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"Perfect is bullsh*t." Holly Wainwright shares her Five Golden Rules for parenting.

Mamamia’s Five Golden Rules series takes a pervy look into the lives of Australian families. From parents of toddlers to parents of teenagers, the series asks parents to share their golden parenting rules, including the rules for their kids, and rules to just get through each day.

Having opinions about parenting is a terrible idea. 

But once you've procreated, it's very hard not to have had some... thoughts about something that takes up vast tracts of your time, energy and yes, your heart. 

I've been a parent for almost 12 years and what I mostly know is that I know nothing. But also what I know is that no two families are the same, and kids will always stun and irritate you with their refusal to neatly fit into the boxes we began to build for them as soon as the two lines glowed out of that wee stick. 

Mamamia's content series called 'Five Golden Rules' is all about this. We all have different rules, we all have different priorities. And some of us aren't even good at having rules at all. 

Here are my five golden rules for parenting. 

1. Always be happy to see your kids.

My mum gave me two very good pieces of parenting advice. This was one of them. If you are a lucky person, there's at least one person in your world who will always, always smile when you walk into a room. Be that person for your kid.

(Important addendum: Except when it's way past their bedtime, and they keep appearing at the living room door just when you want to start watching Succession. Then you have permission to shout them back to bed.)

The other one? Well, it wasn't a rule. It was a question. She said, "Don't ask yourself if you're ready to have a baby. Ask yourself if you're ready to be a parent. Because you're not having a baby, you're having a person you will parent for the rest of your life, and the baby bit is the very least of it." And she was right.

2. The kids are not the most important people in the house. 

So, kids, I'm happy to see you, but now go away and leave me alone? Yes, exactly. Kids are gloriously self-centred little buggers by biological design. They need no encouragement to think the world revolves around them. So, I believe, it does them no harm to know that, no, not now, Mum’s working/talking to her friend/trying to get laid/looking at her phone right now. And no, we won’t watch Boss Baby for the 14th time this Friday, because it’s not all about you.

If your kids are safe and loved and their core emotional needs are being met, it is not "bad parenting" to shuffle their immediate desires down the list a little, or leave them to their own devices (not those kind of devices, but also those kind of devices) while you do, you know, grown-up stuff. 

3. Perfect is bullsh*t. The effort is everything. In life, and in parenting. 

I'm the wishy-washy parent who looks at the Effort mark on the school report, rather than the one that tells you how good the kid is at the actual thing. Did you try? Did you care? Did you respect the damn task at hand?

We can keep telling ourselves that nobody's perfect, and yet parents continually beat themselves with the spiky club of perfection. From little things - lunchboxes - to big things - why is my child so sad today? And it's ruining us, because it never works. 

I'm sure a motivational coach smarter and richer than me said, you can't control the outcome, you can only control your attitude. Parents - mothers in particular - make themselves genuinely sick in the pursuit of trying to control every outcome for our children all of the time, and avoiding any harsh judgement from others while we do it.

Impossible task. Give it away. The fact you're worrying about it means you care. Care = Effort = It's Probably fine, anyway. 

4. Tell as much truth as everyone can handle. 

Let's get straight to the big one. "What happens after we die, Mum?" 

"Nobody has any idea, darling." 

If that's a little too much truth for you, that's fine. 

What about, "Why didn't the tooth fairy come last night?" 

"She fell asleep on the couch with her face in a bowl of guacamole."

That one shouldn't hurt too much. 

"Why won't anyone stop global warming, mum?"

"Because the giant corporations that run the world care a lot more about money, sweetheart." 

That's going to be relevant to your Generation Alphas, friends. 

And this also goes to: "Why are you shouting at me, Mum?"

"Because I'm stressed and tired and sometimes I'm not perfect, but I'm trying. I'm sorry."

The key part in this rule is in 'as everyone can handle'. 

So that doesn't mean unloading about teachers, friends, friends' parents, and truly non-sensical world events that will send your kid into an anxious spin. 

It just means not bullsh*tting the small people who you know are going to hold you accountable for the rest of your natural life. 

5. Lower. The. Bar.

See, Perfection, above. Lower the bar on the spotless house, the shiny shoes. The perfect fishtail braids and the precisely well-balanced lunch box. 

Lower the bar on 25 extra-curricular activities and every single birthday party and thoughtful, educational yet fun gifts and aesthetic everything.  

Lower the bar on dinner. And breakfast. And the endlessly refilled snack pack.

Lower the bar on working like a child-free person and parenting like an earth mother. And on their appearance, and your appearance. 

Lower the bar on knowing every single kid in the class's names. And their parents' names. And on avoiding doughnuts at all costs. 

Lower the bar on always being available for lifts, day and night, and on remembering to always, always separate out the colours. 

Lower the bar on exercise, on work-life balance, on being able to professionally perform exactly how you did before your brain was shattered into so many tiny pieces by the seismic shift of becoming a parent. 

Lower the bar on "I will never..." and "I will always". Lower. The. Bar. 

Then, as Mia Freedman has often said, you can stumble over it, in one seething, cursing, frazzled hot mess, and celebrate a win. And everyone loves a winner.

Feature Image: Instagram/@wainwrightholly.

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