The broken promises of parenting

Do you ever get to the end of a trying day and promise yourself that you will do better tomorrow? Have you ever had one of those days where you just want to hang your head in utter shame?

The only way I console myself is to vow that tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow will be a day when I don’t lose my shit, when the kids won’t gorge on sugary snacks, when my patience doesn’t snap, when I won’t plunge off of the end of my tether, and when I will actually feel like a reasonably good mother.

Sadly my brain is a wasteland of broken promises. I frequently finish a day feeling totally disappointed in myself as a parent and frustrated because I achieved absolutely nothing.

It’s impossible to tell when one of those days will hit. I can wake up feeling in an amazing mood. The kids eat their breakfast with minimal fuss or mess and then it’s off out to enjoy the sunshine (hopefully).

At some point the day begins to descend into chaos. Someone gets upset that I forgot to bring the breadsticks out, or my toddler freaks out because I don’t have enough change to buy an ice cream.

Then the baby won’t nap, my toddler hurls herself off of the edge of the sofa nearly cracking their head open in the process and I snap – telling them to calm down, not behave this way.

My youngest is constantly at my feet, begging to be picked up. Then she wishes to be put down again almost immediately after, then is screaming bloody murder when I walk just a few paces away from her to get a drink.

I lose that loving and comforting voice. I shout at the kids to please stop as they carry out dangerous stunts on the furniture and try to ignore my baby as she claws at my knees.

Tantrums ensue, as my bad mood feeds theirs. Demands come thick and fast, as what they want changes on a whim. My eldest wants to go out for a ride on her scooter, but my youngest wants to just keep climbing in and out of the stationary buggy outside the house. Then my toddler decides she wants to stay at home after all, prompting tantrums from the littlest one when I have to put the buggy away.

Then the guilt hits, so I crack out the ice cream/chocolate/sweets which makes the kids smile again – but now I feel bad as I mentally picture all the teaspoons of sugar that must be inside those sweet treats. An image of Jamie Oliver shaking his head with disappointment hits.

I imagine then losing all of their rotten teeth by age five, or being labelled obese by six and facing horrendous teasing at school.

As the day progresses, things get worse. I stick the telly on for far too long in the afternoon, because it’s started raining or I feel too knackered to go out again.

Then instead of cooking a fresh meal I crack out the fish fingers and dish them up with a slice of bread and butter. Not the worst meal in the world, but they’re not getting any of their five-a-day, unless the raspberry jelly for pudding counts.

Bedtime is another highly stressful time of day for me. The children delight in running away from me, then cry and scream as they push and pull each other over in their excitement. As I get more frustrated it changes from the relaxed bedtime routine I like to implement and becomes a battle as I wrestle them into their pyjamas while begging them to “please help mummy out, please”.

When the door closes on another day, I breathe out a huge sigh of relief – it’s over at last. But it’s so tinged with guilt. I accept that our days together won’t be perfect, but they frequently are so chaotic, trying and frustrating for me. I hate this feeling of having zero control.

When I was growing up – before my moody teenage years – my parents seemed to have all of the answers. Everything they said was right and if they were cross, it was with good reason.

Now I know that parents do not have a clue. There wasn’t some magical change that occurred on my 21st birthday that made me capable of always making the right decisions and taking the correct course of action.

And now I am the centre of my children’s world, a person who frequently makes the wrong call and reacts way too harshly when they act as small children do.

When I have days like this; when I feel that my behaviour has not been good enough, that I’ve let the kids waste a day in front of the TV and I’ve failed to get them outside to do something fun, I always vow to do it differently tomorrow.

I promise there will be no TV at all tomorrow, even if they wake up at 6am.

I promise that junk food will be banned, and I’ll cook something delicious and packed with veggie goodness.

I promise not to shout.

I promise not to rush them when they’re walking at 0.0000001mph.

I promise not to cut short their trip to the park.

I promise to keep an eye on the time so I get nap time right.

I promise to have plenty of snacks when we go out.

I promise to keep my cool at bedtime.

I promise to read an extra story, without rushing through the pages.

But I’m sure you know how this story ends. Some times we have easier days than others, but with two kids under four it’s hard to keep control all of the time. With a busy job and lots of juggling, that feeling of never having enough time for all the things just compounds the fragile situation.

And so if any of this is familiar to you, lovely mama, I want you to know:

There is no such thing as a perfect mum.

Most days you WILL feel like you are totally winging it, and that’s completely OK.

Get through the days any way that you can.

If you are going to promise yourself anything, promise to remember that it all does get easier. Your kids won’t always be so whingy, your toddler won’t always cry over every tiny drama and your baby won’t always breastfeed non-stop 24/7.

Promise that you will remember that you are doing your very best, and that is more than enough.

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