Parents are bombarded with information these days. From the moment of conception through to graduation. It can be overwhelming and certainly adds to a tendency to compare our parenting prowess. This can be tough, especially for working mums who often feel doubly judged in societies where gender equality is a given yet negative stereotypes persist.
While we are good at making comparison, seeking solutions, finding fault and generally beating ourselves up, it’s very rare that we take a moment to congratulate ourselves (or others) on a job well done.
It’s the little things that you remember. Like the time our eldest son was having a temper tantrum in a store because I refused to buy a toy – toys were gifts for special occasions I told him. So he howled, kicked, pleaded, sobbed – the full works burger – not surprisingly capturing the attention of several nearby shoppers who tsked and frowned.
I attempted to remain impassive and calm through this performance. Out of the blue, a middle aged woman approached, patted my arm and murmured “You’re doing a good job dear.” I could have hugged her.
Parents need to hear when they are doing things right sometimes. It’s especially important when you’re working full-time and, when you don’t have family around to back you up. And yes, you absolutely can be a great parent and work full time. Your children will be fine and you will not burn in hell. Nobody knows why you made the choices you did so my advice? Stop hanging out with people who make you feel sad. Or angry. Or both!
Second case in point. Our youngest son was an interesting pre-schooler. Extremely reserved, deeply sensitive, “slow” to reach milestones and, worst of all, “failing to thrive” at 8 weeks. He needed constant reassurance, couldn’t be pushed into things and was extremely introverted. His before school assessment, not surprisingly, scored him low on social development. If he was pushed (to pose for the photo, say hello, have a go) he’d simply retreat in to a shell and stop talking. Starting school was a nightmare and social gatherings fraught.
This week, that same boy took a lead role in his school play. He made a representative basketball team and was named MVP for his school basketball team. Earlier this yer, he started a new school with no dramas, takes a bus on his own every day and bikes around the village where we live visiting people.
Put simply, he has come a long way.
It’s hard to believe this is the child who once sat with a towel over his head on a beach for 4 hours because some misguided soul tried to make him enter a running race. The same boy who would play for hours on his own lining up cars on the floor or who would crawl to a door and repeatedly bang his head against it.
My husband has a typically male take on our son’s progression. “I told you he’d be fine.” My Mum would say, “Well done you.” And when I see a tired looking Mum struggling to remain her composure in the supermarket as her darling toddler screams for lollies, I smile and say, “This too will pass. You’re doing a great job Mum.”