Modern parents are chock-full of guilt. Right now, the dog’s giving me daggers, I haven’t been to the gym, the kids haven’t done their homework and dinner is UberEats butter chicken with extra garlic naan. Again.
Confession time: sometimes I drape washing on the line without using pegs, or put clothes in the dryer even though it’s sunny outside.
I’ve also been known to skip pages of my kids’ school readers on purpose so I can get them to bed faster. Not to mention during homeschooling I sacked myself as my son’s teacher by 9.30 am on the first day.
Motherhood: a mixture of obligation, guilt, and competition
A study by social researchers The Korn Group found Aussie mums want to feel sexy, appreciated and happy. Instead, we often feel overwhelmed and guilty, craving ‘mum breaks’ that involve chocolate and/or wine. Right on.
We find motherhood rewarding but also have a car that smells ‘like a day-old lunchbox’ and treats stashed away in our cupboards. Oh yeah! That’s me.
For many parents and kids, family life is a whirlwind of obligation, guilt and competition. I get it. If I have to look at one more made-from-scratch three-tier rainbow unicorn cake on Instagram, I’ll cry real unicorn tears.
Parents worry about lots of things: Will my kids turn into nice people? Will they poo out that coin they swallowed last week for a dare? Will they ever get off Minecraft and come to dinner?
So, what’s going on? We love our kids and are happy to have them, so why are the years spent raising them so difficult?
As I argue in my new book, The Secret of Half-arsed Parenting, a big part of the problem is guilt.
Guilt is caused by a mismatch between reality and desire – it’s because we feel like we never live up to our own parenting standards.
So, it’s time to ditch the guilt. Burn it down to the ground and MOVE ON!
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Get non-judgy friends
To stay sane, I hang out with people who understand me rather than judge me. My pals and I are more likely to swap stories and laugh about our failings rather than pretend to be Prozac perfect. We smuggle a bottle of wine into the dry-zone local park for mothers’ group, let kids push themselves on swings, count French fries as a vegetable, and ignore crying children unless there’s blood.
If they’re screaming, they’re breathing; remember that. I understand the guilt that propels many parents, but I don’t let it keep me awake at night. (In fact, nothing keeps me awake since I bought those noise-cancelling headphones.)
Do less parenting
Guilty mums conclude they should spend more hands-on time with their children, not less. They sacrifice their own social lives to make more time for their kids, which often leads to resentment and guilt.
Doing less parenting doesn’t seem to occur to anyone. But I think it’s time to be half-arsed parents and ditch much of the intense, overprotective parenting that takes up so much time and energy.
Stop doing your kids’ homework and organising their social lives. Drop some of those kids’ activities that are clogging up your weekend.
Stop competing with other mums. Unfollow anyone on social media that makes you feel like crap.
And say no to your kids more often. Remember: you don’t have to say yes just because “everyone else has one” or “everyone else is doing it”.
Give yourself a break
Half-arsed parents give themselves a break rather than rely on others to give them permission to feel okay about themselves. It is about keeping it real and having a laugh rather than judging others and yourself.
If you’re the kind of parent (and I know a few) who ruffles up the edges of cupcakes so the school mummy mafia thinks they’re home-baked, then you need a reality check.
The problem is your choice of friends, not your baking skills. So, drop your standards and relax – or as my 17-year-old would say, “chillax”.
And make sure you apply the three-second rule to everything that gets dropped. This includes ice creams, dummies and Daddy’s pants. (Now you’re a parent, three seconds is all you’ll get.)
Dr. Susie O’Brien’s book The Secret of Half-Arsed Parenting is out now. You can get it at Booktopia, Dymocks, Good Reads or Big W.
Check it out on Insta and stay tuned because we’ve got more arse-halfed parenting pearls of wisdom to share every week!