Before becoming a parent I had an idealistic view of what type of Mum I would be and the overriding opinion of my non existent mum role was that I would be perfect. Yes, I would be the perfect Mum. I would do all the things that the books said I should do in order to raise a healthy, well-balanced, intelligent, happy child.
I would feed them all the right foods, take them to the park every day, play board games before bed, have warm pyjamas ready for them to slip on after bath time, I would, obviously, limit TV to just 20 minutes a day and I would ALWAYS put them first; if they were awake they would have my attention.
Enter 2 children. Oops.
The thing that I had never considered was that the 'parent rules' are always changing and when my children came along I didn't receive the personality transplant necessary for me to become the perfect parent I had anticipated.
Life happens, and continues around being a Mum, which quickly saw my Mum guilt set in. 'I shouted' 'they didn't eat a homemade purée' 'I watched TV for half an hour whilst they played without my attention' 'they watched TV for half an hour whilst I ate toast and drank tea in the kitchen' etc etc.
Apparently the food I gave my son quite happily as a baby was not right to give my daughter 6 years later, the weaning age had changed, school intakes had changed I felt like somebody had picked up the goal posts that I felt half decent at scoring in and moved them to another football pitch I hadn't a hope of reaching.
I got ill when my daughter was just 7 months old and the things I could do were more limited, I had to let others do some of the caring I so desperately wanted to do, I had to watch my Dad play with my new baby whilst I sat in the corner just, well, being ill. Enter more guilt.
I was ill for a long time and having periods of not being able to do my daughters hair, take my children to school, do their packed lunches, cook their dinner, bath them and just play made me feel so guilty and very sad. I certainly wasn't filling the vacancy of the perfect parent role I had previously created for myself.
Whatever your reality is as a parent I think guilt just comes with the territory and it is something I am learning to let go of in my self-love crusade. Newscheck...we aren't perfect. We will never be the perfect parent because it doesn't exist. We were made in such a way that means we will make mistakes and we will at some point do a lot of the things we swore we would never do as a parent. Do you know what, I'm a good enough Mum; I'm good enough.
My children are safe, feel loved, fed, clothed, given life experiences and attend school everyday. I'm good enough.
I actively listen to my children and when I’m too tired I tell them so and then sit and have a cuppa to recharge my batteries before starting again. I’m good enough.
We laugh together, talk through why I shouted yesterday, watch TV together and get fresh air in our lungs. I'm good enough .
I spend time with my husband and friends with and without my children and when I leave them they are with grandparents or friends who love and care for them. I'm good enough.
You all get the idea. Some circumstances happen that are out of our control and some are in our control but we are human, we don't lose all of our own feelings because we have started to care for our children's. I do my best with the situations presented to me at the time and that is all I, that any of us, can do.
I asked my lovely friend one day how when I was shouting at my 2 to get their shoes on before leaving the house how she managed to do it so calmly and so relaxed. Her response? "What do you think I was doing before opening the front door and walking the walk?"
So let's try not to fall into the parent trap, let's cut ourselves some slack. We are all in the same boat despite the fact the boats all look a bit different with different oars, they are sailing through the same lake. We are never going to be perfect...but I am always going to keep trying to be 'good enough.'
There is NEVER any judgement at Bridge the Gap, we are all doing the best we can to be ‘good enough’.
Jennifer Wyman is founder of Bridge the Gap and an emotional education consultant and trainer. A qualified early years practitioner and mum of two with over 21 years experience within the early years sector.