Feel like a rubbish parent? 9 things to remember when you doubt your parenting…

Do you feel like a rubbish parent? Scared of letting your children down? Convinced you’re not good enough, aching to clock out, curl up and wake up in a galaxy far, far away.

Being a parent for over 20 years and half of that home educating our three, and then four children, you bet there’ve been times…

…many times it’s gone belly up, 

…many times I’ve felt like a rubbish parent.

Sometimes the sheer weight of parenting responsibility can feel like it’s crushing our very soul. 

And maybe you’re hoping, racking up those years of experience, I’ve got me my parenting badge and now all doubt is gone. Rock-solid sure of my status as a parenting superstar. And one day, you can be too.

Well, hmm. No. Not so much.

But all is not lost…

9 things to remember when you feel like a rubbish parent

It’s because you care 

Let’s face it, if you weren’t bothered about being the best parent you can be, you wouldn’t be feeling rubbish.  

The people who never doubt are the ones I’m worried about.

Maximo Park.

You’re scared of messing up because it matters a lot. And with so much riding on this parenting gig, it’s no wonder we feel the strain. And that’s okay. We’re thoughtful, we’re sensitive and we care.

Negativity’s in our nature

Worry’s a part of our heritage as humans. We don’t tend to dwell on success. For most of our existence deadly danger lurked round every corner and we were busy simply surviving. 

Our tendency towards pessimism protects us from complacency. An evolutionary advantage spurring us on to stay alive. 

We’re experts at recognising failure and flaws.

Yet for most of us, most of the time these no longer spell imminent danger. But instinctively, we react the way we always have. Our brains and our bodies working to protect us, preparing us to flee or to fight and when we don’t, we’re left with a huge heap of stress.  

Related post : You are enough (And why that’s so hard to believe) A post written with writers in mind, but speaks to us all I think 🙂    

Learning never stops

Just like our children, we’re learning all the time. And when it comes to parenting, this continual cascade of new information and ever more challenges, can wear us down. 

Just when we think we know where we’re at, something changes. Our children grow so fast, sometimes we’re left lagging behind, wondering if we’ll ever catch up.  

And then there’s the times we’re stuck in regret. Especially when new information rocks our world. 

Learning about home ed, unschooling, respectful parenting, about baby-led weaning, co-sleeping, elimination communication. Even the realisation it was okay to keep breastfeeding as long as my baby wanted. Yep, why didn’t I figure that out a bit earlier? *regrets* 🙁 

All these ‘new’ ideas were wonderful moments in my parenting past, but they were tinged with sadness and loss. If only I’d realised the choices I had, the possibilities and opportunities we missed. But we can’t go back and we’ll never know it all. 

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. 

Maya Angelou.

Seasons change, but some of them are awful stormy

Maybe you’re in the midst of a particularly stormy season right now? We all have them. Times when life demands more effort and energy than we can offer. 

Sometimes hunkering down and getting through the storm with everyone safe and warm is all we can muster. And that’s okay. 

Seasons change. However bleak this blizzard, it won’t go on forever. Maybe in a year, a month or even an hour, we’ll look back and wonder what all the fuss was about. 

And when we’re sure this feeling, this situation, this circumstance won’t, can’t pass. Time will. And with it, we’ll be gathering more experience and more knowledge to help us cope. And that certainty… it’s often more fragile than we realise. Change might just mosey on over when we’re least expecting it. 

Relationships matter most

Worrying about the future, fixating on the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘have tos’, or our own fear of failure can lead us to forget. And then we remember… 

Our relationships with our children are what matter most. With our relationships intact we can cope with whatever comes our way.

We might even consider our flaws to be a gift. Who wants to hang with perfection, those are mighty big shoes to fill 🙂  

It’s okay to make mistakes

Maybe they’re the wake-up call we didn’t realise we needed. Jolting us back to the present, reminding us what matters most and offering us an opportunity to be and to do better.

And when we make mistakes, that’s our chance to model for our children how to make amends and to show compassion for ourselves and others. 

Related post : 10 benefits of making mistakes

Our children are always watching  

Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

James Baldwin

As parents, we’re powerful models for our children. Not only are they acutely aware of our behaviour and attitude towards them. But they’re picking up messages about how we treat ourselves. 

And what they see will impact how they treat themselves and others, and ultimately, if we’re lucky, our grandchildren 🙂

When we show compassion and kindness today, especially to ourselves, not only is that a gift for those close to us, but we’re sending ripples out into the world and a lasting legacy down the line.   

Don’t believe everything you think  

It might not be true. Just because someone says it, or thinks it, whether in our own head, berating ourselves for being so rubbish, or criticism we receive from others, we don’t have to believe it. We get to exercise our judgement in heeding what we think, or think we’ve heard.

Truth is a slippery customer, shifting through time and space, fluid and in flux. And whatever the truth of the moment, it doesn’t define us forever.  

But we can’t deny our feelings, they’re a form of feedback. And if doubt is stirring our emotions, it’s a warning from within. Shaking us from complacency and reminding us we can always do better.

Feeling like a rubbish parent can help us be a better one. 

Certainty can hamper our progress. Being too sure of ourselves can make us unwilling and unable to see when we’ve messed up. And without reflection we’re unlikely to improve. 

Doubting our parenting doesn’t mean we’re a rubbish parent, but neither is it a get-out clause. It’s no use believing that because we’re capable of reflective thought, we must be doing okay.

We’ve got to do the work.

When we’re wallowing in our own worries and obsessing over our own inadequacies, there’s not much time and energy left for anything else. And our children deserve more. We deserve more.

We need to get over ourselves. 

So we can be there for our children.

And I know that’s not easy. But in an upcoming post I’ll be sharing some ideas on how we can heave ourselves out of the pit of parenting doubt and despair and emerge stronger and even closer to our families than ever 🙂 How we can learn from our experiences, find ways to comfort and calm ourselves, and develop skills and strategies that can help us shift our mood and our mindset.

You can subscribe to the blog in the sidebar if you’d like to be notified when that post goes live.

And while you’re waiting for that one, maybe these’ll tide you over til next time 🙂

The trouble with worrying (and what to do instead)

Soothing quotes for scary times

Respectful parenting : Healing the hurts from our own childhood

How it’s okay if we’re not perfect parents from Stories of an Unschooling Family

I don’t want to be viewed as a ‘good parent’ by a society that thinks so little of children from Racheous

You can also find more thoughts and resources on taking a kinder path on Instagram and Pinterest.

Thanks for reading x


  1. Daisy says:

    Such a lovely comforting post <3 can't wait for part 2 xx

    1. Hayley says:

      Appreciate that Daisy, thanks 🙂 So glad you liked it.

  2. Hayley, I imagine this is a very timely post for many. It is for me, at least. Parents all over the world have been in the midst of such trying circumstances for what seems like a long time now. Your message here offers wise words for all times:).

    I always appreciate the quotes. Interestingly, I woke up to that same Maya Angelou quote on another blog this morning and now am reading it as I head to bed … likely a lesson there:).

    1. Hayley says:

      Thanks Erin. Yep quotes can offer us much to mull over, can’t they? Another one of Maya Angelou’s I know I’ve quoted before but is relevant here too, I think – ‘People will forget what you said. People may forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.’ Reassuring on those days when it’s hard to find the ‘right’ words and I seem to keep having those 🙂

  3. Lovely post – it still all appies to me even though I’m a parent of twenty somethings these days. Perhaps it’s reassuring for readers to know that despite the parenting mishaps and things we’d do differently it’s turned out okay! I believe the three things that saw us through tricky bits and helped maintain strong relationships are honesty, trust and most of all respect; always. And of course they are at the core of love!

    1. Hayley says:

      Thanks Ross. I know your blog and books are so reassuring for many of us. Love it – honesty, trust, respect and love, a pretty reliable recipe 🙂

  4. Hayley,

    Thank you for sharing my post! As usual, you have written a post crammed full of thoughts and ideas to ponder.

    I’ve been thinking about mistakes. We try so hard to avoid them and get so upset with ourselves when we make them. But it’s how we handle mistakes that’s important, isn’t it?

    While I was reading your words, I was listening to your voice inside my head. It was so good to ‘meet’ you the other day! I hope you have a fabulous week!

    1. Hayley says:

      Thanks Sue. So funny, I hear your voice all the time when I’m reading your blog and books. Was great to meet you too.

      Yep, mistakes have been on my mind too. Challenging to confront our mistakes and deal with all the emotions that can come along with that. But being kind to our children when they make mistakes can help us be kinder to ourselves, and the other way round don’t you think? Powerful stuff 🙂

      Looking forward to sharing part 2 🙂

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