Coping with Feelings of Parental Inadequacy
© Beverley Paine
It doesn't matter how old I get I am terribly plagued by the feelings of inadequacy, both as a mother and as a homeschooler - even though my children are now adults! I often wonder if home educators get a double dose of control-freak genes. But then I talk to women and men who don't homeschool and find they have the same problem. Maybe it is a generational thing. But then I talk to older people, and younger people, and they have it too. It's definitely a cultural thing. So can I blame my Anglo heritage?
This week I am going through another one of those periods when I feel that the work that I do is alternatively 'useless', 'not good enough', 'a waste of time', and that I should really be doing something else. ALL of my life I have felt like I should be doing something else. On my really anxious days I feel like I should be somewhere else, anywhere but here. On my really depressed days I am convinced I shouldn't be anywhere at all.
How can a young person in her teens feel like this, and then in every decade since?
Not measuring up is a huge bugbear in my life. Yet you wonderful people keep sending me the most treasured messages of love. I know that what I receive is a measure of what I give out and year by year it's getting more nourishing, more supportive. I am ever so gradually learning to let go of the need to be 'perfect'.
The psychobabblists of earlier decades had me believe that my father is at fault, and boy of boy, does he have the whole perfection thing bad. Trying to live up to 'daddy's standards' has caused havoc in my life. But I'm older and wiser now and see a bigger picture. For a decade or so I blamed patriarchial society. And then I realised it didn't really matter how all this nonsense got into my head, heart and soul - it's not in control of me, I am in control of me. Right now, in this moment, I can do something to negate the nonsense.
And that's why I do what I do. That's why I'm sitting here, typing this, telling anyone who wants to listen that it's okay to be real, to be true, to make sense, to question the nonsense, to listen to our hearts and minds and souls, to beat back the nonsense with a huge stick, stand up for ourselves, notice and celebrate the imperfections in life because they are just as perfect as the perfections.
You know, it's not just home educators who fall prey to feeling inadequate and lost. One of the major oppositions to homeschooling is based on the fear that homeschoolers judge other parents as 'not good enough' because they don't, won't or can't homeschool. We are setting a benchmark for parenting that elevate us to elitist status - by default. It's not our intention, but our need to protect our desire to home educate means we proclaim loudly the benefits - the very real benefits - of homeschooling. And it's becoming obvious to many that we are telling the truth, homeschooling does work, it doesn't produce freaks or social misfits, it isn't just for the gifted and talented or school dropouts - it's works for any student any time.
Parents fear stuffing up their children's lives and opportunities almost as much as they fear losing their children. We seem genetically programmed to push our children to do better than we have done in life. I reckon this is a basic instinctive survival need. Some societies seem to have reached a happy plateau from which they seem content to reproduce what went before, because it worked. Others, like ours perhaps, still feel threatened (why) and keep pushing, developing technology, looking for... what? Because whatever we find or do it isn't good enough.
And that's how I feel every day. It's what drives me. It's what creates the insanity in my life too. I definitely don't want that for my children!
Learning naturally helps us shove a pause button into this madness. It says slow down, rethink that, is this really necessary, why are we doing this, why is it important, is it important?
Sometimes I do the culturally driven or meaningless activity. Sometimes I have to trust that it does have a purpose, as yet hidden to me. I can't work out what I need - I feel THAT disconnected from a natural, balanced and sane life. So I do things that don't make sense, or make immediate sense, and I don't have regrets. The best I can do is trust.
And this is what we can give to our children - what children need more than anything else and what they show us every day - what childhood is - Trust.
We need to trust that our children will grow as nature intended into strong, competent and responsible adults, given their basic survival needs are met. For too many generations this trust has been missing from family life.
Handing over all the big decisions to trust requires a commitment to faith. This is something else little children have in abundance, until we scare or disillusion it out of them. We have lots to learn about faith and trust from little children!
I am so lucky to have read John Holt when my eldest was four years old. And in the same year The Continuum Concept. Such radical thoughts on the role of trust in parenting (and education) began to answer one of the perplexing questions of my childhood and teenage years. It's taken me three decades to work out why Holt's and Leidloff's insistence on trust was pivotal.
One of the reasons I edited and published Michele Hasting's book The Homeschooling Trail - A Journey of Faith was because although we have different religious beliefs, her very clearly expressed feelings of inadequacy reflected my own. Her story - one year in their unschooling lives - is one of searching for and reaffirming faith, not only in unschooling, or her own parenting ability, but also in God. This is a wonderful story of learning to let go of the need to control and to trust. It's a hard and sometimes annoying journey and Michele doesn't miraculously find trust or faith or answers or solutions at the end, but you can see and feel her progress. That's the best that any of us can really do.
Was this article helpful? Was it worth $1.00 to you?
Your gift of $1 or more helps to keep this site operating
and reassurance to families
better outcomes for their children.
Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
"You've been an inspiration to me, I love the way
you really listen to people." Vanessa
"Whenever I read your writing I always come away
with increased confidence in my ability to provide and
share a wonderful learning journey with my family!" Davina
"Your guidance, understanding, support and words of
wisdom changed our lives. We now offer support and
organise many homeschooling events for others." Lesley
"Thank you once again for your prompt and friendly service.
I am convinced that your books are going to add
quality and peace of mind to my journey of teaching my kids
at home! Just from studying your website, until almost
in the morning, I 've been encouraged!" Louisa
"Thank you for all your many,many reassuring words
over many, many years. You probably don't know exactly how
valuable you are to the Australian Home Education community.
I've been reading your stuff for maybe 8 years or more now.
And I'm very grateful." Gythaa
Want to learn how to write your own education plans to suit
your unique children's
individual learning needs?
Looking for quality curriculum and teaching tips ?
Over 1000 reassuring and
informative articles to help
build your confidence as an Educating Parent
Welcome to the World of Home Education
and Learning without School!
We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
The information on this website is of a general nature only and is not intended as personal or professional advice. This site merges and incorporates 'Homeschool Australia' and 'Unschool Australia'.
The Educating Parent acknowledges the Traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Owners, the Custodians of Australia, and pay our respects to Elders past and present and extend that respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people viewing this website.
Over 30 presentations!
For $29 you get
lifetime access to recordings
of all the workshops, all associated resource guides, dDownload all video and mp3 files
Amazing homeschooling help!
"Your guidance, understanding, support & words of wisdom changed our lives." Leslie
"I feel specially inspired by Beverley's words and, the more I read her comments, the more inspired I feel, since
my need for support, respect for different parenting styles, and information are fully met." Marijo
Home education is a legal alternative
to school education in Australia.
State and Territory governments are responsible
for regulating home education and have different
requirements, however home educating families
are able to develop curriculum and learning programs
to suit the individual needs of their children.
Without revenue from advertising
by educational suppliers and Google Ads
we could not continue to provide information
to home educators. Please support us by letting
our advertisers know that you found them on
The Educating Parent. Thanks!