Permission To Be An Imperfect Parent


I was beating myself up about my parenting. My daughter and I weren’t laughing anymore. We weren’t doing special time. I was feeling terrible about myself and how much I was ‘failing.’

Then I stopped myself. Hold it I thought. Okay, I did learn some really good parenting tools from Hand in Hand Parenting. But was there a rule somewhere that said I had to use them every day, all the time? And if I literally couldn’t use them was it a failing in myself?

Of course not. I know the brain science behind our parenting, that we can be the parents we want to be, only when our own childhood story isn’t getting in the way. and when we are feeling calm and stress-free.

My sister got diagnosed with Leukemia last month. Since then each day my mind is dealing with overwhelming grief, confusion, and fear, on top of all the everyday parenting stuff. The moment I stopped laughing with my daughter was the moment I found out about my sister. It had nothing to do with me being an inadequate parent, but to do with what I was going through.

I’ve written before about how life crises can get in the way of our parenting, and how we can go about mending those broken connections, and it’s time to take my own advice.

You might not be on the brink of divorce or with a close family member seriously ill, but the past can often effect us just as intensely as the present.

It starts with a little self-compassion. Whether the broken connection with your child occurred because of something happening in the present, or because you are dealing with hurt feelings from your own past, it’s not your fault.

You might already know that consciously, as I did, but sometimes it’s a good idea to check what those whispering voices in your head are telling you. Because as Peggy O’Mara says, ”the way we talk to children, becomes their inner voice.” Because we were punished and shamed as children we tend to punish and shame ourselves when we are not parenting the way we want to be.

Give yourself permission to be an imperfect parent for a while. And forgive yourself for all those times that you made mistakes. Take the focus away from how you are parenting, and put it completely on yourself. Give yourself permission to let the kids eat ice cream for dinner or watch TV. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Tell those voices in your head, that you are taking some time for yourself because it will be for everyone’s benefit in the long run.  Then get some listening time. (for more info about listening time check out my article hereAnd each time you feel bad, inadequate, or like you’ve failed, make sure you schedule more listening time until you recover the energy you need to be the parent you want to be.

It takes time. In the meantime congratulate yourself on your small achievements. So you might not spend an hour doing special time with your child, but how about 5 minutes? And you might not giggle and play all day, but maybe you get through a day without shouting. As your energy and attention span return you can then start focusing on connecting with your children again, and you’ll find some tips for this in the links below.

We shouldn’t need to have permission to be an imperfect parent, but if you feel like you need it, take this blog post as your permission slip, for whatever reason you find it hard, whether it’s a current life crisis, or childhood hurts that are still healing. You have permission to be beautifully imperfect, you are doing your best.

Further Reading 

Healing Broken Connections Blog Post  

Special Time When Your Heart Is Breaking From Hand in Hand Parenting Instructor Roma Norriss.

The Healing Broken Connections chapter of my book,Tears Heal


A Mum Track Mind
3 Little Buttons

17 thoughts on “Permission To Be An Imperfect Parent

  1. What an important message. I have a copy of your book but haven’t got very far with it yet (a teething baby is demanding most of my time!) so I look forward to reaching this chapter. I do think we are so hard on ourselves as parents and you’re right – we will never be 100% all the time. We obviously have to work at being good parents but we can’t beat ourselves up when we let things slide a little or have an off day. Particularly if, as you say, a significant or distressing event is demanding our attention.

    1. thanks so much for buying my book! I hope in between the teething you will get a chance to read it 🙂 I think it’s one of the side effects of trying to be a really ‘good’ parent that we get too anxious about doing it perfectly, so it’s nice to just relax and think we are all doing our best, and it’s impossible to do it perfectly.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this – it gave me an interesting perspective on my own situation and had given me lots to think about, so thank you . I’m going to read round some of your other posts now #fortheloveofblog

    1. Thanks for reading. I’m glad the post helped, and I hope you enjoyed reading my other posts. Your blog looks really interesting too, I’m just off to check it out now!

  3. I was distant with my kids while my dad was ill, partly as I was trying to protect them from it. I found that spending even just a few minutes with them individually doing something helped us to get back to where we were.

    1. yes, that’s what I’ve been doing. Having a few minutes to reconnect each day. It helps a lot, and I find it gives my daughter a sense of a routine, that no matter what’s going on, we’ll have some time together every day.

  4. I’m so sorry to hear about your sister, it’s completely understandable that this is consuming your time and mind. During times like this our focus is elsewhere and it’s fine to not be the fun parent we were before. However that’s not to say that we’re an imperfect parent if we’re still caring and bringing our children up.We may not be doing it in the way we were previously, but we are parenting them. Please don’t beat yourself up about it. I really hope your sister gets better soon. Thanks so much for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

  5. Kate, I’m so very sorry to hear about your sister – no wonder parenting has been tough recently when you’re dealing with all the emotional turmoil connected with this news. As ever though you manage to write a post that helps us all pick our way through a problem with straightforward advice which seems easy to implement and sensible. Yes self-compassion is so important and I love your ‘small steps’ back to reconnection – 5 mins of special time etc. Take care xx #fortheloveofBLOG

  6. thanks Hayley, if I can learn anything from my own difficulties then it makes me feel better to pass it onto others too!

  7. Oh Kate I am so sorry to hear about your sister – sending many positive thoughts. Your post is beautiful and a really good reminder to all of us mums that have those weeks where we don’t feel we are doing our best. The sentiment here is one that will stay with me so thank you for that. I wish you and your family all the best over the coming months xx #DreamTeam

    1. thanks so much for your lovely comment! I’m so glad that the post has something you can take away from it 🙂 xx

  8. This is so lovely to read, and I think that you are so right. I think that the pressure to be a perfect parent definitely is one of the causes of PND – it definitely was for me, anyway! When I was growing up I thought that my mum was a perfect parent, and by trying to strive to my mum’s standards, I suffered mentally. When I look back though, she definitely wasn’t and actually, I’m doing a good job despite shouting sometimes, or not playing with Little R enough. Thank you again for this. #dreamteam

  9. I am very sorry to hear of your sisters news. It must have been a big shock to the system. You are brave to be able to move forwards and recognise how your parenting may have changed as a result.

    Not anywhere on this scale, but I can relate to how external stresses can affect the way we parent. We are in the middle of a 5 month disaster with a window company that has completely wrecked the front of our house. I feel unsafe everyday, because of how our home has been left, and I think I am being perhaps a touch over protective with little button at times as a result.

    This post is fab! Thanks so much for linking up to the #DreamTeam and I am looking forward to getting stuck in with your book. xxx

    1. Hi Annette, I’m so sorry about what happened to your windows. I just saw your post on fb. I know it’s a different kind of thing, but in many ways just as stressful to feel unsafe in your own home on a daily basis, if not more so. I really hope it gets sorted soon. xx

  10. I needed this post, and it has come at the right moment. We have been dealing with serious challenges at my husband work for the past couple of years, had 5 months of homelessness, staying with friends here and there, finally moved in to a beautiful home, and within 2 weeks discovered at 19 weeks that our 4th baby died in my womb at 15.5 weeks – things have been rough on us all, and I am so fed up of my being unable to find the energy to be the mum I desperately want to be. Your post helped me feel understood and released, so thank you.

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