I remember watching some t.v. news programme years ago, where an interviewer asked an ‘expert’ this question: ‘Should we be worrying about this?’ I think it was something to do with a food scare.
The question stayed with me. Should I worry about this? Should I mind? Does it matter? Is it my duty to worry? If I refuse to worry about something, does that make me an irresponsible citizen? And when you get into the wonderful world of Competitive Parenting, does refusing to worry make me a bad parent?
My own personal parenting mantra which I developed over many years of bringing up my children is: ‘It doesn’t matter.’ That, and: ‘Oh well.’ I find this to be a very helpful approach.
Now I know what you’re thinking: But it does matter! It matters very much! And it’s supposed to matter!
And yes, I know that. I know that partly because yes, when it comes to your children, it really really does matter. But I also know that the pressure to mind about everything, the assumption that every parent is on full-alert 100% focused on caring and worrying about their children 100% of the time is not very good for me. I have to resist it.
When I make mistakes, and it all ends in tears, or I just don’t have the energy, or I’m feeling frankly bored with my kids, as I used to quite often when they were little, then it’s so much better for my psychological health to instinctively feel ‘Oh well’ and shrug my shoulders and say to myself ‘They’ll survive. They’ll learn. This won’t damage them for life. A lot of the time things are good. I’m not perfect. In the scheme of things it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter.’
And really, what’s the alternative? ‘I have probably just damaged my child for life. My power is so great that I am 100% responsible for how this child turns out, and I’ve just blown it. Again! This matters so much I must beat myself up and beg forgiveness from my child.’
That was an exaggeration, but not much. I think of it more as a mother’s default setting.
And when you’ve got your control automatically set to Guilt, personally I wonder how you could ever get through the parenting years without ever being able to turn the dial round to the ‘Oh well’ setting.