"I am not the parent I thought I’d be." The hardest part about being a mum is the constant guilt.


Being a parent comes with many advantages – half eaten biscuits, an excuse for carrying baby wipes in your handbag, and Bluey (come on, if you haven’t seen that show, are you even a parent?!)

But the guilt that comes nicely packaged up, ready to throw itself in your face just when you don’t need it, well, ain’t that some sh*t.

Watch: The two types of parents. Post continues after video. 

Video via Mamamia..

Personally, I have three kids, Miss 11, Mr 9 and Mr 4. All three are proficient in Minecraft, Super Mario Party or Smash (or whatever it’s called these days), and all three know how to work my coffee machine – for me, obviously, not them. 

They’re all healthy, they’re generally well mannered in public, and they’re loved. So loved.

But sometimes I feel so incredibly guilty that I am not the parent that sits down with them to help with their homework. I’m not the parent that makes their lunches everyday (they do that themselves). I am not the parent that will structure craft sessions for them based on what they’re learning at school.


I am not the parent I thought I’d be.

Before I had children, I was vehemently against lazy parenting. I would turn my nose up at those parents who didn’t spend hours of their day teaching their kids how to make playdough, or how to cut with scissors, or baby sign language. How dare they, I thought. How dare they bring children into the world and not even spend quality time with them.

And then I had a little tornado of my own, and holy f**k, life has never been the same.

I did do craft, for like, an hour, before I realised I’d have to spend three hours cleaning it up, whilst also juggling a toddler. I tried to teach her baby sign language, but all she would say was "No", verbally, so we gave up on that. And scissors... well the first time she cut her hair, I banned scissors from the house.

I also banned crayons after she drew a picture of a zoo on the wall of our rental. (I tried to take her to the actual zoo and leave her there, but the zoo keeper said they had enough wild animals.)

And then with subsequent children, things got harder. So you know what seemed like the best answer? Daycare. Preschool. Bless those educator souls.

My youngest is in his last year of daycare/preschool now, and next year he is off to big school. Aside from the fact he has older siblings, which, really, that helps, he has learned mostly everything from his daycare parents. He can count to about 40. He knows what rhyming is. He knows how to share. He can cut with scissors. He made an echidna out of clay and wooden sticks. He can draw things that resemble people, sort of.


And I feel so guilty about it.

And I don’t know why – It’s not like I’ve just sat and done nothing for those past almost five years of his life – I’ve been studying and working. But it just feels so horrible knowing that I didn’t teach him most of what he can do.

What is it about society that sneakily allows us to feel so guilty about what is not a shortcoming, but we’re made to feel like it is?

I often see posts on social media about how women are expected to work like they don’t have kids, and parent like they don’t work – I’ve found this to be completely impossible. There is no way that I can be that person. Every time I see that post saying this, I look for the punchline, the funny bit that makes me go, 'Oh that’s hilarious.' But there’s not, because we often are expected to do this. And then when we cannot, we batter each other, and ourselves, about it.

What has to change? How can things be different for parents that work or study?

In my first year of uni, I had a workplace learning officer say to me, "It was your choice to choose a family over your career", because I had requested a local placement so I could continue to breastfeed my child. Unbelievable. Well, except it isn’t. There isn’t flexibility around parenting and working, not real flexibility. There are women who simply never get the top job because they *might* get pregnant and leave the workforce at some point. It’s incredible that in this day and age, it’s still like this. 


Listen to This Glorious Mess, a twice-weekly look at parenting as it truly is: confusing, exhausting, inspiring, funny, and full of surprises. Post continues after audio.

But back to half eaten arrowroot biscuits, with slightly soggy edges.

I know, at least on some kind of level, that my kids aren’t damaged from watching me simultaneously study, work, and parent. They get to know what hard work looks like. But I don’t want them to ever have to choose between parenting and a career. 

I want them to have whatever parts of life they want – and not have to sacrifice other bits for it. I want them to know that to be a good parent doesn’t mean religiously sitting down with their kids and explaining every little detail of their homework.

Good parenting isn’t defined by how much playdough you create, or how many times you attend playgroup with your toddler. Being able to cut with scissors is a useful skill, but in recent times, the only thing I needed scissors for was to trim Mr 5’s fringe hair so he could see - because lockdown had meant that the hairdresser was off the cards.

Just love your kid. Make sure they’re safe and happy, and if you have the time, teach them how to work your coffee machine. Just imagine the money it’ll save you.


Penny Rohleder is a good-enough parent who juggles three kids with working and full-time study. She writes to make herself feel better about not being the perfect parent. You can read more from Penny on The Good-Enough Parent Blog.

Feature Image: Getty. 

Like a $50 gift voucher for your thoughts? For your chance, take our quick survey .