Feeding my kids TV dinners is the best thing for them
I couldn’t do it all and, by expecting myself to, I was just setting myself up for failure (Picture: Sarah Whiteley)
Carrying two plates of food into the living room, I placed them in front of my two children, Theo, five, and Immy, four. “Dinner is ready,” I announced.
‘Yay, hot dogs!’ Theo cheered, grabbing a bun before turning back to the television.
Sitting down on the sofa, I sighed.
When I was pregnant – even when the kids were young – this was a sight I never imagined I would see.
Served processed meat on white bread, with no vegetables in sight, which my children unconsciously scoffed at, eyes glued to the latest episode of Muppet Babies.
There are almost no scenes in the parenting manual.
But honestly, I gave up on the idea of being a perfect parent a long time ago. Now, I have finally accepted that being a ‘good enough’ parent is good enough for me.
When I first found out I was pregnant, my husband Tom and I had very high expectations about what we would be like as ‘mum and dad’.
We agreed we would always have our evening meal around the dinner table together, something home cooked and wholesome – which we’d enjoy while catching up on our days.
We would go for long walks round the park on weekends, take our children to museums and the library. We’d read them books, limit screen-time and spend our afternoons playing family-friendly games.
Slowly but surely, my mindset changed
Don’t get me wrong, we never believed we could be perfect parents. I mean, does such a thing even exist?
But that certainly wasn’t going to stop us trying.
‘You never argue or shout, do you?’ my sister asked in amazement when she had come to stay for a few days.
Famous last words, eh?
Because of course, that kind of attentiveness and striving for perfection just isn’t sustainable in any aspect of life.
For me, it came to a head when we relocated from London back to my home town in the north of England.
It was, hands down, the most stressful thing I have ever done and, as we organised removal companies and completion dates, we just didn’t have the time to be at our children’s beck and call the way we’d always tried to be before.
Then, of course, there was the emotional toll as well, which frayed our nerves.
‘Can you please just wait a minute?’ I snapped sharply at Theo one night, as he tugged at my sleeve for the tenth time, asking me to get his Spiderman from upstairs.
Looking into his big brown eyes, guilt immediately overwhelmed me. ‘I’m sorry, sweetheart,’ I said, bending down to give him a hug. ‘Mammy is just really busy.’
As tears filled my eyes, it suddenly struck me. It was just too much, trying to be a model employee, the perfect parent, the friend I had always been… the burden was crippling me.