We all know that celebrating our parenting fails makes us feel better. Women have always enjoyed being self-deprecating (sometimes to an absurd degree), and parenting is one of those arenas where we gain strength and confidence through sharing the stuff that goes wrong.
‘They had IPad for four hours yesterday so I could tidy the house.’
‘Four hours? God mine had them ALL DAY!’
‘I made that cake out of a packet mix and didn’t tell anyone.’
‘You actually made it?! I bought mine from Tesco. Who makes cakes? Duh!’
‘I drank a bottle of Prosecco and it was only 4 in the afternoon!’
‘I downed a bottle of GIN and then vomited on the school run.’
These kinds of ‘competitive bad parenting’ conversations are not unusual. And it’s good that we no longer feel the need to hold up some kind of parenting ideal BUT…don’t you sometimes want to celebrate the things you’ve got right? That’s the strange paradox of the ‘bad parenting’ vibes that are fashionable right now. The truth is it’s often acting. Letting off steam. It’s shoving two fingers up at the world and saying LOOK I’M AN ANARCHIST! I WON’T CONFORM TO YOUR EXPECTATIONS! (but the reality is that we are still pretty conventional and playing by the rules- we are good parents).
The other danger is that when ‘bad parenting’ is celebrated, it becomes harder to judge what is truly CRAP. So I thought I’d compile a short list. This is my own PERSONAL list and I’m not judging- let’s be clear on that.
- Compulsively checking my phone when in the park/shop/playgroup – I hate the fact that my eyeballs are constantly glued to a screen (but I don’t know what the solution is because sometimes it’s for work okay?)
- Being so hungover that you can’t parent even at even a BASIC level – Yes it’s okay now and then but I don’t want my daughter to remember me with a green face and greasy hair, hanging over the toilet bowl, begging for mercy. A step TOO FAR for me and not one I celebrate (even with the other anarchist Mums I know).
- Using my daughter to score points against my partner (or other Mums)– saying things such as ‘Oh I thought Dad was going to pack that.’ Or saying something like ‘Rae is actually fluent in French and Mandarin already,’ to make another Mum feel shit. This is definitely CRAP in my book.
- Knowing something is CRAP and doing it anyway- So when I’m angry and CANNOT stop repeating the same negative statement over and over. So yesterday I ranted for 10 minutes about how NOT having milk on cereal was RUBBISH and then kept going on (because other children would LOVE that milk, because milk has VITAMINS in it, because only BABIES have dry cereal) until my daughter calmly picked up her Tsum Tsum bag and asked if she could please go to nursery right now. Doing stuff when the voice in your head is chanting STOP! is definitely crap (rather than just bad).
- Saying YES to stuff when you know you shouldn’t- We all do it but I am finally understanding that if you say YES to something one day because you want an easy ride (the egg films on the IPad, the Kinder egg in the shop, the magazine that costs 4 quid and has 3 pages of content and sixteen pieces of broken plastic on the front), then you are actually making life HARDER in the long term. Inconsistency. This is when I’m the one shaping expectations and then shouting and getting angry because I’ve set them up in the first place.
So I guess all I’m saying is that yes let’s admit to our flaws, let’s share our faults and dodgy days but let’s also face up to the fact that we all have our personal list of CRAP and that maybe this CRAP isn’t something to celebrate.
And once we know our own crap parenting traits (rather than just bad), we can introduce a few tweaks here and there. As Virginia Woolf once said – ‘ Without self-awareness, we are as babies in cradles.’
And that’s a nice thought isn’t it?