I am a very ordinary parent. In almost every day I experience both good and bad mother moments. I’m a proponent of the good-enough parenting approach. This means that I have chucked out the notion of perfection and adhere to the idea that I will always be attempting to be the best parent that I can be.
When I’m tired, hungry or resentful about something, the best I can be does not climb to any dizzy heights. I can be snappy, childish and irritable.
When I’m in the flow and feeling relaxed and organised, the best parent I can be is much better. I can be patient, light hearted and measured.
I am a very ordinary parent. I have triumphant moments and I have disasterous moments. And all parents do. The skill of parenting is how we manage them and how we learn from them.
The role of parent creates many tides to which mums and dads are subjected. In my house these include how well or how badly my daughters are are getting on, how far through the school term we are and therefore how tired or fresh the children are, how rushed we are to get ready to go somewhere, how tidy my house is, how much the children like the dinner I’ve made, the state of the Icelandic economy . . . OK, not that one, but thousands of tiny and massive issues and their fluctuations affect me, my children, my husband, my work, my social life and all of the other systems I’m a part of.
But I do have a habit that keeps me in check and that makes the ebb and flow of my own mood, wellbeing and stress levels have a minimal effect on my children. This habit will not let me vent the full force of my temper or frustration. In my work I sometimes see the effects of an unpredictable and emotionally-unsafe family life . Within a certain range, we should be able to predict the behaviour of our family members towards us. When children or a partner can’t tell if the same event will cause them to be hit one day and smiled at another, they are damaged by it, because they can’t predict the consequences of their words or actions.
The habit that helps me keep an even keel beneath the journey my children are taking through childhood is reflection.
I pause or I stop. I notice what made a bad or a good mother moment. I take out a bit of learning from the event, about something I will repeat again or about something I will avoid doing next time. I take note of how I or someone else was behaving or feeling before the event so I learn more about our responses. And I decide what I will do in similar situations in the future.
Because life is a patchwork quilt of your triumphant, disastrous and ordinary moments.
And because you are human, you will learn, change and grow from the experiences.
And if you reflect on the experiences you have, then the change will be in the direction of positive growth on the whole.