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Ruth Dawkins Headshot

It's Okay To Be An Imperfect Parent

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When my son was about six months old, we started taking him to swimming lessons, and I remember being awed by the number of mothers who showed up at the pool every week with perfectly painted toenails, immaculate bikini lines, and tummies that had returned to pre-baby muscle tone.

Jeez, I thought, where do they find the time to do that? I thought of my own days, which were still flying by in a haze of feeds and laundry and naps. Some days I found time to smear a bit of moisturiser on my cheeks, but that was about the extent of my personal grooming.

In truth though, it had little to do with the demands of my son. Even before his arrival, when I had oodles of spare time, I didn't have pedicures. I had never been the kind of person who could organise her life to the extent where it felt like I 'had it all'. Something always had to slip.

I had been an Imperfect Student (spending too much time on the union elections and not enough time on my dissertation), an Imperfect Green (overly fond of my tumble dryer and short haul flights), and an Imperfect Wife (crap at cooking, stubborn, always forgetting to replace the loo roll).

So it didn't come as a huge shock to realise that I was also going to be an Imperfect Parent. I know that Perfect Parents do exist - the ones with an immaculate house, smart clothes, three delicious home-made meals every day, and polite, happy, well-adjusted children to boot - but not in this house.

What I hope though, is that when I let things slip in relation to my son, it's only the small things. When he was born, my husband and I vowed to each other that we would do anything in our power to keep him healthy, happy and safe. Beyond that, we would accept our limitations.

So yes, I do sometimes shove a bag of chocolate buttons in my son's hands, just to avoid a tantrum in the supermarket queue. Some nights I step over his trucks to get into bed because I haven't bothered to pick them up. When we go to our Tumble Tots classes on Friday mornings, my hair is usually still soaking wet from the shower, because I haven't found time to dry it. Last night I'd had big plans for Annabel Karmel vegetable skewers...but by 4.30pm I was whacked, so I sat him in front of a Peppa Pig video for ten minutes and stuck a pizza in the oven.

Looking back a few years from now, I am pretty sure that none of that will matter too much. I hope not.

The real joy of being an imperfect parent is that on those rare occasions when you pull off something perfect - when you haven't had to let anything slip - you appreciate it all the more. There are those days when you manage to have fun with your family, cook something tasty for dinner, avoid any arguments AND slap on a bit of mascara. My standards may be pretty low, but for me, that spells perfection.