When you become a parent you have no previous work experience in the field of child raising to reflect upon in working out whether you’re doing a good job or not. So it is only natural that you will judge yourself by comparison to the people whose parenting you had the most contact with: your own mum and dad. While it might sound like sacrilege to some, it is probably a healthy exercise to stop every now and then and ask yourself, 'Am I a better parent than my own parents?'
My own parents were a cartoonish mix of the saint and the sinner. Dad worked all day and drank all night while mum’s entire life was about attending to the wants and needs of her eight children. Whatever it is about the way they parented they must have done a good job because we all turned out happy and healthy. Conversely, Mr Drummond on Diff’rent Strokes did everything by the book but, by all accounts, the kids never quite lived up to the expectations. But even though my parent’s unorthodox methods produced good results, I’m not so sure I would want to repeat them.
For my part, I don’t think I parent like either my mum or my dad but I'm not always sure the way I do things is always better. I know that actually coming home in the evenings is a good thing to do, so I beat my dad there. But, unlike him, I’m not the sole bread winner and have the luxury of working part-time, so I don’t have a fraction of the stresses he had. Dad could also quote Shakespeare liberally and no doubt contributed to our dramatic bent. I can quote liberally from This Is Spinal Tap and have probably contributed to my daughters’ love of trash TV. One point to dad.
My mum was, and still is, the best cook I’ve ever met and her school lunches were incredible. She also made time to make each one of us feel special and loved, which is no mean feat when you are one of eight children. Mum also didn’t believe in seat belts, saw squeezing eight kids into a hatchback as a fun challenge and was a renowned lead-foot. She also sent me to school once wearing my sister’s shoes and told me no-one would notice. They did.
While I don’t spend eight hours a day baking like my mum did, I do make the girl’s their lunches every morning and take the time to chat to each of them about the things they would like. They both like my chocolate brownies so I make those as often as I can, while Frances asks every day (without fail) if I’ll make her a cheesecake. I also sneak in an unhealthy amount of processed cheese-flavoured snacks which would horrify my mum but seems to make the kids very, very happy. I’d say mum’s ahead on points.
While I try not to obsess about whether I am a “good parent” or not, I do take the time every now and then to try and work out whether I am doing things the right way and if I can do them better. My quick rule of thumb is if mum did it then it’s probably OK (provided I add an element of 21st century OH&S safety standards), while if it something my dad would have done then I could probably lift my game. But ultimately the greatest test of how well I am parenting comes from the girls themselves, and no doubt they’ll tell me exactly what they think of my parenting when they hit their teens!
Do you compare yourself to your parents? How do you think you fare? Comment on Joseph's blog.
I can quote liberally from This Is Spinal Tap and have probably contributed to my daughters’ love of trash TV.