Feeling sick? Tired? Irritable? Know you’re going to be a bad parent today? Here’s how to be a good parent even when you believe you’re being a bad parent.
Iwoke up yesterday morning with the head cold my kids had been passing to each other over the last few weeks, a massive headache and tiredness from not having slept well because my youngest had a temperature during the previous night and kept waking me for water and the next dose of paracetamol, which she then spat out each time I fed it to her so that we both ended up with the liquid medicine all over our pyjamas. I had to resort to feeding her a spoonful of Nutella to get her to swallow another lot of medicine.
How is this relevant to this blog? Well I didn’t feel as if I was a good or self-aware parent yesterday. I whined and complained as much as the kids sometimes do, I let them watch TV for most of the day, and my patience was nowhere to be found. No amount of self-awareness could have helped me. But, in a way, it has.
If I didn’t know I was entitled to be sick, to be a not-perfect, not-always-available mother, then I would be feeling terrible about my day and about how I parented my children.
I would be beating myself up about the amount of processed, pre-packaged food my kids ate, the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables – even fresh air – they came in contact with, the TV-induced square eyes they most surely will develop.
But because I know that I too have a needy child within me, who needs my attention, particularly when I’m sick, and that my children have within them the ability to care for themselves – and even me to an extent, I am okay with how my day went.
I am also aware of the presence of my Inner Critic and how it can get worked up if I don’t behave in accordance with the rules it believes I should adhere to. The rules for being a Good Parent.
If I had no awareness of this self-critical force within myself nor why inner critics act as they do, I would have become a victim to its abuse.
Instead I sat it down, placated it, assured it that the rules it has acquired are not meant to be followed religiously, and asked it to instead alert me to things I might miss in my foggy-headed state that are crucial to my children’s safety and well-being. For the Inner Critic likes having something to do, so you may as well have it working for you!
Some self-awareness also enabled me to realise that when I’m not well and/or tired, my inner Nurturing Mother who is around much of the time on a normal day is pushed aside by my inner Irritable Mother. And that this is not as bad as it might first appear.
The nurturing side of me wants to just keep on nurturing, even if I’m not up to it. The irritation is a sign that I need time and space for myself. The earlier I listen to that irritation, and act on it, then the less irritable I actually become.
When I realise these things are going on for me, and I tell my children that I’m not feeling well and that I need to rest, or even warn them that I won’t be as patient with them, then they don’t mind.
They can actually be quite supportive – even the youngest one, and they don’t judge me for being a bad mother. In fact, I really don’t think they mind being allowed to watch TV all day and to eat what they want!