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I just had a very interesting conversation with my 22 year old.

We were talking about my policy from their childhood of only letting them watch documentary channels on TV. All the usual kids’ channels. Disney, Nickelodeon, etc., were blocked so the only ones they could access were things like Nat Geo and Discovery Channel.

I commented that they must have felt like such deprived children and I must have been the worst mother in the world as far as they were concerned.

Hard Done By

He said, “Oh yeah, we thought we were so deprived and it was so unfair but we never actually judged you like that? We never thought you were a bad mother because you didn’t let us watch the TV that the other kids did, we just thought we were hard done by.”

That brought me up short. As a mother, I always assume that when kids go into feeling sorry for themselves, they turn the blame outwards onto whoever is making them feel bad, in this case, me, but apparently that’s not the case.

I should know this: all the work I do is about what we make things mean and how we make it reflect on ourselves yet I thought that when the kids felt deprived or hard done by – and let’s face it, no matter what you do, kids spend half their lives feeling hard done by! – they made it mean something about ME!

Judged Constantly As A Mother

I don’t know about you, but even after almost 23 years of mothering, I still feel like I’m being judged constantly: judged by other parents, judged by other kids, judged by the teachers, judged by myself and judged by my kids, and in my mind, I’m judged and found constantly lacking.

Oh, my kids have turned out okay, in fact, they’ve turned out really well, but I haven’t been as strict as I could be with regards to things like mobile phones and computer usage, and to be honest, as the years have gone on and I’ve run out of energy, the youngest (who’s currently 13) gets away with so much more than her older siblings ever did just because I can’t be bothered putting the energy into stopping it any more!

I sometimes feel like the poor child is dragging herself up! And the older kids remind me of just how much Keeley gets away with on a regular basis, all couched in the affronted righteousness that comes out in this kind of situation.

I’m A Bad Mother

I’m not consistent therefore I’m a bad mother.

I don’t let them do the things other kids do and they feel deprived therefore I’m a bad mother.

I don’t give them lollies/sweets/candy therefore I’m a bad mother.

Actually, that one DID get said by my child. When Kira was about 3, she took herself off to my neighbour, Enrica’s, house and announced to her that she was moving in with Enrica because she didn’t think I was her real mother. When Enrica asked why, Kira said “Well, because if she was my real mummy, she’d give me lollies because they make me happy and real mummies want you to be happy. YOU give me lollies so you must be my real mummy.”

I was so caught between being horrified and being incredibly amused that I didn’t make it mean anything!

But Are The Kids Actually Thinking That?

With regards to the other stuff, though, I’M the one making what they say mean that I’m a bad mother, the kids certainly aren’t saying that.

I’M the one who’s taking words out of the kids’ mouths and saying “well, if they think that then they must think I’m a bad mother”.

The kids don’t actually think that.

The Only Person Who Thinks You’re A Bad Mother…Is YOU!

Consider that: what if the ONLY person saying you’re a bad mother is YOU?

Now consider: what if you could change what you said to yourself? Oh wait! You CAN! You can change what you’re saying to yourself at any moment!

How would it change your experience of being a mother if instead of saying to yourself “I’m a bad mother” even if you only say that sometimes, you instead congratulated yourself on the awesome job you do – even if it’s only sometimes?

Focus On What We Do Get Right!

Instead of putting the focus on the things we get wrong or the things we don’t like, instead of putting words into our children’s mouths, we could focus on what we DO get right, the love we get and give, the support and the energy we put into our children. It would change our whole energy around parenting from being something that we’re constantly struggling to get right to one where we have wins.

Change the focus from what you’re doing wrong to what you’re doing right. It takes some practise but it makes a difference to both you and the kids.

Celebrate Your Wins

Forget your mistakes. Celebrate your wins. What you focus on, you get more of. If you want to be a better parent, pay attention to what doesn’t work ONLY TO LEARN FROM IT. Put most of your attention onto what DOES work because then you’ll get more of what does work. It’s actually that easy.

Your kids love you. Your kids will remember more of the happy times than the sad ones but they also know at some deep level just how much effort you put into being a parent. So give yourself as much credit as they do: they just love you. Focus on what you do right.

Learn from the things that don’t quite work out and then celebrate the things you get right. More than anything else, you’ll be teaching your kids to do the same thing for themselves: to focus on what they do right not to keep beating themselves up for what they do wrong.

You’re doing the very best you possibly can with the resources you’ve got. You deserve credit for that. I acknowledge you from the bottom of my heart, I know the effort you put in. Good or bad doesn’t come into it, you’re doing your best and that is, actually, enough.

Do you have any other tips? Share with us in the comments.

  • Technically, for the majority of us, if we are doing the best we possibly can……how can we be called bad mothers? I know I haven’t always got things right as far as being a mum us concerned, but I know I always tried to do what I thought was best for my kids. That’s all we can ask surely?!

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  • We all have different parenting technics and we are all not that perfect but we would do anything for our children to make them safe from harm

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  • My daughter likes to play on my ‘bad mother guilty conscious’. When things aren’t going her way its always ‘you don’t like/love me’ or ‘you hate me’. It can be really really hard at times, but I just have to persevere and try to teach my kids that there is a difference between love and discipline in the sense of teaching them what is right and wrong. Love is always there no matter what, but it is a tough gig.

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  • I sometimes think to myself I’m a bad mother. Parenting is a roller coaster it has its ups and downs and when it’s down that’s when I feel a certain way.
    My 5 yr old always calls me a meanie for not getting what she wants but I just laugh that off and think I’m not giving in all the time.
    No parent is perfect and when the children grow up and make you proud, it’s all worth it in the end.

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  • Agree with you – one Christmas with all my children together we talked about what they thought – all I could ever remember was telling them No they couldn’t have this or that or go to this or that because we couldn’t afford it, and I felt they thought badly of me.
    They were emphatic that I had done a good job of bringing them up as all of them had good and worthwhile careers and as they now had children of their own they knew how hard it could be.
    So lighten up people and bring your children up with great values – they will love you for being strict and instilling those values so they have worthwhile lives too.

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  • This is so true – we are our harshest critics. It is hard not to feel like a bad parent when other people also judge us as parents too but if our kids are loved, safe and happy, I think that’s a pretty good sign of good parenting.

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  • Lol my child isn’t even 2 and I already let him get away with so much because I don’t have the energy to stop him and fight him. Am I a bad mother

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  • I am not so good either

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  • I love this insight into what we think of ourselves as Mother’s because it’s me to a T. Thanks for making me realise that I need to look at it a different way

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  • OMG that Kira is hilarious I couldn’t help but laugh when I read that she went next door and said that to the neighbour! I think us as mum’s are always much harder on ourselves than what the kids think. They may get annoyed with us or think we are being unfair but I don’t think they would say that you’re a bad mother because of the choices we make.

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  • reflecting and being mindful is important. Loving your kids ans showing they are loved and supported is also important. We are probably our own worst critics and don’t need anyone else’s judgement.

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  • I know of a Mum whose children are high school age who has decided that has long is the kids are clean, clothed and fed that’s all that’s important. No, she is longer her kids’ hero. Sorry, but in my opinion that does not make her a good Mum. Work is more important

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  • Just do the best you can and that is enough.

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  • My husband and I evaluate our parenting on what we believe and what’s right for our son. And we’ve done a fantastic job and continue to do so. We’re right for our family.


    • So true, and what works for one family, may not for another. You have to do whats right for you

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  • We all.need to be easier on ourselves, we are all wonderful in our own ways xx

    Reply

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