Parenting in 2021

I’m not sure how I feel about new shows about parenting, like the recent “Parental Guidance”. Whilst I understand and appreciate there are lots of ways to parent and we all do things differently, the concept of putting parents against each other to critique and determine the “best parenting style” in Australia seems a little strange to me.


Being a parent is a tough gig! It’s a thankless and relentless series of tasks and expectations, mostly put on ourselves, by ourselves. I’m certain that we [parents] just want the best for our kids, which is really (and simply) for them to grow up happy and healthy and with a positive sense of self and worthiness. That they show kindness and tolerance in their world and that they are able to make friendships and foster relationships that make the feel loved and special.


We just want the world to see them in a positive way, and they feel a sense of pride in who they are. Failure, for me at least, as a parent would mean my children are fearful of being themselves and are unkind to others for no reason or purpose. I think to be truly happy we have to find a way to love ourselves for all the good (and not so good) parts that make us who we are. I’m not too idealistic to think that my children don’t/won’t have significant flaws in their characters but as a parent I really hope we can find ways to help them deal with these flaws in ways that build them up as people and not tear them down.


My husband asked me recently (after watching above mentioned TV show), “What’s our parenting style”, to which I actually couldn’t answer and I’ve been constantly thinking about this question ever since. I have been really struggling with my parenting at the moment and so fearful I’m making so many mistakes. Someone recently told me “seek help/ advice now, as it’s the most important time while they are still young”. One thing is for sure, it’s easy for me to say which [parenting styles] we are not but to pick just ONE that represents us seemed impossible. Why is that? Maybe it’s because there’s a little bit of all styles in most of us. There are days when I know I’m not at my best and I get extremely frustrated with my kids and behave in ways I’m not proud of but then we have moments when everything just seems to gel and work ok.


What I know, undoubtedly, is that I love my girls and being their parent has helped me soften my edges and become (or evolve into) a better person. I think I will always struggle with giving up chunks of my identity to be a Mum if I’m being truly honest and I think there’s even pieces of me that resent how much my life has changed since becoming a parent. I miss my carefree life when we had money, time and the inclination (or even the energy) to do lots of impromptu things – just because we could, and it seemed like a fun idea at the time. I miss not having to think about every possible scenario that could go wrong just to get loaf of bread or a litre of milk.


But like with most things, with hardship and struggle comes great joy and satisfaction and when I see my girls happily playing together with kindness and love in their approach, I know (deep down) we did that. I know my girls know they are loved and that they know they are special and are safe with us. And I couldn’t even imagine this not being the case.


Watching the recent Cleo Smith case has been incredible, that poor family! The unimaginable torture they must have suffered over those 19 days is literally too painful to think about and a very real reminder that we need to teach our kids what to do if they ever feel unsafe.


This world is a scary place at times and so much has changed, I have seen such change in people’s demeanours and relationships since COVID has graced our lives. Many long-term friendships have been strained to almost breaking point, simply because of a difference in opinion – something ridiculous and trivial. We have all had demons to deal with and a little “poor me” complex this last 18 months but like with all storms, the sun will shine again, I just hope that the damage done is repairable and we can all enjoy “our time in the sun” again, together.


What I have seen from myself is trying to find more opportunities to have the “big conversations” with my girls, trying (without terrifying them) to educate them that while most people are kind and trustworthy, some people aren’t and there (unfortunately) is great sadness in this world at times. I also want them to understand how fortunate we are to live as we do, to go to schools like they do and have friends like they do. Embedding appreciation and gratitude into 5 and 3 year olds is no easy feat and I’d be lying if I said we’ve nailed it – because we certainly have not.


It’s been a huge 18 months for us all, we have been isolated and in a world no-one is familiar with. It’s taken it’s toll on so many people, we are seeing people re-evaluating everything in their lives in unprecedented ways - Leaving jobs, moving away from the “big smoke” and settling for (even seeking out) a simpler existence that is richer in experience and not so focussed on possessions. As a society, we have a long way to go to “heal this world”, we still constantly treat this planet like it’s going to somehow rejuvenate and all the damage we have done to it will miraculously reverse - unfortunately this just doesn't appear to be the case.


But back to parenting and what “style” is "best". Well, who’s to know, who’s to say? Name one person who knows your kids better than you! Just one, if you know someone then by all means ask them but, for the rest of us, whose answer to this question is “it’s me, no one knows my kids better than me, no one loves them more than me and no one wants more for them than me”. Maybe what needs to change is our judgements, the external expectations we place on others and ourselves – we are all guilty of it in some way or another!


Here’s a novel idea – maybe as we near Christmas, for the next 7 weeks, we can all try give someone a break, be kinder to ourselves and find one good thing to do every day for the next 7 weeks! Imagine how good it would feel to give 49 random acts of kindness, to identify 49 things about ourselves we did well and to do 49 good deeds! Surely that’s going to put more smiles on a few more faces around us! Write them down and reflect on them everyday!

  1. Who (and how) did I give someone a break to today?
  2. How did I give myself a break today?
  3. What kind act/ gesture did I do today?

 The world needs more reasons to smile at the moment, so let’s help it along! Are you game?