Single parenting isn’t easy but I can categorically say that it’s the best decision I have ever made and I have no regrets about having Annie. But of course I DO have regrets when it comes to parenting decisions I’ve made along the way. We all do, right? Can anybody truly say they have no regrets?
In this blog I just wanted to reflect on my own parenting regrets and also the things that I have made a priority NOT to regret. I also share other people’s parenting regrets, from a little research I did last week. What regrets below can you relate to?
Sweating the small stuff
From my research this is one of the big ones for parents. Does it really matter if they say please and thank you every time? If they don’t brush their teeth occasionally? As parents we can get worked up about the smallest things, because we have our children’s welfare at heart. But lots of the parents I have spoken to wish they hadn’t shouted at their children to hurry up and put their shoes on, or eaten their broccoli, when it wasn’t really important in the grand scheme of things.
Taking short cuts
Parents often use short-term strategies to deal with situations, like shouting at them, without working through the underlying reasons. And I am guilty of this sometimes. As soon as I have shouted at Annie, I instantly regret my reaction. Especially now she can answer back. I regret not always having the patience to take the longer view and understand the reasons for her behaviour more.
Appreciating it when you’re in it
One of the regrets that lots of parents shared with me is not fully appreciating every moment when it comes to their child. I can relate to this completely as, when Annie was a baby, I was struggling so much that I didn’t feel able to enjoy her as much as I had hoped to. I was surviving and firefighting, I was tired and groggy and experienced those first weeks/ months of parenthood through a thick fog. I regret not appreciating the baby stage more and wish I could do it again so I could try and do things differently.
Spending quality time
So many parents have regrets about the amount of quality time they spend with their child, or lack of. For me this is one of those things that I made it a priority not to regret later on. I didn’t want to regret working long hours and not being there for my child. Because it isn’t just spending time with them is it? It’s about laying the foundations that help them feel important, valued and loved. I may work full time but I purposely left my previous job because I wanted to to ensure a work life balance and make sure I was at least spending a short amount of quality time with Annie every day. Let’s be honest… them wanting to spend intense, all consuming time with you is only valid for a short period of their lives, so you have to make the most of it. But this is a real regret for so many parents out there, for those parents that maybe have to work long hours, or only get see their children at weekends.
For me, I regret being so up tight with Annie when she was a baby and so focused on a regimented routine. I regret not having confidence in my own judgements and regret listening to so much outside noise. People mean well when they are giving you parenting advice, but sometimes it can be counterproductive. If I was lucky enough to have another baby I think this is the key lesson I would take and I would trust my instincts much more.
On the flip side of this I have recently downloaded an app called Frolo which is an online community for single parents and I am finding it really useful to connect with like minded people. So sometimes outside noise can be useful, if it’s utilised in the right way!
Guilt is a crushing emotion. I often feel so guilty at having been at work all week and my reaction to this is to want to over compensate. I don’t think I’m alone in this as a recent survey shows that, on average, parents spend £2.600 per year on entertaining/treating their children. An average household spends £37 on tv subscriptions and films for their children’s entertainment, and an additional £35 per month on toys, books and magazines. I don’t necessarily agree with children being spoilt with material things, but if you have the money why wouldn’t you? I often regret not being able to treat Annie to new toys and material things on a regular basis. Instead I choose to spend any spare money on experiences, holidays/ weekends away. Because it’s one or the other, it can’t be both. Of course there are exceptions, and I do treat her, but as a general rule I wouldn’t buy her anything too extravagant outside of Christmas and birthdays.
I recently took Annie to a toy shop and instantly felt huge amounts of pressure to buy things for Annie she didn’t necessarily need, but of course she wanted. We live in a world that is so commercial and sometimes that scares me. As we wandered around the shop I felt like the walls were closing in on me, and as Annie pulled various toys off the shelves, I was suddenly panicked on how I was going to get out of there with my bank balance intact. It took a lot of restraint but I left the shop with 3 books for her, and I felt proud of myself for not succumbing to the commercial pressure. But as I looked at other people’s trolleys seemingly full of toys I did feel some regret that I wasn’t able to do the same for Annie. But then I thought to myself if I COULD, WOULD I choose to buy her trolleys full of toys? Probably not.
I would be interested to hear from other parents in terms of how much money, on average, per month you spend on your child. Do you have any rules in terms of treating your child(ren) to treats and toys (taking Christmas and birthdays out of the equation)?
Particularly as a single mum I have learned to, wherever possible, to lower my expectations and be kind to myself. I will never regret my circumstances, nor will I apologise for them. It’s easier said than done but if you can stop thinking about what you haven’t done and focus on what you have done as a parent, you’re half way there.
I try my best on a daily basis to be the best mum I can be. Some days I am off, some days I am on fire. Parenting is a huge learning curve and you’re not always going to get it right. All you can do is live for the moment and try your best not to regret your instinct, judgement or decisions. OWN the decisions you make as a parent. Because really there are no regrets, just life lessons.