I have been thinking a lot about motherhood recently, especially because of my lovely mother’s birthday this month. I often joke about being on the list when it comes to “bad parenting”, especially when I remember the number of times I have given in to whining and let my children have a sweet, or when I refuse to get wet and dirty with them because I was too worried about my hair, or when I have put them to bed early because I was too tired from work to deal with any tantrums. The most recent one was at the park where I decided to be adventurous in the spirit of summer and go on the zip wire, even though I was wearing a lovely dress and feeling tired. Most people that know me would be surprised that I even wanted to do that, since I am normally the one that holds the bags for others to go on fast rides in theme parks, or the one who sits out with children while adults check out the scary attractions.
My husband encouraged me to try the zip wire, as he has always been more adventurous than I am, but he could not believe his eyes when I soon lost control and fell off! My protective two year old boy started screaming at the thought of mummy being hurt, my daughter could not believe her eyes, and my husband was just glad that I did not get seriously hurt. After that, my son cried whenever I went on the swing, probably because he was worried something bad would happen to me. Bless him! I thought for a moment that I ought to get back on that zip wire and do it properly so that my children would not be traumatised and hate zip wires. I’m sure a “better parent” might have done that, but I will confess that I often drop out of the race for ‘Best Mum Award’ when I find an easier option that does not damage my children. So, yes, we reassured them that mummy was okay and continued to have a nice time elsewhere in the park.
It is often in the moments when we are tired, rushing or hungry that we judge ourselves harshly for not being perfect parents. We imagine that we must always be patient, selfless and calm to be good parents, so we suffer with guilt if we do not live up to expectation all the time. Some people, like me, settle for average when we realise that we cannot always be ‘good’. Between marriage, work and raising children, I have learned to accept that I may not always be able to do the textbook best for my children , but I can surely do mybest for them, even if it means, for example, having just two enjoyable hours a day with them, instead of ten hours of a frustrated and tired mummy. I take comfort in the fact that God knew exactly who I am before he gave them to me. We often see children taking after their parents in character, either by nature or nurture, so I hope that good aspects of my character will be passed on in the same way that I carry some of my mother’s good traits. I do not claim to have had a perfect childhood, and will not deceive myself with the thought that I can give that to my children, but we can try and do our best daily for them.
Circumstances may be different when we think of the parenting issues we face compared to what our parents faced, but I believe that the principles of love do not change. The most important thing for children is to feel loved and secure – whether their parents are professionals or unemployed, adventurous or cautious, educated or not, rich or poor. We all have different ways of raising our children, which depends a lot on how we were raised, how we see the world and what resources and values we have. I think that whatever choices we make, we should also consider the fact that actions speak louder than words. Children will copy what they see, and it is healthy for them to learn from us how to handle mistakes, responsibilities, bad days, everyday challenges and personal weaknesses.
Parenting is not just about doing things for/with children, it is also about being a role model for them. Children will not always be children. They will soon begin to understand the world for themselves, and will be able to tell us what they really think of our parenting and personalities. There will be times when they hate our rules and complain about all they did not get, but there will also hopefully come a time when they will realise that you did your best with what you had and have been a good parent by setting helpful boundaries. What made my day recently was my daughter telling me that she wanted to be like me. I was very happy when she explained how she admired my work and dress sense (A bit shallow, but I choose to see the compliment!). I could let this make me feel more pressure for perfection since little eyes are watching, but I choose to use this as motivation to improve myself in areas of weakness and continue to build on my strengths, as an example for them. I love my job and enjoy being able to have time away from home using my skills, but I sometimes wonder if my children will resent that. It was nice to hear that she saw me, among others, as someone she would want to be like when she grows up.
Maybe I will dress appropriately another day and learn to do the zip wire properly in the park, so my children can learn about courage and perseverance. Children are learning a lot about the world through their teachers, friends and other experiences, so we do not have to feel pressured to personally do everything for or with them. We can guide them using values and principles we believe in, provide learning opportunities/experiences where possible, and maintain an atmosphere of love and openness in the home to foster confidence and growth. It is also important to make time frequently to give children our full attention and make them feel valued. We will never stop being parents to our children, so it is wise to get comfortable with doing parenting as part of a bigger life we live. I may not always get things right as a parent, but showing my children love and modelling a good life to them might be the best thing I can do for them. This will mean making wise choices and improvements to my own life, so that my children become adults I can be proud of, even if they somehow turn out to be just like me!