Are you a bad parent?
Almost every parent goes through bouts of not feeling like they are a good parent. Almost every parent questions their own gut instincts at times. Almost every parent feels as if they should be doing better, waking up earlier, feeding their child healthier, being more encouraging. There are times, when every parent feels as if they aren’t doing a good job, and that’s okay. Given that your child is clothed, fed and happy - you are doing a great job.
As a parent, it probably seems as if there is no right answer. Everywhere you turn there is somebody to judge your choices, especially nowadays, with people worldwide all over the internet passing judgement on someone's parenting ideas. I’ve seen it many times, I’m sure we all have! A parent uploads a photo of them with friends, taking some well-earned 'me time'. This post is then shortly followed by a fellow parent commenting on how they couldn’t possibly leave their child for a night to go out! It's constant and relentless. You post a picture of your child covered in chocolate and in pour the comments saying that chocolate has way too much sugar and to try alternatives like carrot sticks instead! Advice is all well and good, but there is a fine line between friendly tips and criticism. Every child is different, every parent is different and so what may work for one family doesn’t mean it will work for all.
Parenting may seem like an impossible job, with no right answers. Breastfeeding is best, but some mothers are criticised for doing it in public, or for stopping too early, or too late, or for using formula. You shouldn’t ‘spoil’ your child with attention, but you ignore them while they throw a tantrum and it’s neglect. You feed your child nothing, but healthy food and you ‘never treat them’, you treat them with sugary snacks and you’re making your child unhealthy. You let your child stay up until they fall asleep and you should ‘really be exploring a bedtime routine’, you stick to a strict bedtime routine and ‘I can’t believe you’re just letting them sit awake in their cot’. You go back to work and people say how they could never do it while their child was still so young, you spend your days home with your child and people imply you’re living from their ‘hard-earned tax money’. Everything you do is going to be wrong to some people.
One of the joys that comes with parenting is that you are never going to escape the judgement or the storm of ‘helpful’ tips that comes along with it. So you may as well do what suits you and your family best. There will always be judgement, there will always be somebody to tell you that you’re doing wrong. If you’re child is healthy and happy, you’re doing just fine.
Of course, it’s difficult to feel inadequate at times, but there are a few things you can do when people criticise your parenting methods:
Remind yourself why you do what you do. Criticism can either challenge your ideas or prove your point. Both are okay! If you know why you do what you do as a parent then it shouldn’t be of other people’s concern. If you know that you don’t allow sugary snacks past a certain time because you have to deal with a cranky child in the morning, tell them. You have a reason for doing everything that you do, if people tell you otherwise then challenge this by telling them why you do it. Remain open-minded, if somebody does offer an appropriate alternative, there is no harm in trying, but remember that your parental instincts are probably right!
Bear in mind the advice from proper sources. Everybody has an opinion, this can be very confusing to new parents. Some opinions are presented as coming from some sort of authority, but they are seldom based in fact. Celebrities don't know more about parenting than you. An individual doctor on the telly is not a proper source. Always go to NHS choices or to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence for the best science-based advice. Check what people are telling you there, to know if you can safely ignore it and do what you feel is best.
Surround yourself with positivity. This doesn’t mean always surround yourself with people who share the same ideas and techniques with you. It means surround yourself with people who although may offer some insight, respect your choice as the child’s parent. Surround yourself with those who understand that you are trying your best, those who offer you help instead of making snide comments as to why you’re bottle-feeding at 9 months instead of breastfeeding.
Learn. Being a good parent isn’t about knowing exactly what to do from the beginning. Being a good parent is learning from mistakes, learning what is best for yourself and your child. Trial and error is important, it allows you to learn what is best for your family. Nobody is ‘right’ and nobody is ‘wrong’ when it comes to raising a child. There is no one way to perfectly raise a baby and there never will be!
Be kind to yourself, you are doing a great job!