READER REPORT:

I'm a bad parent, and proud of it

JO CAMERON
Last updated 05:00 17/12/2012
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Right from the start, my parenting started in the debit column. Single mother? Bad. Working mother? Bad. Back at work shortly after my kid was born? Bad. Enrolled the kid in daycare? Bad. Minimal breastfeeding? Bad, bad, bad.

By all accounts my kid should have grown up to be a glue-sniffing juvie who dropped out of school at 14 to follow her career path as a prostitute. I did everything wrong - according to the books.

Every other month it felt like a new study came out telling me I was a failure because I didn't follow the rules. Kids need their mother to be constantly with them. Daycare depersonalises the relationship between mother and child. Breastfeeding seals the bond. If you must work, make it part time and only once the child is enrolled in school, so you can devote your afternoons to the one-on-one that is so vitally important to a child's physical and mental health.

Not me. I was selfish. I did try breastfeeding but was never particularly successful and once I went back to work it just wasn't practical. I know people make it work, but I didn't.

I chose work over a benefit so I got a bit more money. Selfish.  I was spending precious hours away from my baby. Never mind that this probably preserved my sanity and made me value the time with her more. Never mind that she got expert care as well as the company of other children. Never mind that I would be able to arrive home tired, but not frazzled.

Weekends or holidays should have been devoted solely to my offspring. Not me. Selfishly, I wanted her to be independent. She knew where the snacks were (on the bottom shelf of the fridge). She knew where her toys were (packed away but not inaccessible) in a safe area. Even worse, she knew how to turn the television on and watch her own programs. At age 3.

School years were even worse. Still working full time meant she attended an after-school program. They had homework time, which I admit was beneficial. It didn't let me off the hook completely with homework but even then I multi-tasked - cooking dinner while listening to her spelling. 

It doesn't matter what you do as a mother - someone will think it's wrong. I prefer to judge not by the method but by the result. And no I don't take the credit for the way my sensible, intelligent, well-grounded kid turned out. I can take credit for her hair colour, her love of books, and her rather elegant fingers. Everything else came from her. She learned that there were rules even if I set no boundaries. I did that because I trusted her enough not to push them. She learned self-discipline - if her homework wasn't done, it was not because her mother wasn't standing over her forcing her to learn, but because she had chosen not to put in the hours. She learned to take responsibility for her actions, because I wasn't going to.

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If you come out of the parenting side in the plus column, then despite all the studies, all the experts and all the psychologists, then you've done your bit. Even if, like me, you did nothing.


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