It’s a smart headline designed to get parents reading! And if you did read about the latest YouGov data you’ll know it wasn’t really about the numbers. We’ve all realised this year how statistics can be pushed and pulled to suit the message …. It turns out that it’s a very small percentage of parents who remain regretful about their choice to raise a family, and about 30% of parents wish they had had more kids!
It was the comments that stood out for me, more than the numbers. Parents mentioned feeling alone, overwhelmed, unsure what to do or how to do it, and also feeling a huge sense of responsibility, pressure and also judgement. The difficulties of raising kids in the last year has, unsurprisingly, made things much harder for many families.
I was sad to think of parents who struggle with these feelings and, for whatever reason, don’t feel able to reach out for support and help. Because there is help out there, and the very last thing any child needs is a sense that they weren’t wanted ….
It’s one of the reasons we set up The Parent Team. Our Big Vision is that every parent will receive some parenting support and advice as a matter of course, rather than having to come to a point where they are worried, and then have to seek help.
So what do you do on those days when the idea of being able to do whatever you want, when you want to, with whomever you choose, and still having your own identity, passions, hobbies, interests and a wardrobe full of clean clothes that actually fit you just seems very preferable to the reality of the never-ending noise, mess, drudgery, exhaustion and dirty laundry?
I think I know what you might be thinking, or what you might already have tried!
Rather than hiding in a cupboard, eating a packet of hobnobs, or pretending it’s night-time already and putting the kids to bed early (yes, I tried all of these!) there are some more productive and uplifting options to help us through the really tricky years of being a parent.
First, let’s be really honest. It is really hard work being a parent. Full stop. Period. End of discussion. And it’s hard work for a long time. And there are no breaks. Sometimes not even 15 minutes here or there in the early years and even when your ‘children’ are grown and flown, you still worry about them at least once a day at some point about something!
My three top tips for those days, and for all the other days, when we’re right in the midst of our parenting years, right at the coal-face of managing day-to-day emotional and behavioural outbursts from our kids, are quite simple and not very surprising.
1) Hold on to the ‘good enough’ concept of parenting
This approach was first identified in the 1950s by Donald Winnicott, a British paediatrician and psychoanalyst. Put simply it means move away from trying to be the best parent for your child or doing the most parenting each and every moment of each and every day. Forgive yourself when you have had a bad day and made mistakes, because you are only human.
"Don't be a parent, be a human being who is a parent." Haim Ginott
And allow yourself some time off and get away from the kids, either to be by yourself or with friends, because this doesn’t mean you don’t love them and they’re not way up high on your priority list.
2) Find out a little more about what sort of behaviour is realistic for your child and the best way for you to respond.
You don’t need to become an expert, just find out what most kids similar to your child in terms of age, temperament or gender tend to do or not do. It’s a good parenting moment when you find out that whatever behaviour is worrying you is pretty much par for the course. It takes the edge off that isolating feeling of ‘why is this happening, why can’t I handle it well?’ and helps you feel a little calmer, which makes you a little more solution-focussed. Ask friends what they do, and of course you can always ask us!
We tend not to ask for help because we fear rejection and judgement. And yet research shows time and again that asking for help is a really good thing. When we ask someone for advice, it strengthens relationships, improves performance, and enhances our resilience …. How do you feel when someone asks for your advice?!
3) Keep some element of your ‘pre-parent’ self alive!
Don’t give it all up for the kids. We give so much to them, and when we give too much, they lose. They lose in the moment, because we become, well, let’s say grumpy and just a touch resentful, which doesn’t work for anyone.
And they lose in the longer-term too because we want to show them how to have a balanced, interesting, approach to life – and there’s no excuse now that restrictions are easing! We don’t want our kids to look at us and think ‘wow, that’s boring and hard work, don’t think being a parent is a great idea’ because then we won’t have the lovely grandparent bit to come later!
If you include yourself in one of those 1 in 12 parents who feel regretful at times, you are not alone. We’ve set up our free 30-minute support calls just for you. Often it’s taking that first step, making that first call, that has the transformative power to turn things around.