Yesterday I posted a link to this Penelope Trunk piece on Facebook. It caused a bit of debate on my FB page and prompted my friend Anna to say:
“What I’d like to see is an article that says ‘You are doing the best thing you know how to. Good on you.’”
And it struck me that she had a point.
I realise if we weren’t allowed to make sweeping generalisations on the internet, then nothing would ever get published. But one sweeping generalisation that’s never made is this one:
When it comes to parenting we’re all doing the best we can … and for the most part, ‘the best we can’ is pretty bloody good.
Everyone has an opinion about how best to manage the tension between working and parenting.
And everyone has an opinion about what ‘good’ parents do and don’t do.
But here’s the thing that those typically sweeping generalisations don’t take into account. We all have a story and all our stories are different.
Here’s my story.
I’m a married mother of two. My kids are (nearly) five and (just turned) one. My husband Ant and I own two businesses. He’s in the office every day managing the operational side of things. I work from home five days a fortnight and in the office on the other days.
Ant and I each work 60+ hours a week and our kids are either in school or care during working hours. So when on earth do we see them?
Well we see them in the morning before school/day care. And we see them in the afternoon. We try to be home at 5pm at the latest so we have two hours with them before they go to bed at 7/7.30pm.
Once they’re in bed however it’s back to work for us.
We try our best not to work on the weekends. If we do, we try to work only while the kids are sleeping. Sometimes we manage this, sometimes we don’t.
For the most part we keep our weekends fairly commitment free because that is both our quality time with the kids as well as the opportunity to re-charge for the next working week.
We’re tired pretty much all the time.
Do our kids get the best of us? Well who knows (and who is to judge?) but they’re happy kids so I’m going to go with ‘they get enough of us to be pretty happy’.
This is my story and you know what the beautiful thing about it is? Every parent in the world – they have a different story to mine.
I know single parents, I know people with older kids, I know people where dad stays at home and mum goes to work and I know many blended families. I even know other couples who are running a business together and have young children like us – but whose pressures and lifestyle challenges are completely different to ours.
We do however ALL have a few things in common:
- No matter how much our kids see us, they all want to see us more. I defy you to find me a child who doesn’t want more time with their parents.
- We’re all legitimately doing the best we can with what we have to work with because (hopefully this isn’t a newsflash) there’s no such thing as the perfect life and there sure as hell is no such thing as the perfect parent.
Years ago, after becoming a mum for the first time I wrote A Manifesto for Mums. The first lines of that manifesto were:
The needs of our kids are very simple:
Clean bums, full tummies, warm beds, lots of love.
Everything else is a bonus.
Despite the fact that we all bring different baggage to our parenting, I personally don’t know any parents who aren’t providing the basics of clean bums, full tummies, warm beds and lots of love to their kids.
I do however know many parents who worry they’re not quite getting it right.
So I know it’s boring and I know it doesn’t make for a great headline, but I have a message for these people.
You’re doing a great job.
And honestly, that’s all you need to know right now.