Feeling like a parenting failure
And the importance of raising boys to become allies to all women
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A couple of weeks ago my son had the most epic of tantrums. We were meeting a friend for a walk in a local park and as I tried to find a space to park, he fell asleep in his car seat. Moments later I opened the car door to wake him up (granted it was a pretty cold day) and he just lost it.
He cried, and cried, and cried and cried, until the crying became screaming, snotting, kicking and shouts of ‘mummy I just want to go home”. For 20 minutes we stood by the side of the road on the grass verge while I tried to calm him down. I tried just giving him a few minutes to see if he’d snap out of it, but that just made me feel weird. ‘What do I look like’? I thought. ‘A mum stood staring into space while her son goes apeshit on a patch of mud?’
Two mums stopped by to offer words of empathy and a little joke, while two other men walked by and laughed. It took all my resolve not to scream at them.
We ended up abandoning the walk and getting back in the car. As I strapped him back into his car seat – the tears magically drying up and calm restoring – my son calmly said, ‘let’s go home mummy. No park”.
For the rest of the day, I felt like I’d failed. I’d been unable to calm my son when he completely lost the plot, unable to take control of the situation, or even really known what to do. Toddlers are loud, unpredictable, head strong and also physically strong, and sometimes – I’ll admit – I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing.
It’s not been made any easier, obviously, by the fact that everyone is sick of walks in the cold – including my son, it seems. We miss soft play (who ever though they’d say that), we miss swimming and we miss having friends over for play dates. Gosh, if I could get away with it, a good scream and shout around Wimbledon Common would probably make me feel better too.
Ever since that day, I’ve decided to go a bit easier – on my son, and myself. If it’s really cold and blustery, and one of us just isn’t feeling it, we’re staying at home under the blanket. Normal life is coming and until then, we’ll be riding it out as best we can. Tantrums and all.
Photo credit: Almara Abgarian
In other non-related toddler news, it’s been a very difficult week to be a woman. From the Meghan Markle and Prince Harry interview, and heart-breaking disappearance of Sarah Everard (who was kidnapped just a few miles from where I live), followed by some very upsetting scenes of the vigil and protests on Saturday, you’d be forgiven if you’ve also found it hard to concentrate on work this week.
Twitter has been abuzz with opinions, anger and upset, and I’ve found myself equally stressed out and addicted to checking my newsfeed. As a journalist, I like to know what’s going on and how people are feeling, but I’ve found in incredibly triggering in many ways.
Every woman, and yes, some men too, have a story (or 12) about not feeling safe on the streets. I’ve been followed home by a man so persistent I had to hide in a pub while he stared eerily through the window at me and eventually gave up. I’ve had a man pretend to be an Amazon delivery driver to get me to open the door so that he could ram his foot in it and then start screaming at me (I managed to slam the door on him, thank goodness). And had men expose themselves to me as a teenager more times than I care to remember. And who remembers being handed a rape alarm in Fresher’s Week like it was a free pen? Yes, me too.
There’s no simple answer to the anger that many women are feeling right now about their personal safety, and there's so much work that needs to be done by the government, the Police and men in general.
But as a mother to a little boy, I’ll be making sure he knows exactly what it feels like to be a girl and a woman. How he can be an ally and a friend, and grow up to become a man who speaks up against violence against women and, ultimately, is part of the change that desperately needs to happen.
I’ll leave you with this very powerful video from Jackson Katz.
Until next time. Stay safe.