What is a good parent?

Part of the madness about being a parent is the feeling that you’re getting it all wrong and your kids are suffering as a result. It can cause debilitating guilt and anxiety when you blame yourself for your kids’ future psychological damage. Sometimes society expects too much of parents, particularly mothers. British psychoanalyst Joan Raphael Leff has written extensively about this. Of-course you do need to give up a lot for the sake of your kids, but the more you sacrifice yourself, the more difficult it becomes to manage your (perhaps unconscious) anger and resentment about having lost yourself for the sake of your kids. I think that is partly what Judith Warner has tried to tell mothers in her book, Perfect Madness. It’s about a feeling of always failing as a mother. Of never doing enough and never getting it right, no matter what you do. A lot of pressure is put on mothers to raise well-adjusted children, and mothers can be unfairly blamed for always being at the root of their children’s struggles.

You might think, If only I could be a good parent. The kind of parent who sets clear, consistent limits without ever losing her temper, and who is always present, gracious, warm and loving. Sadly, that’s not realistic. Your kids will push your buttons and they can sometimes push you past your limits to places you would rather not have gone.

The good news is that although you will always make mistakes, children are mostly quite resilient. If you are being the parent you want to be most of the time, you’re doing well. You don’t need to be a good parent all the time, you only have to be good enough. If you are struggling with addictions, depression or any kind of mental illness or if you find yourself becoming violent or cruel to your kids, get help from a psychotherapist because this will have an impact on your child. Recognize and acknowledge the mistakes you make as a parent. Keep an eye on yourself and continue trying to be the best parent you can be, but let go of the pressure to get it right 100% of the time.

  1. Francis

    Very interesting! It is amazing to discover that children have, as it were, “a life of their own”! Having a child has both fulfilled and violated every fantasy I had of who she would turn out to be!

  2. Karen K

    A friend once told me that you need to do what you enjoy doing with your children – so for example if you enjoy going out for coffee, take your child with and let her have a baby chinno. I think your child picks up the positive energy you are feeling while having your coffee which is good for you and for them. Obviously that will not be all you do with them but it could be fun and yield surprisingly positive results

  3. Gia Janks

    Great blog post. It highlights the emotions that so many Mothers feel. Great to see it in writing and expressed so beautifully. Thank You! I will forward this link to a few of my Mommy friends who struggle with this!

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