Don’t let the evidence you’re a good parent, slip past unnoticed.
My children know that if I could go back I would not have chosen to be a parent. This is not the same thing as saying I don’t want them. They are (especially currently – keep reading) an absolute joy, and they’ve made me a good person. I would not give them back, NOW.
Instead, I tell them, it means that if I had ANY idea how painful and hard and soul-destroying I’d find parenting, I wouldn’t have done it.
It’s the pain that’s the worst part – their pain.
Empathy and parenting
Lil’ old empath me cannot handle their fucking pain. It’s too much.
I want them to be happy, but alas, it’s not a parent’s job to make their children happy. It’s our job to raise adults who can be functional and resourceful in the world – and by doing so, make their own happy.
And that kind of adult emerges from a child who’s had to tolerate enough times of being unhappy, because you say NO to them and have boundaries and shit like that. That’s the way it goes.
Anyway, I sat down late last year to list the evidence that I am, in spite of all the “evidence” to the contrary that I can find AT THE DROP OF A HAT, a freaking good mum. Not to sit down and write about how in my time machine, I’d be child-free (and a selfish bitch, for the record. But that’s another post).
Because while the “evidence” that I suck as a parent – that I’m a failure in all the worst ways – has legs and wings and stands ten feet tall and bellows at 100 decibels, the evidence that I’ve done not a half-decent but an amazing job, can slip past unnoticed. And I’m completely over that bullshit. So I sat down one day and took stock.
Here’s what I came up with on that day:
- I have a 22-year-old son who still calls me as one of his main emotional support people. And when I tell him I love him, he replies with, “Love you too, mate.” He addresses servers and shop assistants by their first name. He has a firm handshake and looks people in the eye. He’s set a career path for himself. He sings like an angel and plays multiple musical instruments. He’s faced his demons and he keeps getting up each day and trying to be a good human and a good dad. I couldn’t be more proud.
- My 16-year-old daughter is milking full time. She gets herself up every day and leaves the house just after 4am to drive 40 minutes to the farm where she got herself a job, in a cowshed with mostly other women, milking 800 cows. She comes home, covered in cow shit, with sparkling eyes. She’s living her best life. She does dishes without being asked. She calls me when I’m travelling to liaise about meals and groceries for the household. She always notices when someone in her orbit is struggling. She reports to me every day on the “adulty” things she did, especially when it’s about her relationship. She is self-reflective and articulate. Holy fuck.
- My 15-year-old is incredibly pissed that she’s not old enough to get her driver’s licence yet, because she thinks she’s every bit as capable as her sister, and she’s right. She got herself her first job completely on her own and didn’t even tell me when she had an interview. She saves money like her life depends on it. She plans. To go to art school in California. She doesn’t know yet how that’ll happen with the USD$150k/year price tag, but she’s set her mind to it. And I don’t doubt her ability to do that. This year, as an introvert who struggles to articulate her emotions out loud, she worked her way out of an abusive relationship like a BOSS, setting boundaries and then honouring them. Even more, a month or so later she got angry enough to punch the kid in the face. Yes – violence is wrong. And fuck, I was so proud of her.
- My 23-year-old chose me. That is actually some of the evidence that I’m a good mum. Because she chose me, and she told me off for saying I’m a bad mum. In fact, she wrote me a list of why I needed to stop saying I’m a bad mum because that was offensive to her – see below. That list rocked my world. That and many years of therapy around parenting and my struggles and guilt and attitudes around it.
So I’ll share it with you.
This list is from the perspective of someone who doesn’t take the simplest things for granted. She gets up each day and keeps herself alive, and is GOOD and KIND and SMART and STRONG even when her life could easily have shaped her so differently.
That was huge for me. It forced me to acknowledge that I had done some things right.
You’re allowed to say it – PARENTING IS FUCKING HARD
And finally, a shout out to Emily Writes and friends, because I had also just finished reading Is it bedtime yet? and it was the most glorious, loving, real, raw, accepting and forgiving thing I’d read in a long, long time. If you’re about to have a baby or if you have babies or someone else in your world does, and they need to hear that PARENTING IS FUCKING HARD and that’s NORMAL, you need to buy them that book. And probably the next book too.
Here’s an idea for you:
What’s the area in your life that you are best at punishing yourself about? What’s that part of your life that you feel literally SURROUNDED with things to beat yourself over the head with, because there is SO MUCH EVIDENCE that you suck at it? That you’ve failed? What’s your shame?
Because how about this…. What if you write a list of every. Tiny. Piece. Of evidence. That you’re NOT failing at that thing?
Would you do that?
(Oh, and PS. If you can’t see the flipside and all you read here is a list of ego-boosting bullshit, call me and I’ll give you ALL the details about the child with addiction and the child who started having children at 17, and the child who I hit and who called the police and had me arrested and rightly so, and the children (yes – REN, not CHILD) who have had the Police intervene in their suicide attempts, and the child who felt betrayed because I raised her one way and then changed the entire direction of my life. Or the children who were abused or assaulted. Or the children who had sex too young. I’m not going to keep going here, because you haven’t got the time. But rest assured – this post of self-love has been HARD WON. Parenting is fucking hard. That is all.)