Can someone please write the definitive parenting rule book I'm tired of feeling like a lonely failure



21:04 GMT, 24 October 2012

One of the peculiar ironies of parenting is that as you go about the business of creating more people, you often find yourself feeling terribly lonely. One minute you’re surrounded by lovely, happy family chaos thinking: ‘Ahh this is nice, I’m in a John Lewis Christmas advert.’

The next minute you’re sitting alone at the bottom of the stairs thinking you’re the only woman in the world whose child shouts ‘You are the worst mother ever’ before slamming a bedroom door so hard something falls off a mantelpiece in Alaska.

I file these moments in the overstuffed drawer labelled ‘epic failure’ at the library of poor mothering, an imaginary place where I mentally wander looking for reassuring references to other women’s epic mum failures.

Exhausted working mother

Exhausting: Working motherhood can sometimes be a lonely grind

It really is time someone wrote the conclusive bible of best practice on parenting (not you, Kirstie Allsopp). Then I could stop my search for evidence I am not alone in my more desperate moments of maternal madness/sadness.

There are, after all, a million varying and contradictory reference books, many written by people who don’t even have children. Or pets.

I just need one rule book that guides me through the more troubled waters of bringing up children, with a chapter headed: ‘Don’t despair, Eeyore, you are not alone. No one else knows what they are doing either.’

I hit a parental dip this week during a particularly trying homework session.

After an hour of gently bickering with my ten-year-old, the bizarre conclusion seemed to be that I was to blame for inconsistencies in Victorian modes of transport.

It all ended with me in tears (of frustration) illogically telling her that some children in this world are so desperate to be educated they walk miles to school barefoot, and would view parental encouragement as a bonus, not a burden. They would not accuse their mums of interfering if she turned the telly off while they did their homework.

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As I flounced rather immaturely out of the room to look for my ‘worst mum ever’ badge, I wondered if perhaps drastic action were needed.

Maybe I should just inform my four offspring that I’ve stopped participating in activities that make me feel like a lonely failure or that I’ve brought them up wrongly.


Giving homework to primary school pupils does not make any difference to their academic achievement, a 2008 study showed

Perhaps I should go on strike and tell the mini-menaces I don’t ‘do’ homework. It’s not my thing.

Neither is constantly tidying up after little people too darn lazy to put their stuff away or walking patiently to and from the fridge with a list of food orders the length of my arm.

A strike is the answer. I’ll follow in the footsteps of Canadian mum and social worker Jessica Stilwell, who went on a cleaning strike because her three daughters (aged ten to 12) were so messy she decided she would leave the house in the state they regularly left it in.

Striking Mum made me feel less alone as I read her blog about refusing to wash up their plates, do their laundry or tidy their rooms until the house resembled a smelly, derelict squat.

Milk curdled in the bottles they never put back in the fridge, socks were lost for ever in random piles of clothes left all over the house. She even sent them to school with lunch in ‘pooh bags’ used to collect dog mess as they were incapable of cleaning out their own snack boxes each day.

What did she learn Well, they didn’t become clean freaks over-night, but they did realise how much she does for them and, more important, she realised how much she does, which she pointed out meant they didn’t have the skills to do it themselves.

It wasn’t entirely their fault because, as she says, they are great children (as all ours are) but she’d been over-protective of them.

From now on I am going to experiment with concentrating on doing the things that I think I can do well as a mum. Homework’s out (especially maths).

But if you need me I’ll be on stand-by for arts and crafts (I’ve never met a sequin I didn’t like), beginners’ baking (not meringues) and all outdoor activities.

I don’t mind being the family taxi and I am more than happy to play board games and video endless DIY plays.

I know all the words to Katy Perry’s Wide Awake, and I can dance. I’ll read every bedtime story and spend hours painting tiny nails or wandering aimlessly round toy shops.

I will also happily watch hours of brain-rotting TV. Deal

LORRAINE CANDY is editor-in-chief of Elle magazine.