Is there any such thing as perfect parenting? Or is it just an outdated way of trying to make parents tick all the boxes and, when we can’t, making us parents feel like failures?For those without disabled children the list of guides, self-help books, factsheets and social media sites are endless. Round every corner there is advice for you to follow and ways to achieve that title of the perfect parent. For those of us with disabled children there is not so much out there on perfect parenting, but as a parent one thing is abundantly clear to me…. not every child is the same regardless of whether they are disabled or not and not every child is the one you will read about in baby books. Why? Because they are all as unique as each other. Having four children really makes you see this. Not one of them has developed at the same rate, according to statistics, or even experience life and their environment in the same way.
I could read a range of fact sheets, views, blogs, and websites and feel that I am a failure as a parent. I can look at the parents around me and compare my parenting skills to theirs and find myself lacking when it comes to being that perfect parent. I have high spirited girls who love to interact with the world around them but because they have hearing loss they are louder, one has ADHD so her behaviour is not the same as everyone else, she stands out but that does not make me an imperfect parent!!! It makes me a parent, a human being, a person doesn’t it?
How can there be a thing called perfect parenting? Don’t most mums and dads think they are doing the best that they can? The media, social media, specialist’s and family members all play a huge part in making us feel like we have to conform to the image of a perfect parent when in fact we are all as unique as our children and as a parent of four girls I feel I am learning new ways to parent my children every day by trial and error not by following some guide or book on the subject.
The last 13 years have really been a learning curve and it’s been really hard to not compare myself to that perfect parenting idea where your children do what is considered the right thing/way to do something… treading water here as I can honestly say I have not read a parenting book since my eldest was four years old. Saying that, light hearted programmes are now being made such as the recent “Parenting for idiots” on channel 4 showing even famous faces have parenting blunders. This makes me smile but makes me wonder why we still try to live up to expectation which leads us to doubt ourselves and can in some cases lead us parents to feel like we cannot cope!
Raising our children today is very different from when my parents raised me 30 years ago, more of us parents work, technology plays a huge part in our lives and parenting has changed with advances in knowledge. Surely it’s time to be more accepting and not put people into boxes, classifications or categories. In my opinion there shouldn’t be this pressure to be like everyone else. We shouldn’t feel pressured to conform to a set of ideals which we can be seen as failing in. None of us are failures. Religion, age, personality, traditions; we’re all unique so why can’t our parenting skills be viewed as unique?
I feel perfect parenting is sneaking into your child’s room at the end of the day to gaze on them sleeping and feeling a huge rush of love for them no matter what has been thrown at you that day, its taking care of them, protecting them even when you have hospital visits and you don’t know what the outcome will be. It’s watching them grow and learn and being there to catch them when they fall.
Having disabled children who are seen as different and challenging really impacts on how society views me. One noticeable trait of being a mum to a child with hearing loss means that I have to speak louder than other mums. This used to be really embarrassing when out with other parents at toddler groups etc., my children are louder than others and the old saying children should be seen and not heard would never fit with my girls. Then there’s ADHD which has so much stigma attached to it mostly due to the way it has been viewed in the past as a naughty child and of course that old philosophy of bad parenting.
Am I a bad parent? Does struggling to raise a unique, beautiful child struggling day to day with memory loss, impulsiveness and a range of associated ADHD comorbidities make me an imperfect parent? I do not view myself as the perfect parent but I am not a failure because of it. I try to remember that I am unique, I am not perfect but I am raising my children the best way that I can with help from friends and family and being the best mum that I can be.
X Leanne x