I'm A Parent ...But I'm Doing My Best!

I'm A Parent ...But I'm Doing My Best!

It’s not just at school or work that you are being appraised - it can sometimes seem that as a parent everyone has an opinion on how well you are doing. Susan Hamlyn, Director Emerita at The Good Schools Guide, considers how when it comes to parenting it is constantly ‘appraisal season’.

You may be a high-flying professional who chairs contentious meetings with diplomatic ease, placates difficult clients with panache and writes complex reports with aplomb and yet, if your child is unhappy or unwell or suddenly becomes secretive or morose, you can feel helpless, hopeless and out of your depth.

I learned this many years ago when I began advising parents about their children’s education. I met everyone – teachers, physios, administrators, nurses, accountants, gardeners, lawyers and builders. I met famous people – journalists, rock stars, footballers, politicians, celebrity chefs, even an Oscar winner. But it didn’t matter who they were, what their fame, wealth or power – when bowed with anxiety about their children, each and every one felt as vulnerable and as impotent as anyone else.  

Being a working parent – and especially if work takes you away from home a lot – is not easy. And it’s natural to over-compensate in terms of presents, holidays and swamping your children with attention they probably don’t want when you are at home. Working parents worry more about their children than stay-home parents – simply because they aren’t at home to be reassured by the reality of day-to-day life. “Is she well?” “Is he happy?” can be constant preoccupations interrupting a busy working day.  

And then, of course, there are the parents of parents. Your own parents were, doubtless, good parents but you want to do things differently – naturally. But your well-meaning parents will come and say: “Do you think she’s warm enough?” “Surely he can have just a little bit of chocolate?” “Do you really think they’re safe up there?” “Well, I would never have let you do that.” It’s irritating, it creates tensions and, worst of all, it makes you doubt your own judgement. 

We, are all of us, someone’s child and the fact is that all of us work hardest, function best, are happiest, if we feel trusted. A child who is repeatedly interrogated about what he’s done at school, whether he’s finished his homework or practised the piano can feel that you don’t trust him and that it’s not worth trying to please you. A child who feels trusted to behave well and do what is expected of him, will not want to let you down, will set himself his own high standards, will feel confident and thrive.  

Working parents who flagellate themselves about their parenting – simply because they are not at home – seldom help the situation. If you know your children are safe – either at the nursery, school or at home with their carer – you should trust what you have provided for them to meet all but exceptional needs.  

Likewise, your parents need to learn to trust you to be the conscientious, loving and competent parents that you, doubtless are. You don’t need those undermining questions and your parents may need, gently, to have this pointed out. 

Most of all, of course, you need to trust yourself. You do know what you’re doing. You are a good parent. Or you wouldn’t be reading this.


Susan Hamlyn

Director Emerita
The Good Schools Guide  www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk Twitter @goodschoolsuk  Facebook @goodschoolsguide

Released On 11th Oct 2019

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