TW: probably not a great article to read if your Mum is a massive jerk.
Mum, you did a good job. No, seriously – stop whatever you’re doing and give yourself a pat on the back. Science has confirmed it: you are not a totally sucky parent. In fact, according to research, you’re probably pretty good at raising your kids! Here are three pieces of evidence that will make you feel a little bit better about the job you’ve done…
Good Enough Parenting
Are your kids cared-for in basic ways? Food, shelter, clothing? Great, you’ve done a good job – so says the ‘Good Enough Parenting’ concept developed by Dr Donald Winnicott, a British Paediatrician and Psychoanalyst.
This simple approach to parenting was first suggested in the 1950s. Dr Winnicott postulated that parents who attended to their child’s needs just 30% of the time raised happy children.
His approach was geared toward helping parents understand how to raise resilient children. (Get out your notepads, parents, this is worth its weight in gold…) Dr Winnicott found that parents who withdrew their immediate responsiveness as their children grew allowed their children to develop greater resilience.
Of course, this makes sense: when we respond to every little groan and whine of our darling offspring, they remain useless amoeba, capable of not much more than a a lazy finger-scroll on the ever-present iPad. However, when children are left to deal with boredom, difficulty or wishing someone would make them a snack on their own, they have opportunities to flex their ‘resilience muscle’.
The Good Enough Parenting concept is a fabulous thing to keep in your mind next time your spawn is accusing you of being a terrible mother. We find it so darn relateable, we’re linking you to this excellent article written in the dark days of pandemic-related home-schooling.
Stop beating yourself up about the time you decided to sleep in when your kid wanted you to wake up and do crafts.
“You can make your own dinner tonight, darling. Mummy’s teaching you about resilience.”
You did the best you could with what you knew at the time
Oh, Mumma. Did you do something you wish you hadn’t? Or didn’t do something you wish you had?
We’ve all had the experience of screwing up.
One time, when my daughter was 9, I failed to notice what she and her friends were up to for several hours. Upon poking my head into the room they were in, I was greeted with a blanket of darkness and the terrifying scenes of the horror movie, Saw 3, on the television.
“Why are you watching Saw?”, I shrieked.
“It’s not Saw, it’s Saw 3,” they corrected.
“Why are you watching Saw 3, then?” I asked.
“Because we already watched Saw 1 and Saw 2!”
Or, there was that other time my kid and her friend found my vibrator and marched it around the (share)house – aloft – while screeching with laughter. I felt terribly embarrassed and also had to have an incredibly awkward conversation about self-pleasure with another person’s kid. Then, a different kind of conversation with her parents.
You know, though, at the time, I thought my kid didn’t have access to the Saw DVDs.
I thought my sexy stuff was well-hidden.
I did the best I could with what I knew in those moments.
That doesn’t mean I don’t still squirm when I think about those things. It does mean, however, that I keep forgiving myself for my screw-ups. The ones I’ve shared here are a couple of more entertaining ones. Some of them have been awful – shocking, frightening, reckless. There have been so many.
Part of the work of being a human – and a Mumma – is learning how to keep forgiving ourselves, over and over and over.
And if we’re clear that we’ve REALLY f*cked it up? Then we get to do the work of having some painful conversations and making amends with every single step.
‘Burying Beetles’ Raise Their Children in Dead Rodent Carcasses
Ok. If I haven’t yet convinced you that you’re probably an OK parent, here’s my final argument: the Burying Beetle of North America scours the forest floor for dead, rotting mice and rats and raises its children inside.
It buries the carcass, then lays its eggs inside. Once its eggs are safely nestled in there, it covers the whole shebang with a layer of gross mucous to protect its precious children. Once hatched, it feeds its young regurgitated, rotting rodent meat.
Suddenly, my 2-minute-noodle dinners don’t seem such a crime.
Nor does my sex-toy faux pas.
I mean, I know I probably can’t prop myself up with interspecies comparison….
Or can I?
There are moments when human-ing is just so damn hard. The task of parenting offers SO MANY opportunities to learn, to grow, and to make a giant mess.
Kids don’t come with an instruction manual.
Breathe, Mumma. Let it go. Try again.
If you wanna give props to your Mum for not raising you in a rotting dead rat carcass, you can buy her a gift voucher for Mother’s Day here.