Fatherhood: Why I’m embracing my own parenting mediocrity!
I’ve been considering switching things up for a while now, but the New Year finally tipped me over the edge – I had a day off work to make the necessary changes, and had finally decided on a name, so everything fell into place. But why did I bother, I’m sure you’re asking yourself?
Well, first up, “Henry’s Blog” wasn’t a particularly imaginative or descriptive name was it? When I started using this domain I hadn’t really decided on what I wanted to write about, so I kept my options open – but these days I mainly blog about parenting, so it makes sense to make my blog a bit more linked to that topic.
Secondly, it was a bit embarrassing. In the past few years (thanks in part to my job), I’m often introduced to people with “…and he’s also a parent blogger”, which is inevitably followed by “Oh, what’s your blog called?”. Having to tell people – often people who have been told I’m a creative strategist (that’s my title these days) – that all I could come up with was “Henry’s Blog”… well, it wasn’t exactly making me look great, was it?!
But the third and overwhelming reason was this:
I’m a pretty mediocre parent… and that’s fine
Not let me start by saying: this isn’t supposed to be a self-deprecating statement. My parenting skills are fine, and I’m comfortable with what I need to do. But I’m not a superstar parent (or indeed a superstar parent blogger!) and I don’t ever want to pretend that I am. I’m okay at best – pretty mediocre in a fairly average way. Why pretend otherwise?I don’t know many parents who claim to be amazing at the job – most of us are just about muddling through, celebrating the little wins and just hoping to get through to the weekend. But if you look at the world of social media – whether that’s Instagram, blogs, YouTube or whatever – you could be forgiven for thinking that perfection is the norm.
That’s not supposed to be a criticism I hasten to add – sadly, feeling like you have to portray a perfect life is one of the most common traps of being an “influencer” online. Mainly because nobody wants to see how crap your dinner is, how ram-shackle your house is or how badly you’re failing at most of life.
But parenting is one area – possibly the only area in life – where there really AREN’T any experts. There’s no degree in parenting, no diploma in nappy changing, no GCSEs in getting a child through to 18 without breaking any bones. Sure, you can be an outstanding child-minder. Or a really great nursery assistant. But (unless I’ve missed something) nobody is a more qualified parent than anyone else.
So why do bloggers like myself feel justified to tell other parents what they should or shouldn’t be doing as a parent?
To be honest, I’ve never felt comfortable writing “advice” posts – mostly because I doubt anyone wants to hear my advice, let alone heed it. That’s why I usually stick to anecdotes, or stories about my experiences with some aspects of parenting that others might find helpful (tongue-ties for instance, or the school appeals process)
When it comes to marking my parenting abilities, I’d probably rate myself a B-, or maybe a C+. Sure, I (along with my wonderful, much more capable wife) have managed to get two children through early childhood without either of them suffering any major disasters. But neither of them are perfect specimens by any stretch of the imagination – and to pretend otherwise would be foolish.
So it made sense to embrace this realisation – and champion it! I’m a mediocre parent at best, and I’m completely fine with that.
It’s not just me though. I put the call out to a few other bloggers to prove my point – asking them for examples of times when they’ve been a mediocre parent too. Here are some of my favourite responses:
Whit Honea, author of the Parents Phrase Book
“It’s funny, when you write a book about parenting, people always want to describe you as a ‘parenting expert,’ which, clearly is not the case. What a ridiculous title to claim. I’m just a guy that has made, and continues to make, mistakes, and I hope my lessons can help others. Perfect is boring and certainly overrated.”
Jo Middleton from Slummy Single Mummy
“Oh God, this describes every day of my life for the last 22 years! In practical terms, I think I really only ever strive for ‘good enough’! One thing I’ve learnt over the years as a parent is that no matter how much effort you put into trying to create these perfect memories, they somehow manage to only remember that time you gave them three burnt fish fingers for tea or made them go to school with damp socks.”
Al Ferguson from The Dad Network
“Having just got back from west coast of America, jet lag had sufficiently hit and all I wanted to do was walk in the door and go to bed. But after having left Jen to parent solo for a week I knew I had to take parenting reigns. Utterly shattered but delighted to see Teddy, my parenting that day was mediocre at best. But some days that’s all you can do. And if everyone has gone to bed happy and clean and fed then it’s still a parenting win.”
Simon Ragoonanan from Man vs Pink
“Most school days, getting my daughter out the door on time is more important than how she looks. Things often don’t get done including hair (needs brushing into a pony tail – sometimes the brushing doesn’t happen), shoes (what’s shoe polish?), crumpled dress (what’s an iron?), and general cleanliness (why put on a clean outfit when you’re just going to get paint/mud/whatever on it again). Also, I sometimes spot she’s put her shirt on inside out and figure I’m sure no one will notice.”
Helen Wright from Passport Stamps UK
“Being a travel writer I was determined that having a baby wasn’t going to stop me travelling. My son, Finn is one now and with ten flights in his first 12 months we haven’t done too bad. The one thing I did have to accept is that the type of trip we’d be able to take would be very different to the fun and frivolity of holidays pre-parenting. Evenings spent bar hopping and clubbing until dawn were replaced with early bird dinners or ordering pizza room service and watching the sunset from the hotel room. I thought it would bother me more, but it didn’t. The next day we could still hike, swim, take a road trip and see the sights and we’d get to show our baby too, which made it all the more special. We can no longer do everything we want to, but we can do most things. And that’s okay.”
Carter Gaddis from Dads 4 Change
“Christmas was new. Santa was a force in our lives. The boys were excited to meet the jolly old elf that day at their daycare center. I came along to snap a few shots, to capture the smiles and the glow and the holiday spirit and… nope. Both boys, preschoolers at the time, were having none of it. That guy? THAT guy is Santa? Well, we’re not going anywhere near him. Forget it, dad. And then I grabbed them both, put them on my lap, frantically yelled for Santa to jump in behind us and smiled grimly for the camera. You can see how enthusiastic the boys were about it all. And? That was the BEST photo we got that day. So much for expectations and warm, fuzzy holiday memories…”
Andy Mackay from Dads Sofa
“I have to keep remembering that even though staying home and having a “quiet day” may not make for the most interesting instagram pictures, the Little One does enjoy the occasional day at home with Crisps, Chocolate, and CBeebies.”
Benny Finlay from Daddy Poppins
“Every time I dress the children, apparently. I’m happy that they are clothed. My wife isn’t happy unless they are matching. Doesn’t she know Dads only see in primary colours?”