We have our day, every week. A day free of work, when there are no other requirements upon my time or attention. Our mother and daughter day, when it’s just the two of us whiling away the precious minutes and hours.
And sometimes on that day, after bedtime has come around, I feel as if it’s been a good day. Perhaps we’ve gone to the park, the library, or out for a bite to eat. Maybe a friend has come to visit, or we have taken a trip ourselves. Possibly, even, we’ve attempted baking, or an enthusiastic foray into arts and crafts, as the crayon marks on the table bear testament. And as I catch up on the chores that I didn’t have time for earlier, I feel happy, filled with a sense of parenting achievement.
But other times, long after the bedtime hour has come and gone, I fret that I haven’t done enough, worry that my precious child has had a less than fulfilling day. These are the days which have been spend in a kind of nothingness, when the hours flutter away and we seem to have done little else than watch a little television, read a book or two or play vaguely and disinterestedly. I should have done more, I berate myself, that old foe mother guilt kicking in. I should have done more to entertain her, to amuse her, to make her happy.
And then I stop. And breathe. And remind myself: I’m doing more than enough.
Because it’s not just these activities and events, these things we deliver with intent and planning, that make me a good mum. It isn’t just the places we go, the entertainment we engage in, the treats I buy. It’s in the minutiae too. It’s in the invisible acts of love which my daughter may not see, may not be aware of but are intangible, unconscious little parenting deeds which make such a difference.
It’s in the way I remain immobile, providing the favoured surface for her nap, even though my growling stomach is in desperate need of sustenance.
It’s in the way I no longer put mayonnaise on my sandwich in case she wants to take a bite.
It’s in the way I keep one eye on the monitor whilst she sleeps, checking that she’s comfortable, that her room’s not too hot.
It’s in the way that I line up the pieces of her puzzle, far enough away to give her a challenge but close enough to not leave her disheartened and disappointed by her inability to complete it.
It’s in the way that I actively memorise the words of nursery rhymes, long forgotten, so I can sing along to the tunes. I don’t want to let her down.
We are good parents in a million different ways, every single day. Yet the measure of our success too often seems to be based solely on the significant, visible parenting. Too easily we forget about the detail, the little demonstrations of care which all piece together to envelop our children in an all-encompassing force field of protection and affection. It is this unconscious parenting, the things we just ‘do’, which is indescribably important.
Our children may remember the trips to the zoo, the afternoons at soft play, the holidays to the sun, but it is those invisible actions which are the building blocks upon which they can grow, feeling safe, secure and loved. And it’s this parenting, that is innate to us, that is automatic and intuitive, that we should recognise too as it all contributes to making us the good parents that we truly are.