Being a parent can be stressful, never more so than when you’re comparing yourself to the ‘perfect parents’ in the school playground or local nursery, the ones with shiny hair and pristine children while discovering you’ve got cereal embedded on your sleeve and your child’s weird walking is because he’s wearing shoes on the wrong feet.
Added to your self-questioning and angst, the chorus of comments and well-meaning (not really) questions designed to trigger guilt about all your ‘parenting mistakes’ can drown out your own natural instincts and the joy you get from your children.
Don’t let it.
Remember ‘perfect parenting’ doesn’t exist. Never has, never will. And the parents who try hardest to present that image are probably the biggest shouters behind closed doors. What matters is your children grow up secure in your love and attention. The rest is down to what works for you and your family.
Here, we talk to parents about what they have never regretted doing as a parent - despite the cacophony of disapproval from others - and have continued doing or would happily do all over again.
“People told me to ‘leave him to cry’. Why would you do that to a baby?” Crying is your baby’s signal that he needs you.” Felicity
“We let both of ours have a bottle to go to sleep with, despite advice to the contrary. Both are amazing sleepers with perfect teeth.” Hazel
“Strangers with opinions on how you dress your baby. I’ll never forget when my son was three months old, we were in the middle of a massive heatwave and he was in the buggy wearing a little sleeveless body suit. This woman came up and tweaked his toes. I was surprised but not upset. He had the cutest little feet and toes and it’s hard to resist them. Then she turned to me and said, ‘I was checking to see if his feet were cold. But don’t worry he’s warm enough.’ She must have seen the look on my face because she scarpered pretty quickly!” Lysette
“Everyone around me was preaching baby-led feeding but I bailed. The baby becomes a snack junkie and feeds constantly. And that equals no sleep for me. Not happening.” Jenny
“I remember being told not to hold my baby too much ; that no matter what I did I needed to make sure I didn’t ‘spoil’ my newborn baby with too many cuddles. How on earth can you give a baby too many cuddles? How is it damaging to reassure this new little person who has suddenly found themselves in this new and foreign world with hugs and affection from their mum?” Olivia@TheBabyBible
“I delayed my son starting nursery until he was three and a half and was hugely criticised for it. It was the right thing for him. In fact, if I had my time again, I probably wouldn’t do pre-school at all. I also let him sleep in my bed - huge fuss from other people but we both got a good night’s sleep.” Kelly
“Dummies and thumbs. We were told we’d have ‘all sorts of trouble’ if we didn’t remove them - buck teeth, being mouth breathers, being slow at school. I can’t even count the number of times nasty people pulled my kids’ thumb or dummy from their mouth. I’m glad I ignored all the advice (and for that read people who don’t want babies to be happy) and left them to it. If children are happy and content, what does it matter?” Faith
“I delayed nursery, co-slept, didn’t do potty training, used complicated words with my daughter from day one, let her express herself emotionally, let her have an opinion and say. We followed her rhythms basically, while talking, persuading, shaping. We were much criticised...the old ‘rod for your back’ thing. But it paid off. My daughter is a joy - empathetic, funny, confident, clever and articulate.” Deborah
“When my son was little he found it hard to walk distances. I used a pushchair until he was five. That got a lot of criticism but I ignored it. If we went out anywhere it was on public transport as I don’t drive. The most critical mums drove their children. If we were at the park all they had to do was get a tired child across the street. I had to get mine all the way home. I knew instinctively it was what he needed and years later I found out he was hyper mobile and simply didn’t have anything left, hence the huge meltdowns at the end of outings. I’m so glad I listened to my son and not other people (Especially random strangers. Yay, always love parenting advice from drunk people standing outside the pub.)” Lynley
“My daughter had an imaginary friend when she was about three. My parents thought it was ridiculous and banged on about how I was encouraging her to lie. I thought it was fabulous she had such an active imagination - which she still does.” Barbara
“I love letting rip with a good swear word and I let my 11-year-old son swear, as soon as he was old enough to recognise when it was OK (with me) and when it wasn’t (in front of granny, for example). When he had some disappointing news last year I positively encouraged a minute’s swearing as it was cathartic and lightened the mood.” Vicky
“I don’t see the point of homework, especially at primary school. I’ve helped my kids learn their times tables but I draw the line at helicoptering and stressing because they (me!) haven’t made an Egyptian head dress or learnt 20 spellings.” Jess
“According to my mother-in-law, it’s practically against the law for children to go around with bare feet, even in summer. I have studiously ignored that one and the kids are still alive (and only one has ever stepped on a wasp.)” Becky
“My son is bright and did well in his A-levels. He had very clear arguments why he didn’t want to continue to university and wanted to train to be a plumber instead and start working without debts. From the reaction of friends and family, you’d think we were the worst parents in the world. I’m immensely proud of him for not being a sheep and working out what will make him happy - which he is. Isn’t that what all parents want ultimately?” Karen
“We’re guilty of the cardinal sin of linking pocket money to chores. I think it’s important to make the connection between hard work and reward.” David
“I don’t clean my kids’ rooms. (Well, only when they get really foul.) What’s the point? They only mess them up again.” Sarah