I, like pretty much every parent out there, want to do the best for my children and I spend far far too much time worrying about what I'm doing wrong. I am a worrier by nature so this does not come as too much of a surprise but I do think that today's society doesn't help. I've always believed in the most fundamental way that knowledge is power so when it comes to the most important task of my life I feel I should arm myself accordingly but there comes a point when it becomes demoralising.
I've found recently the amount of articles explaining what NOT to do is becoming overwhelming and actually hindering me to the point of utter indecision. We are bombarded daily by articles telling us how to parent, from 'Late bedtimes make obese children' to 'Breast is best' and 'Fussy eaters will sprout new heads' (OK, so I made that last one up, but you get the point). No matter how you raise your children, there will be an article somewhere saying you're doing it wrong, most likely with research and scary percentage figures to back it up. And it's exhausting!
A particular meme I saw said something like 'If you don't listen to the small things your children tell you now then they won't tell you the big things later' so I'm now obsessed with listening to every single word that falls from my 5yo (motormouth) child's mouth in case he doesn't want to tell me about his blossoming heroin habit when he's older. And I'm terrified my 2yo is going to have ADHD or depression when he grows up because he was born so early (and he exists only on cheese sandwiches and Hula Hoops, don't get me started on the salt content).
I mean, do we need that stress in our lives? To be told constantly we're getting it wrong? It's hard enough to get through the day to day stuff, things like dinner time, supermarket trips and death defying stunts at the play park, let alone worrying about things 15 years down the line. How on earth can we possibly take into account the '50 different ways you're failing when your child has a tantrum' when they are already face down on the shop floor wailing about the sweets you won't let them have because they are '10 times more likely to cause childhood obesity'. And that's without even taking into account the 2 hours of Paw Patrol 'screen time' they had this morning just so you could make a home made organic fish pie to prevent an anxiety disorder when they grow up. But wait, aren't home made meals now worse for your kids? Oops!
By doing the wrong thing we can make our children insecure, clingy, fussy eating, obese, anxious, bratty, inarticulate robots who will contribute nothing to society. Ok, no pressure then!
I was brought up before the joys of the Internet and my parents had nothing to go on but their own instincts and what their parents taught them and I turned out OK... to a point. Yeah, I am a fussy eater but who's to say that's anything my parents did? I have a fair feeling I would have been a fussy eater regardless of what hand pressed, dunked in holy water, divinely worshiped food my mother had fed me. I have my issues, we all do, it's what makes us human.
The reality is, no matter how hard we work, no matter how much we strive to be the perfect parent, we will make mistakes. We will lose our tempers, we will do things the wrong way, we will make the wrong decisions but we will still be trying our best.
So I've decided to read less articles about how 'My ill chosen sofa is ruining my child's bottom' and spend more time listening to my instincts (and my children) about what I think I'm doing right and wrong. I'll do my best to improve every day, I will strive to be the best parent I can be and I'll live in the now. I will no longer worry about the studies that show 'My child's dirty finger nails will cause hair loss when he's 50' or 'Hugging your children less than 80 times a day will cause a phobia of t shirts'. But I might still read the ones about fussy eaters, you know, 'cause I'm a glutton for punishment.
This summer The Huffington Post UK is spearheading an initiative helping families thrive, with a focus on parent wellbeing, the challenges facing stay-at-home and working parents, friendships and navigating the landscape of modern parenting beyond the 2.4. To kickstart the campaign, Jamie Oliver guest edited the site, bringing a focus on feeding healthy families.
We'll be sharing stories and blogs with the hashtag #ThrivingFamilies and we'd like you to do the same. If you'd like to use our blogging platform to share your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.