All The Ways In Which I’ve Failed

Dec 22, 2022 | Mental Health, Parenting

A recent survey of new parents found that a third believed they were failing as a parent. That’s a pretty awful statistic, but as a parent I found I was (sadly) only surprised by the fact it wasn’t higher. Part of the reason I started this website was because I found I couldn’t let the picture-perfect-parenting-rhetoric I saw online continue to make me, and others, feel like shit. I’m by no means immune to it now but at least I find it easier to gain perspective on the whole situation.

Have I failed as a parent? I’ve certainly felt like it. Only, in reality, I haven’t at all. (Spoiler alert: neither have you)

All The Ways In Which I’ve Failed

I never breastfed you.
I was made to sign forms to say I was choosing not to, despite being told it was the healthiest thing to do and highly recommended. I was told we weren’t welcome at a baby event.
But you did drink expressed milk for months, and you loved half-and-half bottles of mixed flavours. You were healthy and you were happy off the nipple. I was happier too.
It wasn’t a failure.

I dropped you once.
Everyone told me I never would, despite my fears. I was tired. You fell flat on your face.
But I picked you up as you cried, I apologised and I cried too. You weren’t injured.
It wasn’t a failure.

I’ve fed you too much fast food.
As a toddler your favourite food is chicken nuggets and we’re often afforded dirty looks in the street as you tuck into a Happy Meal from your pushchair.
But you sit up and hold your own food and enjoy it. You even sit around a table and chat with adults as you eat. You get plenty of fruit and veg and vitamins and minerals from the rest of your diet.
It wasn’t a failure.

I’ve cried at you and I’ve cried on you.
I have felt frustrated and upset and heartbroken and exhausted. I’ve wiped my own tears off of you and I’ve cried at you in despair.
But you understand that people have feelings and you’ve been a compassionate person since birth. You react kindly now to tears.
It wasn’t a failure.

I’ve left the house when you’ve asked me to stay and play with you.
Sometimes I’ve left just to spend some time feeling like I could speak about topics other than CBeebies and nappies and pureed food.
But you toddle right over to me as soon as I come back and we pick up right where we left off; as though I never left at all.
It wasn’t a failure.

I couldn’t carry you home when you fell in the street and cut your knees open because I had bags in my arms.
You cried and cried and the pavement was splattered with your blood. I had bags to carry and I couldn’t manage you too, and couldn’t leave our belongings behind.
You did walk the 500m or so home. We dumped the bags as soon as the door opened and cleaned up your knees, applying fresh plasters and lots of kisses. You ripped the plasters off within 10 mins. You were fine.
It wasn’t a failure.

I split up your family.
I chose to end a relationship with your dad, and he went to live elsewhere. You stayed with me.
Now you have four parents who adore you, and two homes full of love. You’re happier than ever and surrounded by joy. You’re learning from two healthy, functioning, adult relationships.
It wasn’t a failure.

I allowed you way too much screen time from a young age.
It’s recommended that none is allowed. You watch CBeebies and Disney+ and YouTube and Netflix. I have to work, and I have to manage the house, and sometimes it’s all that will occupy you.
At 4 years old, you can name the flags of countries I’ve never heard of. You’ve watched so many space documentaries that you know the names of rockets by sight and can tell me what year they took off. You’re an insect expert thanks to kids programmes discussing the differences between malachites and marbled whites.
It wasn’t a failure.

I have said no to you 100x a day. Maybe more.
Somehow it seems like you only want to ask me questions or involve me in your play when I’m halfway through an urgent work task or knee-deep in cleaning chemicals it’s not safe for you to be around. Or you’re only interested in doing things wildly unsuitable for your age or ability.
You’ve learnt to amuse yourself when you have to. And when I do finish what I’m doing or explain why you can’t have or do what you want, you get over it.
It wasn’t a failure.

Turns out… there are no failures. Only lessons learnt and progress made. And that is how I’ll always strive to keep it.

The featured image at the top of this page was taken by Jukan Tateisi, for Unsplash.