When I asked my Facebook page this question, I wasn’t prepared for the answers. Some left me stunned. Others had me nodding in agreement. We are all the bad parent. We all do things we regret and beat ourselves up for later. We are all screwed up in some way, and could all benefit from a session (or 10) from a therapist.
But the thing is, most of us are amazing parents too.
(side note: If you are reading this and struggling with depression, addiction or some other issue that is putting your children in danger, please seek help. If not for your own sake, for the sake of your children.)
What breaks my heart and makes me want to scream at my computer (or phone) is reading comments on social media like, “If I was the parent, I’d NEVER _____” or “How could that parent ______, think of the kids!” And you know what? Most of the time it is over something silly and minute like formula feeding, checking your phone while at a park, or feeding a child fast food.
The guilt and shame social media criticism brings can be crippling. No one can live up to the oh-so-holy standards of a perfect parent. No one.
That is why I asked my question on Facebook. I had to know! Listen to what they said.
Good = loves their kids, does their best.
Awful = does not love their kids, or make an effort.
Every parent has off days and many simplifications overdo it. Parenting is a messy business.
Doing your best. This looks different for every person. What I love most is this: “Many simplifications overdo it. Parenting is messy business.” It is SO messy. Not just the spaghetti on the floor or the urine in the bed. It is the in the glances you get at the grocery store when you parent your way. Or the comments on a photo on Facebook. There are an obscene amount of “critical” decisions a parent has to make every day and the answer is hardly ever easy.
I can’t answer the question, because there is no simple answer. But I do have to disagree with some others.
Putting your needs ahead of your kid’s needs from time to time does not make you a bad parent. It makes you a mature, mentally healthy person. The saying “You can’t take of others until you take care of yourself” is very true.
In addition, many parents do a lousy job differentiating between wants and needs when it comes to their kids.
Being a martyr who sacrifices yourself at the feet of your children does no one any good, and is likely more damaging to your kids in the end than choosing to put yourself first sometimes.
Again, there really is no way to answer this with a simple answer! You can’t just say “an awful parent puts their needs first.” Because if a parent never meets their own needs, their emotional and mental facilities will be starved and they will have nothing left to give.
We all see bad parent’s, neglect, abuse, drugs in home whatever. It’s pretty obvious, but what makes a good parent is a tough one. It’s providing for the physical and emotional needs of the child, but that doesn’t include the wants. It’s providing expectations and boundaries, to teach the child to be a good citizen, and a hard worker. It’s loving unconditionally, and it’s making mistakes, so that everyone grows and learns. Do your best, and love your child.
Is it really obvious what makes an awful parent? Perhaps it is “lack thereof.” Not even trying, or resenting or hating. This quote above does make an excellent point – what makes a good parent is definitely a tough one. I think it is tough mostly because of the standards and exhaustive lists we force ourselves to meet. How can we possibly do it all and meet that elusive title of “good mom” or “good dad”?
Every parent is both!
We certainly all have our moments! As imperfect creatures, we succumb to our own weaknesses. You know what yours is. I know what mine is. And we fail. We all wonder how many years of therapy our children will need when they are grown. We think we are doing everything correctly and then puberty hits. Then we have moments of absolute bliss. We look at the smile, the peaceful sleeping, or see them succeeding and know you did something right.
I think it all depends on the way a child is treated. With respect, love, proper discipline, encouragement…etc.
All in all, I think parenting is more the sum of all the actions than the value of an individual act. It is an entire theater production, not a one act play. It is drama and comedy and love and fear. There is shame and gratitude and relief and angst. All parents are fallible and break. Excellent parents find someone – or a group of people – to lean on when the breaking point happens. Parenting is not a solo act. Single parents and military parents and married parents – we all need a circle of love to support us through the dark times.