I don’t think there is a profession in the world, where the ‘must do better’ culture does not exist. Every person I speak to, regardless of position, profession, part time, full time – the factor that is in common between us all is – striving to be better all the time.
What’s wrong with that, you may ask? Absolutely nothing at all. Nothing! How does anything ever improve if people are always doing what they have always done, in the same way, never questioning, never analysing, never reflecting on how things are. And it’s certainly the culture that I was brought up with, both at home and in the workplace – have goals, strive to do better, achieve more, smash targets etc.
The one area – that I feel, the ‘must do better’ culture isn’t helpful – is parenting. In fact, I was fortunate to sit in on some training at school, about ‘Attachment Theory’, and the impact this has on children in the very first few months of their lives. How babies are treated by their parents, at the very beginnings of their tiny lives, goes onto shape their behaviour and how they form relationships with others as they grow bigger. It comes as no surprise, that the children who display a lot of ‘unlovable’ behaviour, need the most love, and the psychologist who was training us, explained that if you remember nothing else – ‘connection first, then correction’. Which meant create a connection, a relationship with those children who present challenging behaviour first – then correct their behaviour. For those of us who have been teaching for a long time, or have worked predominantly with children who can present quite challenging behaviour, this came as no surprise, although it was nice to have that soundbite to take away; ‘connection, then correction.’
What was particularly refreshing, and actually blew my mind a little, was when we were learning about attachment theory, and the significance of the first few months of a baby’s life, the psychologist called effective parenting, ‘good enough parenting’. I was stunned when I heard it. I repeated those words again and again in my mind. Good enough parenting. Good enough parenting. Not good parenting. Not great parenting. Good enough.
This meant that as a parent, you were doing what you could to respond to the baby’s needs – be that milk or nappy change or sleep or comfort – you were trying to solve the problem. You might not get it right every time, but at least you were trying. You are being good enough. You’re trying your best. You are good enough.
In many professions – it’s not ok to be ‘good enough’. You have to be the best! That’s all I’ve heard since I was tiny – aim high, reach for the stars, be the best. But the hardest job of all – parenting – it was so incredibly refreshing and calming to hear – if you’re doing your best to meet your child’s needs, even if you don’t get it right each time – you are good enough. And you know what? I’ll flipping well take that! I’m happy to be good enough as a parent.
One of the things that causes me the most amount of concern, is am I giving my own children enough opportunities to do things out of school? Do they go to enough clubs? Are they getting enough exercise? Are they learning enough instruments? Do I need to teach them some languages? Should they be going on more playdates?
After that training – I’m now thinking to myself – are they fed? Do they have clothes to wear? Are they getting to bed on time? Are they reading and doing their school homework? But most importantly – are they loved? Are they loved? Are they loved? I can categorically say, yes to all of those questions.
And I am happy to say, that I pronounce myself bloody well good enough! All the other stuff – it doesn’t even matter. If I want my children to remember two things about their children, it’s that they felt happy and extremely loved.
What more could anyone ask for?