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Mia Freedman: 'Focus on your parenting wins, not fails' and my other golden rules for parenting.

Mamamia’s Five Golden Rules series takes a look into the lives of Australian families. This week, Mamamia co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Mia Freedman shares her Golden Rules for parenting.

Parenting can be a really thankless job and there's a lot of things about parenting that are really, really boring

On top of boredom, there's also the parenting guilt to contend with and I remember feeling guilty that I felt bored at the park, which I hated going to when my kids were little... 

But it's okay to say these things because it doesn't mean we love our children any less.

I have three children. My eldest Luca is 24, and he's moved out of home. My daughter Coco is 16, and my youngest child Remy, is 13 and I have three golden rules of parenting that I'd like to share.

1. Focus on your parenting wins, not fails.

Often when we look at our own parenting in the mirror, we only see what's bad. We look at our bodies or faces in the mirror and we only see what's wrong. And what I'm advocating for is that we focus more on what's right with our parenting, not wrong. 

And I'll give you an example of how I learned this lesson. 

My kids liked to eat baked beans straight out of the can when they were little, and somehow I conditioned them to believe that eating straight out of the can, was a treat. 

I'm not immune to feelings of inadequacy however and I'd probably been reading some story about a supermodel who said their child's favourite food was raw broccoli, and I suddenly remember feeling so guilty. 

I was looking at my toddler daughter sitting in a highchair eating a can of baked beans with a spoon, or maybe with her hand, I can't remember, and I quickly took a photo. I texted it to my mum, and I captioned it 'Mother of the Year'. She straightaway texted back, and she said, 'darling, there's so much protein in baked beans and doesn't she look happy?' 

And she did. 

What I couldn't see was that my daughter had this beaming smile on her face. She was healthy. She was loved. She was secure. Yes, she was eating something out of a can, but it wasn't dog food. It was baked beans and baked beans ARE high in protein. And then just when I was digesting all of that, I get another text from my mum and she said, 'I've just seen that they are salt-reduced baked beans - you are an incredible mother!'. 

Yet all I could see when I looked at that image of my daughter in front of me, was all the ways I was failing as a mother. I couldn't see any of the ways that I was succeeding, and I think that it's a very female thing. To look at something with the opposite of rose-coloured glasses, it's more like s**t coloured glasses. 

If your best friend sent you that photo, or if your best friend said to you, here's what happened today and described an incident with their child. You would reassure them they were a terrific mother. 

Because even the fact that they were worried about being a bad mother means they're not bad mothers.

What I think we need to do as women and as mothers is to remember what we're doing right, because parenting is a really hard job and we all need to be kinder to ourselves.

2. Don't always put your kids first.

This might seem like strange rules for a parent, but I think that we have internalised this idea that to be a 'good' mother, you must always put your child first. 

I should qualify that by saying I'm not advocating for neglect. When they're bleeding, absolutely, they go to the top of the queue. But as women and as mothers, we have multiple tabs open at all times and every day, we must triage. 

We have to decide who or what needs us the most in this moment. Sometimes it's not our child that needs us the most, sometimes it might be our mother, our boss, our job, our partner, it might even be our own mental health. 

So this idea of always putting your child first, to be considered a 'good' mother is crazy, because what it teaches your child, is that they are always the centre of the universe. 

As someone who employs a lot of young people and have done over the years, we have had issues with young people coming straight into the workplace and not understanding that they are not the top priority, and it's not their fault. 

I'm guilty of this as a parent too. 

When you are a helicopter parent and you are constantly hovering and moving every barrier for your child to ease their way, when they are always getting a 'participation award' and high praise for everything they do, and they're getting your full attention, they don't understand that life's not always going to be that way. 

I would say that it's sometimes really healthy to say to a child, 'I'm so sorry, mum can't come to watch your soccer game today because she's got to take Aunty Joy to chemo, or she's got to work late because she's got a deadline, or she's got to go to the doctor or she's just had a bad week and she needs to go for a run'. 

It's actually a good thing for kids to learn that they are not always the top priority.

3. 'Picnic plates' are a perfectly good meal.

A 'picnic plate' is something that I invented with my husband because neither of us can cook. And what a picnic plate is, is a plate with lots of little things that you can find in the fridge or in the pantry.

So, it might be a handful of cereal, there might be a little piece of cheese, there might be a couple of crackers and on a good day, some cut up apple.

Picnic plates are very good for any meal. And don't kid yourself that picnic plates are not good for dinner - picnic plates are amazing for dinner.

Over to you, do you have five rules that you won’t bend on? To share your Five Golden Rules, email with 'Five Golden Rules' in the subject line.  

Feature Image: Supplied.

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