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Do you feel like a failure?

The delectable Nigella Lawson has a new TV series out so has decided to publicise it by telling the world that she is convinced that “it’s impossible to be a mother without a huge sense of failure

I mean really? 

Are there mothers sat out there each evening, going through the day and working out exactly where they were really not as good as they should have been and working out how to beat themselves up about their parental failings?

Did I miss the part in my ante-natal classes where they told you that your best just wasn’t going to be good enough and you should feel Really Very Guilty about it? 

Which is really rather a shame – I admit that being a parent (yes parent not mother, see what I did there?) means that you discover a whole new world of worry and things to spend hours debating over the dinner table

After all, parenting is the natural follow on to the Four Weddings idea that you get married when you run out of conversation – having children gives you endless new conversational topics from is Littler colour blind to should we worry about how tall Bigger is or just celebrate the fact she’s wearing clothes for a child 3 years older than her?

Worrying is just one of those things that come with being a parent – probably something to do with there being far too many choices as a modern parent and the fact that nobody has yet got around to writing a really good manual for how to work out exactly what is the best way to parent your unique and wonderful offspring 

Just stand back and look at the choices – how to get them to sleep, how to teach them right and wrong, how intensively involved to be or not to be – it’s not as simple as send them out into the fields working from the age of 3 and consider yourself a good parent if you let them go to school for the odd day here and there

But worrying and making choices is a long way from feeling a failure – surely if we can find the confidence to trust our parenting instincts then we be happy that the choices we make are the best we can do at that point in time and stop beating ourselves up for the road not taken or the decision not made?

The fact that 99% of parents raise happy, confident children who love their parents is a sign of success not failure – we can’t all raise the next Albert Einstein or Florence Nightingale, we can only do our best and hope that it is good enough

I look at our girls and see two happy, loving, confident children and know that I’ve done ok – I’m not a child raising guru but neither am I a failure – I am just a normal, bog standard, doing the best I can Mummy

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26 comments to Do you feel like a failure?

  • I feel a perpetual failure but like to think of it as a failure at life generally, not just parenting :/

  • Very refreshing. I think there’s a lot of analysis about raising kids these days, which can lead to constant pondering and guilt. I know I’m guilty of the guilt thing at times, worrying if I work too hard or haven’t got the balance right etc etc. But, generally, I know I’m doing my absolute best and my child is growing up knowing she’s loved, with lots of happy experiences. And when I think about it like that, the guilt and the pondering stops.

  • Jem

    I don’t usually do the whole “guilt” thing, but there have been days recently where I’ve felt like a failure. Days where I spend all day shouting, days where everything is a battle. I just have to remember that they’re blips; that as long as I start each day trying to better the bad ones then it’s good enough. My children are fed, clothed & loved and that’s what matters. I hope.

  • I was really surprised to read this story in the Telegraph, it’s the kind of garbage you’d normally get in the Daily Mail. I sense the journalist has jumped on a throwaway comment and made it the emphasis of their whole article. But the message that mothers are guilt ridden about not bringing their kids up properly is crackers, 99% of us know we’re doing a good job and any anguish about education and behaviour says more about someone’s attitude to social mobility rather than parenting.

  • Tasha Goddard (WAHM-BAM!)

    I do feel guilt lots of the time, actually. Logically, if I take the time to analyse it, I usually realise that I’ve actually done fine, but, yes, I do feel in a perpetual state of guilt. Too much shouting, forgetting to remind a child to put her glasses on, sticking them in front of the TV/computer so I can get some work finished… Yes, absolutely. And I really do feel like I got it in the labour room.

    The worst is when Chris takes over the morning routine (as a morning person, I tend to it more, while he does the evening more) and somehow manages to get everything done, everyone out the door, all lunches packed and fit in crafts and learning of some kind. Without any shouting. Makes me feel totally inadequate and pointless. Which is clearly my own issue, because a saner person would be thinking ‘Wow! That’s brilliant. I can have a lie-in more often.’

    • You so need to be thinking that is a good thing – Mr M does mornings and I come down to find the place trashed and the breakfast things still on the table. In case you didn’t know, that one is a keeper (& m sure it is scarcity value that helps Dads and grandparents)

  • Christine Agate-Amorim

    Thank you for sharing this post and the article itself. The article is wholly ridiculous and almost looks like someone has changed all the words to ‘failure’ to make some kind of statement. Sure sometimes, many times we worry, sometimes we feel guilty, but not failures! If you spent all your time feeling like a failure as a mother you would probably give up!

  • I don’t feel like a failure. However, I do often feel like a jack of many trades, master of none. Yes, some of this is my circumstance of running a business AND being a stay at home mother…a difficult combination. Everyday, I have to make choices to drop one ball to focus on another – the kids watching endless hours of TV so I can work – huge delays in answering emails, so I can be with the kids. Do I spend my life in guilt, no, but that doesn’t mean I don’t long for the “ideal”…

  • Ah, the guilt. Great post, well said. It is indeed the days when I’m not the mother I’d like to be that I feel bad. But as you say, the next day you can just try again and realise that being perfect is not what raises happy children. Happy parents raise happy children. And that might involve more than a little chaos.

  • Louise

    We all have our bad days but ‘huge sense of failure’ is way too strong. Maybe Nigella is fishing for a massive pat on the back and a ‘hey, you are a wonderful mother’ ? I run a preschool, have done so for over 12 years, and although parents might beat themselves up about their parenting, or worse, compare themselves to others, I have never met a parent who was doing anything but their best, whatever their style.

  • Well said.

    Feeling like a failure is definitely a first world problem, isn’t it? Our grandmothers weren’t worrying about the best way to sleep train, they were worried about how to get their children to survive the war intact…..

  • I have to admit I sometimes feel like a failure, although I’m trying really hard to get rid of the word failure in my life, because it doesn’t serve any purpose at all other than put someone down. I don’t feel guilty though because I can only try and give my best, guilt is something that would come in if knowingly I didn’t do my best. So I don’t feel guilty but know my limitations/shortcomings and try to improve. There are days that feel like a failure, and other that feel like a success. I’d actually just blogged about such a failure day, and then the following days were fab, which made me realise that this “failure feeling” was just a blip of circumstances and that the silver lining is just around the corner sometimes. Oh and yes, I do wonder if dads ever think along those lines? It’s an honest question, I do wonder.

  • I suffer from endless guilt over one thing or another and fears that I’m messing up all the time but I only need to look at my two incredible children to realise I’m obviously doing something right…

  • Love this post. We really need to drop the guilt, and the assumption that guilt is a necessary part of parenting. Not least because we are role models, and if we go on wailing about how inadequate we are as parents, then guess what? Our children will think that’s the norm, and do it when they become parents. We are condemning them to feelings of guilt – and do we want to do that?

    I’ve just been catching up with your blog, and I’m sorry that you’re having such a rough time. Don’t know quite what else to say…

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