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  • Writer's pictureSheila Norton

Parenting: The Hardest Job in the World

 In my new book A Good Enough Mother, I explore the difficulties of parenting two young children completely alone, while also holding down a job. I think it’s a theme that will resonate with many parents today.

I became a mother during the 1970s, when it was considered normal for a mum-to-be to give up her job and do all the parenting herself, while the father worked like a demon to try to support everyone. Financially it was never easy, but at least there was no worry about finding childcare or coping with school holidays and children’s illnesses. I’ve seen how hard it is for my own three daughters, juggling two roles at once, but on the plus side, their other halves share it all. To do it without any support must be so difficult and exhausting.

Parenting has never been easy. It doesn’t come with a handbook, and we only have the examples of our own parents or carers to go on. But fashions in parenting change, so what was considered normal for our parents’ generation can seem strange or even completely wrong to us when we have our own children. There’s so much that children need to learn, to cope in today’s world, that it can feel overwhelming, but we can’t relinquish every bit of training and teaching to nurseries or teachers – we’re the parents. And despite it being the most difficult job in the world, I think it’s the most rewarding.

To see our kids grow and learn, to feel pride in their achievements (including being considerate, courageous, happy people, which is an achievement in itself), and eventually to see them become responsible adults, is, I think, the most satisfying thing in this life. Life isn’t always fair, and bad things can happen in good families; outside influences can take over, making our job even tougher. But all we can do is our best.

So as we celebrate Mother’s Day this year, let’s look around at all the harassed young parents trying to cope with their busy and stressful lives, and tell them to just do their best. And let’s look at our own mums, too – or think of them if, like mine, they’re no longer here – and tell them we understand, that they did a good job, even if it was different from how we do it. I bet they did their best too. And best is good enough.

A Good Enough Mother is published on 13 March 2024 by Boldwood Books.





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