THE GOOD (ENOUGH) PARENT

From the moment they are born, you worry about your babies. Back in the old days, your mum, your gran, your aunties would offer you sensible advice and help you through those difficult early months.

Maybe you are lucky enough to have family on your doorstep but what's the betting, that for the majority of us, that is no longer the case?

You are left to struggle alone or with your partner ( increasingly tired from work) and you turn to magazines, websites and your friends for help and advice. For me, there was a little internal voice, which grew louder when I was most tired.

It was the voice which told me that I wasn't good enough, I was doing it "wrong".

Unfortunately, there were other voices out there in the real world- on the telly, in magazines and in mother and baby groups - which would also reinforce that sense of doubt; the preaching stuff about breast is best, the endless advice on healthy eating, on routines. I felt guilty that I "only" breastfed my babies for three months before I switched to bottles. I found it tiring and to be brutally honest, my body was not my own and I wanted it back. Is that wrong? There were some breast feeding fanatics out there who made me feel I had failed and my children's immune systems would never recover.

I wept at midnight as a pureed yet another batch of home-cooked veg and poured it into little ice cubes so that I wouldn't let my baby down by giving him jars of babyfood. Why did I do that? Baby jars are perfectly healthy and balanced and fine. Sometimes sleep is better than whizzing food up in a blender in the small hours, isn't it?

But I was trying to be the best parent.

Luckily I was able to have a "normal" birth with my first rather than a C-section or I would really have had to hang my head in shame, wouldn't I? Why do mothers make such a big deal of that? Yes, you may have managed to squeeze your baby out - and torn yourself to shreds in the process- but it doesn't make you any better than someone who has chosen a C-section or had one as an emergency to save their baby from brain damage or death. So, at least I was not like my friend who felt a failure over her first "birth experience" and desperately wanted a vaginal delivery for the second. When she didn't get one, she pretended right up to the last minute that she was "getting ready for the big push", sending texts out to all and sundry. The baby was delivered safely by C-section. Big deal. She still felt guilty though.

As our children grow up we want to be the best parent for them, to always be there, to keep them occupied, to help them learn. In fact, part of the learning process is to allow them to be alone, to be bored, to play by themselves. It is OK for them to see that we have needs too and jobs and friends. The world out there is a big place and in the real world they are not the centre of attention all the time.

Sometimes when that internal critic rears its head and tells me I'm a rubbish mother, I take a deep breath and say:

"I'm not a good parent but I am trying to be good enough."

Good enough means you will give them tinned spaghetti on toast rather than organic home-cooked, you will at least try to take them to the park with a hangover, you will lose your temper but then say sorry.

You will love them just as much as you can and then some more and they will still be ungrateful for it when they are teenagers. That is when you know you have done it right. That is good enough for me.