Cut yourself some slack... stop feeling guilty!

Sometimes we can put really unreasonable and unrealistic expectations on ourselves. It is important to have things to aim for and I've said previously, having some simple steps or a list to work towards can really help. However, try also not to set yourself up to fail.

This is even more important as a parent. We can want to do things a certain way, be that so called 'perfect' mum or the model parent. But in reality it is just not that easy. In most cases, especially in the holidays, you actually really just want a break!

I always strive to provide healthy meals, positive activities, quality time etc, whenever I can. This is what I would hope for, for all children. They are obviously a real blessing and definitely need to be appreciated, nurtured and loved. All of this does happen often in most cases.

But the reality is that when you are going through life's challenges, are really busy or have simply had enough, you just don't really want to do any of this at all!

We can then go through all kinds of guilt, if we don't do what is deemed as best for our children and feel immense pressure to conform.

I remember a really funny conversation with a good friend a few years back. We are both into some holistic approaches, cooking from scratch etc, but also have children with some challenging behaviour. We would (every few weeks) sit with a drink, allowing ourselves to relax whilst watching the children playing in the pub garden. I said to her one day that I often give people a certain impression about me, but actually I can't always live up to that and can do the complete opposite to my ideals.

I shared how I'm really into making sure I cook good healthy meals, passionate about all things nutrition, holistic health and give off that 'earth mother' vibe in general...but sometimes you just need to have those microwave pizza's on standby and go with it (I actually don't even have a microwave now, they are not really my thing.. but you get the sentiment).

Anyway, we laughed at the massive contrast in what I always try to achieve and what ends up actually happening. This will always stick in my mind as an important conversation and time of connecting; when two mums shared a moment of honesty and actually feeling OK to laugh at ourselves for not being 'perfect'.

So it's now time to cut yourself some slack. Perhaps the house is a mess or you need to make time to de-clutter, you've had to rely on convenience food or takeaway for the last few days as you've just been so busy and tired, the children have had way too much screen time...

But everyone is actually OK, you've survived, got through the last few days and can work towards bringing in more of your ideal meals and activities again soon; gradually as you start to feel a bit more like 'you' again and back under control.

Being a parent is actually really hard, no one really tells you that, you have to find out along the way. We all need to acknowledge that now and again. Being a lone parent is so much harder too, even when the absent parent is actually supportive (I will write more specifically for lone parents soon).

But for now, just give yourself a pat on the back. Things may not be perfect and you may feel disappointed that you haven't been or can't at the moment be a 'model parent' but the worst thing you can do is to judge yourself!

The most important thing is to be kinder to yourself and then just make sure that you at least make the time for lots of hugs with the children, tell them you love them and give them a kiss goodnight; letting them know that everything will be ok. Everything else will eventually fall into place but they will definitely remember the hugs and feel how much you love them. Nothing is more important than that.

If you are really feeling like you are sinking though, perhaps try to arrange some time off to recharge, confide in a friend or consider contacting your local home start for some support from a non judgemental, volunteer fellow parent (in the short term). Sometimes all we need is for someone else to understand and say 'I hear you, I've been there'.

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