parent opinion

LEIGH CAMPBELL: Well-meaning parenting advice makes me feel like a bad mum.

There are two types of parents. 

There’s those who wing it. Fly by the seat of their pants and just make it up as they go. 

Then there’s those who research. Read every book and blog and follow every Instagram account because knowledge is power. Or at least it’s supposed to help take away some of the anxiety of parenting.

But what if it doesn't? What if it makes that anxiety worse?

Watch: Be a good mum. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

I’m definitely the latter of those two mums. I like to read up on what the best practice is, how to prepare for the next stage and what I should - and supposedly shouldn't - be doing when it comes to raising my son.

Though I’ve started to realise lately that ‘the more you know’ isn't necessarily a good thing, especially when it comes to feeling like you’re smashing it as a parent. Because it seems that the more I learn, the more I realise I’m ‘doing everything wrong’.

I have one child, a cheeky 19-month-old boy. He’s going through the typical toddler stages of throwing his food, refusing some meals and generally pushing the boundaries.

So when he uses his fork to shovel pasta into his mouth instead of launching it at the wall I’ve been saying “good boy!” because instinctively that’s being positive and encouraging. 

Though I recently learned you’re not supposed to say ‘good boy’ or ‘good girl’, because the child will assume they as a person are ‘bad’ if the next time they don’t eat their tea.

Best practise is to say “you did a great job of eating all your food!”, so that the child knows what they did was good but that they are not bad or good regardless.


Image: Supplied. My son has to have a monthly blood test to check his iron levels. If you’ve ever tried to hold down a flailing salmon with the strength of Thor then you can imagine what it’s like to draw blood from the inner elbow of a toddler.


Yet each month it’s becoming less of an ordeal, and last week there were far less tears than the time before and a super quick recovery when the nurse handed my son his very own truck to keep afterwards. 

“Nice work, bud! You are so brave! I’m so proud of you.”

But you’re not supposed to use the term ‘brave’, because it teaches kids that being scared or upset is the opposite of brave and therefore it's bad and that they are bad. 


Image: Supplied. 

I read on Instagram just yesterday that giving in to a toddler’s tantrum is the worst thing you can do because it just sets you up for a bigger, badder tantrum next time until you give in again. And again and again. 


I read this right after I’d given my son his second banana of the day, at 11am, because he’d been standing by the fruit bowl for 20 minutes screaming ‘nana!nana!nana!’ and had dramatically refused the consolation prize of a yoghurt pouch.


Image: Supplied. My son also still has milk before bed, which you’re supposed to stop giving at 18 months. And it’s in a baby's bottle which is a definite no-no at his age. And have I mentioned he still has a dummy?

My issue isn't with these resources themselves. These parenting books and articles and Instagram accounts are well-meaning, well-researched bites of advice with only good intentions. I can see that rationally.

But the emotional side of me, which is pretty much the ‘mum’ side, feels like it's a personal attack on my own parenting style. A dig at where I fall short. A stick with which I can beat myself for all the things I could be doing better when it comes to providing the best for my son.


Listen to Leigh on Mamamia's parenting podcast, This Glorious Mess: Little Kids. Post continues below.

I know it’s all in my head, and it’s my own insecurities taking the opportunity to ruminate and make me feel like a failure or a bad mum. Because parenting guilt is a very real and confronting emotion that no one really tells you about. 

So I make a list of all the new rules and methods and systems we're going to put in place from here on out, and how I’ll use only the right language and best practise and I’ll be the absolute best textbook mum there is.

And then I look at my son, sweet smelling and soft-haired from the bath, happy as ever, drinking his milk from a baby’s bottle and I remind myself that I’m doing the best bloody job I can. I’m following my gut and making decisions from the heart because I love him more than life itself and it feels right at the time, despite what the experts say. I tell myself I’m a good mum with only good intentions and that today, that’s enough.

And I give in and let him watch an episode of Bluey on the iPad before bed. 

Feature Image: Supplied.

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