PARENTS

Am I A Bad Mother For Wanting My Children To Be Happy?

20/03/2011 00:30 | Updated 22 May 2015

I often suspect that I am a 'bad mother'.

I work, admittedly from home and part time, but even so it means I don't devote myself to my boys 24/7.

I frequently shout at my sons rather than sit them down and have reasoned conversations about why they should eat breakfast/get dressed/stop hitting each other.

I hate many child friendly pursuits such as finger painting, Play Doh modelling, Disney theme parks and reading Harry Potter out loud.

But the one thing I never thought would qualify me for bad mother status was that my only ambition for my sons is that they should be happy.

I don't really care if my four-year-old can read and write. I am more concerned that he has a good time running around with his friends at nursery.

I am indescribably proud of my six-year-old's straight 'A' school report. But if I am honest it doesn't bother me if he isn't an academic genius, just so long as he enjoys his school days.

I have nothing invested in their future careers and I will be just as content if they are brain surgeons or surf bums, as long as they are happy with their choice. Of course I will support them in any and all endeavours, but if they aren't always the best of the bunch it's not the end of the world.

I am surrounded by mothers who can't stop telling me how outstandingly gifted, precociously bright and downright incredible their offspring are, as if it were some badge of good motherhood. I am proud of my boys too, but it's OK by me if they are just average. If they come top of the class or display some special talent, that's lovely, but if their best isn't good enough then that's just fine too.

Some of the happiest people I have ever know are those who follow their dreams. Who work as dive instructors on remote tropical islands, who play in bands for pennies, who work as their own boss running a small business on a shoestring. While some of the most miserable are high achievers for whom too much is never enough. So why would I wish that fate on my children?

I don't see bringing up my boys as some kind of competition with the other school mums, where each of us vies to see whose child is top dog. But sometimes I think I am alone in this laid back parenting style.

I once went to a meeting with my son Max's nursery for a chat about his progress. I declared that I didn't care if he could read, write his name or do basic maths. He was only three and if he was having a good time playing with his friends that was good enough for me. His teacher almost fell off her chair, she was so used to dealing with pushy parents who expect their little darlings to be proficient in algebra before they start Reception.

When I revealed that he did no extra-curricular activities either, as I think weekends are for relaxing with the family, not racing from one class to another, I think she was on the verge of reporting me to social services for neglect.

Perhaps she was right. Maybe I am guilty of benign neglect in deciding that it's my job as a mother to love and support my boys, not coach them to be future world leaders.

If so, I am happy to be condemned as a bad mother.

Bad mother or a voice of reason?

How many after school activities do your children attend?

How would you describe your own parenting style - involved or laid-back?

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