Being a parent isn't easy – let's agree on that. But though we are all have our challenges, some parents just make us shake our heads, right?
But maybe it's worth looking a little more closely at some common parenting missteps. Could it be these mums and dads are really just like you and me? (Spoiler: yes.)
1. Packaged Foods Parent
You're the parent helper at preschool today and as you peel a mandarin for Gracie, you can't help but notice little Kevin struggling with his packet of Tiny Teddies. You gaze lovingly at your own child who is eating an apple. Being an amazing mum just feels so good!
Now, most of us understand the basics of a well-rounded lunchbox. Straightforward, relatively easy and it's nutritionally superior to (and more cost effective) than your packaged crisps, sweet biscuits and the like. So what's wrong with Packaged Foods Parent? Don't they love their children?
Reality: It's 8pm on a Sunday night, you should be watching Netflix but instead you're dragging your exhausted body around a supermarket and the Tiny Teddies are half-price. The kids come home from school starving and you're desperate for quick options they can shove in their adorable faces. You're tired, you're time poor and convenience wins out. Sometimes a box of biscuits is the only thing between you and an empty lunchbox.
2. Toddler With No Socks Parent
It's the dead of winter and there goes a toddler in a pram with no socks on their chubby but clearly frost-bitten feet. What is wrong with parents these days? Shouldn't somebody report these monsters to DOCS?
Reality: Anyone who has ever had a toddler will know that a disproportionately high number of them have a violent aversion to footwear of any kind. I don't know if they've seen that Ziggy Marley episode of Sesame Street one too many times, but they just have to set their piggies free!
Parenting 101 tells us children should be appropriately dressed for all weather conditions but sometimes a person can only argue with an 18-month-old about socks for so long until they lose the will to live – especially if they just had the exact same argument about pants. Maybe they've already lost $235 worth of perfectly good socks at the local shopping centre this financial year. Or maybe it's Melbourne and it was sock-free weather 15 minutes before it started to snow.
The bottom line is this: socks are small stuff, so don't sweat them.
3. Shouting In Public Parent
Oh, you know the one. Screaming in the pet food aisle, "Thomas David Anderson, I said take that bone out of your mouth RIGHT NOW!" Crazed at Bunnings, "I told you to eat slowly and now look, sauce all over your nice shirt and we don't have time to get changed before Granma's Birthday Rave!"
The reason Shouting In Public Parent makes us cringe so hard is because, deep down, we know we are them. In the privacy of our own homes (or in the car with the windows up), we have these very same moments. If anything, Shouting in Public Parent is honest and authentic - it's the rest of us with our terse whispers and pointed stares that are full of it.
So it's helpful to think about what's happened before this point. What we're witnessing might be the culmination of a majorly craptastic day. We've all had them and everyone's breaking point is different.
I find not taking my children with me to places is the very best way to always remain calm, but the babysitting fees are killing me.
4. Tantrumming Kid Parent
My eldest son rarely tantrummed. At the time, I probably thought it had something to do with my exceptional parenting. And then I took him to the supermarket after a long day in childcare ... rookie mistake. His whinging quickly ramped up to 11, but the tantrum only really kicked in as I attempted to buckle him into his carseat. As I struggled with my toddler, an older woman approached and asked gently where my groceries were to go and then moved them from the trolley to the boot of my car. I could have cried. It was such an unexpected and lovely act of kindness and solidarity.
And as mothers – and parents – that solidarity is everything. Kids are hard work sometimes and none of us are immune to the stresses of this job. So when I see a parent doing it tough, I give them a smile. Mostly it's gratefully received, but occasionally it's not. Even if the parent couldn't accept the kindness in the moment, they might recall it later. So I'll keep smiling. And thank Baby Cheeses that it's their kid this time and not mine.
5. Crud-faced Kid Parent
A child wandering about with a snot-crusted nose is a revolting blight on society and clearly the product of shoddy parenting. This was my stance before I had kids.
Hahaha! People without kids are so funny! Just like they think it's easy to keep socks on small feet, they think small people happily submit to a rigorous face cleaning. In fact, toddlers probably hate having their faces cleaned more than they hate wearing socks.
A day with a toddler is a day of battles and one must choose those battles wisely. Sometimes cruddy faces are at the very bottom of one's priorities.
6. And YOU
Parenting is HARD and we all have moments that leave us feeling less than proud. But look around. Most of us love our kids fiercely. We are all trying to do our best. Finding little moments to be proud of here and there can be enough to remind us that we're doing okay.
So stop judging. Especially yourself! Everyone struggles with parenthood at times. Those struggles may vary widely from parent to parent, but the point is that no-one aces this gig 100 pre cent of the time.
If everyone left the house wearing pants today, you are the winner! So once the kids are in bed, I give you total permission to have that wine/chocolate/Ryan Gosling movie marathon. Pants optional.