handbag, the dog's lead and a stroller.   We get there red-faced and sweaty, with a screaming toddler and a dog desperate for a pee - to find Super Dooper Mother looking at us with scorn on her perfectly made up face.

Want to know a secret?  She is a myth, a liar and a fraud!  Yep.  No such thing in this world as a Super Dooper Mother.  She's a legend only in her own nappy bag.  This intimidating,  superbly organised woman isn't really mother to her family at all.  That is the job of someone else - the au pair, the nanny, the mother and even, in some families I have know - the father!  She is not really a mother at all, not in the ways that count, and she sure isn't perfect.

We have so much pressure put on us and our style of parenting that it just isn't funny.  And because of the way that families are often scattered or alienated we have precious little backup in many cases.  Single parents, and yep I mean men as well, have it really tough.  Some are trying to juggle jobs, kids, home, finances - and there is always someone ready to jump in and point the finger at something they don't agree with.  Singles without work find it even harder going, as they are not only working to an extremely tight budget (not easy with a child or children) but also have the fingers pointed because they don't have a job?   I often think people can't win, whatever they do.

The whole of our lives we spend with the thought in the back of our minds "what will (whoever) say?" - and how wrong is this?  For the life of me I don't understand why we have to poke our unwanted noses into other people's lives and their business. It is different if they ask us, but mostly they don't ask and we get their opinion anyway.  Most of us have at least one upset like this, some have many more.   Meanwhile, we are doing the best we can to care for and raise our families.

We keep being bombarded by articles about how we shouldn't smack our children, how we shouldn't be giving them pain relief, how we shouldn't be using this product or that product.  "You can't eat this, You can't eat that.  You can't eat chips, Cause you get too fat!"  There are scandals about people who are overweight and have children - a little sidebar here - Once upon a time we were known as Bigger Women.  Then the health people stepped in and decided (in their infinite wisdom) to change the system of measuring our bodies.  So that when I looked on a chart at the Pharmacy I saw that I was OBESE.... well I was so shocked, as I was 5'1"  tall and was half a stone overweight.   I really couldn't believe it.  Even the pharmacist and the doctor said the system of Body Mass Index is a bit ridiculous.   I mean, to most of us half a stone overweight is just a bit of extra weight on you, not obese?  So what does that make me now that I am 2 stone overweight?  Nelly the Elephant?  You have to laugh.  Except that because of this stupidity we now have a generation of women (or even two) who are stigmatised and traumatised because of being labelled obese.  Use another word for goodness sake.

Right, on with the show.   We need to keep in our minds a few things to help us when we are being doubtful about whether we are good at being a parent!   Children really don't need much, you know?  They have basic rights, which are their basic needs!   They need food, clothing, shelter and love.   And no, they don't need the biggest and the best of everything to be amused and happy.  Kids will have enormous fun with ordinary things like a cardboard box!  A laundry basket!  They can play "lets pretend" until the cows come home, and it is good for them too.   It is great if we can get wonderful toys, but it isn't necessary!  What is the one thing that babies love more than any other - your keys!   Clothing is the same.  A warm outfit for cold weather doesn't have to be a fancy dancy designer label.  The kid can't read, so they don't care!  I always cut the labels out anyway because they irritated my baby's skin!

The most important thing in a child's life, I believe, is love and mum's attention.   Well it is actually more than a belief, we have seen what lack of attention and love does to babies.  There was a program on tv when I was living in UK.  I am not sure but I think it was Anneka Rice.  The program team went into an orphanage in Bosnia, and they did a huge makeover there (which they followed up, incidentally).  The things they found there made the experienced cameraman cry.  There was a basement, dark (no lights), damp floors from drains backing up.  There were any number of babies and tiny tots in cots - wet, cold, hungry, unattended and lonely.  They had never had anything much in their lives and especially not cuddles and love.  They lay there, most of them not even crying any more.  And to watch them bloom was just wonderful and heartwarming.   To see them start to learn about hugs and love was to reduce you again to tears.   They had to be taught how to play, having never seen a toy.

Bosnian Orphanage

I just want you to contrast that with your home, and your child or children.   Ok, we shout at them sometimes but gee whiz they push buttons don't they?   A shout here and there is fine, not all the time mind, because they just learn to ignore you!   A smack once in a blue moon is ok too, because again, they push the boundaries.   But if this is leavened with all your love, and lots of time and attention, thoughtful understanding and compassion then you are doing fine.   It doesn't matter if there is a mad mess in the house, kids turn a place upside down in minutes.  It's part of their job really!  And it is healthy for them, honestly it is.   If you have lots of dirt that is not so good for anyone.  There is a huge difference between children's toys littering the place and downright filth though!  You don't have to have a show home, and you never will while the kids are little!

And accidents?  Every child who ever was has had accidents!  I am convinced it is why their bones are so soft to begin with, so they bounce rather than break!   They are little but can go like lightning, and we are not physically capable of watching them every second of every day!  Many mums stress out and feel they are bad when their child falls or has any kind of accident - not so!  We make our homes as child safe and child proof as possible. They are kids being kids and we are mums worrying and trying to keep them safe.   And the little stinkers often learn to do something before we realise - like rolling over - so PLOP!  An accident doesn't make you a candidate for worst mother of the year!  It just means everything is normal really.

We don't need to be Super Dooper Mummy, we have more depth than that!   Our children don't know hunger, or cold, or neglect.  When we look at them they respond with the biggest smiles, and love and cuddles from little bodies.   What could be more perfect than that?  Want to tell me now that you aren't a perfect parent?

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