I often see articles about what it is to be classed as a ‘good’ parent. I read many status updates, tweets as well as other posts on social media that let me know what I am supposed to be doing to be a good parent. Even people in the street stop me to tell me if they think I have done something that makes me worthy of being a ‘good’ parent or if I am deemed to be a ‘bad’ parent, we hear loud tuts, have judgemental glares or someone will curse my children under their breath as they walk by. Generally, my children are just being exactly that, children. They are learning the rules of our society. They are not born with the automatic knowledge of exactly how to act in any given circumstance.
I have a big issue with the terms ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ in relation to parenting and children. Actually, I have a problem with these terms in life in general. In my experience, some people (not all) that use these terms regularly have shown me that they believe in a definitive ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ just like in cartoons and stories. There is good and evil to them. No in between. Some people judge others, regardless of the circumstances of the people they are judging. We are in their way, they are busy, we are too loud for them, my daughter accidently dropped her toy and I had to stop to pick it up, inconveniencing you in the process, my son is upset because he REALLY wanted that expensive toy/magazine/those sweets and I said no. How awful am I, as a parent, to dare to say no to my child? How awful is my child to act like a child and cry when he doesn’t get what he wants? He is too old to cry and he is a boy! Boy’s don’t cry. What an awful mother… Maybe I wasn’t considerate enough. For the one minute that he was crying, I did not consider that you were unable to ignore it for a moment, walk away or even try to help. Maybe you did believe you were helping by scolding him for his un-manly crying. Who knows?
I do crafts with my children as it is an activity we all enjoy. In the past, I have had some people tell me that I am trying too hard and that I shouldn’t be showing off so much as it makes them look bad. I have been told I am a ‘bad’ parent because of this and the mess we create. I have also been told that doing crafts actually does make me a ‘good’ parent/’perfect Pinterest Mummy,’ (not sure if that’s a positive or negative thing nowadays?) as it helps my children think more creatively and is a fun activity to do. My intention was to have a good time, doing something positive with my children, I did not give a thought as to how it might make you, or anybody else look. Now I don’t know if I’m doing the right or wrong thing. Maybe I shouldn’t do crafts with my children? Maybe I am a bad parent after all?
I do not like the moral connotations of being a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ parent or child. I have known some people believe that they need to be praised regularly as being a ‘good boy’ otherwise it is obvious to them that they are ‘bad.’ Nobody is completely good or bad, I think that people can make the right and wrong choices. I also believe children and people in general can display different behaviours for different reasons. People, including children can behave in a destructive way but I do not believe this makes them ‘bad’ people/children forever. Maybe they will find it hard to redeem themselves if you keep calling them that though?
I know that the phrase, ‘You are a good girl,’ is one that is used innocently and with positive intentions. For some, this isn’t an issue at all. For us and some other people I’ve know, this is a bigger issue that it seems. Many people find it extremely easy to judge others. After all, it takes more thinking to praise someone and support them than it does to criticise. My wish is that people could think a bit more about how their words and actions affect others. Calling the mother in A&E, that had been sitting there for several hours with two young, increasingly restless children (who had been very well behaved for the first three hours), a ‘bad’ parent for one of them being upset because he was hungry and was fed up of waiting, is not very supportive. I think some of the words were, “Why bother having children if you can’t control them? I feel sorry for those kids having a mother like her. She doesn’t know what she’s doing.” Just like you, she was stressed as her daughter was poorly, she was fed up of waiting and she had felt helpless trying to entertain her children for so long. Hearing you muttering and calling her a ‘bad’ mother and her child ‘naughty’ to your friend did not help her situation at all. In fact, I am sure that it made her feel more stressed at an already fraught time. Maybe she is a bad parent? How are she take her child for the medical attention she needed? How awful that her young children only had the capacity to sit quietly in A&E for three hours? Out of the ten minutes you were sitting there, you were totally justified in complaining for five minutes of it and making her feel bad about your impatience.
I think that many people need to keep in mind that they need to think about others more. So many people feel justified in judging others readily. Sometimes it is because they have been inconvenienced in some way (maybe they had to wait for three whole seconds while we moved out of your way). Sometimes it is because you have forgotten that children do not automatically act like adults, they have to learn the social customs. Sometimes it is because you are thinking more about yourself and the tasks you need to do, rather than considering others. Sometimes it is because throughout your childhood, you were scolded for being ‘bad’ when you really wanted to be seen as ‘good.’ Maybe it diverts attention away from one of your perceived shortcomings? There are many reasons people judge others, everyone does it but not everyone has to create negativity and feelings of guilt in others because of it.
In my opinion, some of these people need to think a bit more when communicating their feelings to others. Some people need to help to support others more. If a parent using a pushchair suddenly finds the wheel has fallen off, stop and offer some help. Experience has shown me that some people are more likely to tut, moan and become vocal about how that ‘bad’ mother shouldn’t really be using a pushchair anyway as her child should be walking. While the mother is trying to fix the pushchair on her own, the moaner has to step briefly on the road to avoid the obstacle.
I don’t believe there is such a thing as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ parent, child or person. Everyone makes choices, some of them are right at the time, some are wrong, it doesn’t make anybody ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ It makes them human. It makes them imperfect in an opinionated, judgemental and seemingly perfect world (or so they would have you believe). Making mistakes means that you are learning, you are thinking and you are accepting that nobody is perfect. Everybody is trying to make the best of their lives. They are all doing the best they can, regardless of background or circumstances. Being more supportive of others and not judging them so readily would help stop the guilt and overwhelming pressure on parents, as well as children, to act in certain ways to be deemed as ‘good’. We are all being the best parents we can be. Our children are being the best children they can be. Don’t let the judgements of others make you determine, in your own mind, whether you are doing a good job as a parent or whether your children are ‘good.’ Keep in mind that everyone has different opinions on how to parent and not all agree. Stay confident in your own ideas and opinions, after all, they are your children, you know what is best for them.
So, am I a good parent? I am neither a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ parent. I am a parent. I am a parent doing her best for her children. I am a parent that makes mistakes but learns from them. I am just a parent, like you, not better, not worse than you. The choices I make for my own life are mine alone. Some things that work for me won’t work for you. It doesn’t matter though, we are all in control of our own parenting journeys.