to feel like a rubbish parent despite working with kids professionally?

(35 Posts)
swaddleaholic Mon 19-Nov-12 13:42:22

You know what they say about children of psychologists??

Just wondered if anyone else has this conflict? I work part-time as a clinical psychologist with children 0-19 and whilst this is specifically with mental health problems eg Obsessive compulsive disorder, low mood etc I do some stuff that blurs into parenting eg: toilet training (when its gone wrong), eating issues etc. I have two little ones nearly 3 and 18 months and I feel really rubbish at parenting at the minute - my elder one has dropped his daytime nap recently, his eating is crap at the moment, and he is in the 'no'/ defiant zone, not to mention that he totally and utterly refuses to poo on the toilet - tells me calmly that he needs to but demands a pull-up despite being totally fine with weeing! Also massively sleep deprived following consecutive vomit bugs/ teething (me not them)...

Whilst I know that being a parent is a totally different experience to seeing families professionally, I had more expectations of myself (and friends also seem to think I should) have more ideas about how to manage? On the one hand I have so much empathy with families in a way I was not able to before (although I like to think pretty empathic before anyway). On the parenting front I am feeling completely de-skilled, incapable and crap. I am getting referrals for similar cases and feeling like such a fraud. Unfortunately the key missing part to this is that my supervision at the moment is really uncontaining - and whilst I am looking at other jobs, it takes a lot of energy to change jobs. There are no other members of my team who could supervise me, and I really love the team!

It all makes me feel awful - I'd really appreciate if anyone wanted to share their thoughts (constructively), less of the bashing if ok, feeling fragile! thanks for reading.

Eskarina Mon 19-Nov-12 13:49:26

Don't be too hard in yourself op. I'm an infant school teacher (currently teaching nursery but have been up to y2) and have a 14mo dd. When I bumped into a mum from school whilst on maternity she said something in jest that has stayed with me -something along the lines of "now you get to find out whether everything you ever told me actually works!!"
The experience of parents and professionals IS completely different. I pride myself on being extremely calm in the face of sometimes extreme provocation in the classroom, yet my poor tiny dd can exasperate me in minutes if we're 5 mins late getting out of the house and she's tantrumming or just generally mucking about. I'm also quite a disciplinarian in school and advocated that strongly to parents of "spirited" children. But I'm a real softy with dd and find myself thinking that if she still gets round me like this when she's 3 then i'll be a huge hypocrite! (I am aware there's a huge difference in expectation between 1&3 year olds!)

And don't forget that you don't have to have your professional hat on at home. You're human, you're mummy and you're allowed to have your off days!

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 19-Nov-12 13:50:18

I think, when it comes to parenting, the day the sun starts shining is the day you look yourself in the eye and admit.... 'I am winging it, have very little idea what I'm doing... and I don't care!!'. We are fundamentally all de-skilled, incapable and crap... the difference between a relaxed parent and a stressed one is that some embrace it as part of the fun rather than treating it as a personal failing. Sleep helps considerably.

Mine didn't want to poo in the toilet either. Bit stressy at the time but fabulous material for his 21st birthday party speech (makes copious notes)

shopalot Mon 19-Nov-12 13:53:00

I am not a psychologist but I am a teacher and I have to admit to feeling exactly the same way as you do right now. Lots of parents ask me for advise about how to deal with parenting issues and yes I still sometimes feel like a complete fraud!!!!!

Not very helpful really but wanted you to know I have felt the same. To be honest I know that my expectations of myself are too high and that it is necessary to make mistakes in order to learn. But it is still hard and exhausting parenting all the time.....

dreamingofsun Mon 19-Nov-12 13:53:38

we had a nanny who was very good and always planned to have a large family of her own. However, for many years she stuck at just one though. She said that looking after other people's children all day was really easy as she could give them back at the end of the day and go home and rest/do other things. She hadn't realised what hard work having ones of your own was.

what i'm trying to say is that advising people on things when you are looking at things from the outside is very much easier sometimes than dealing with the day in/day out grind.

you sound like you are tierd and somehow need more rest or sleep (realise this can be difficult sometimes with work and youngsters). do you have any agreable grandparents you could offload them to for a weekend or night every so often to treat yourself?

RunsWithScissors Mon 19-Nov-12 13:55:59

I think working with another's child is SO different from parenting your own. You have a deeper level of emotional involvement that will always shift how you deal with your own kids. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

Add into the mix that you have two very little ones while working, I think you need to cut yourself some slack.

I know social workers and teachers that also let things slide with their Own kids. I think it's human nature (and coping in a lot of instances with daily life).

You have some issues you need to get outside help for, you recognise it and have taken steps to remedy the situation. Asking for help doesn't make you a bad parent, no matter what your profession is. I think it shows strength and good judgement to admit you need outside advice. A GP would still need to take their child to another doctor for treatment. Why should you have all the answers?.

I think you need to go easier on your self (as do friends that are surprised you aren't doing a better job... not sure that's a very helpful attitude from them).

Hang in there. I bet a run of decent sleep (for you) will also go a long way.

Aboutlastnight Mon 19-Nov-12 14:00:17

Don't take this as patronising, it's not intended that way, but I find I become far more anxious about being a parent when I am tired. You have 2 children and a demanding job, give yourself a break FGS.

Also, the more children I have , the more I am convinced there is very little I can do about stuff like eating or potty training. DD1 was a nightmare to potty train, DD3 was a dream and is also an excellent eater while DD2 appeared to eat nothing but cheese until she was four years old.

They are independent little individuals, and all you need to be is "good enough" and love them.

DeWe Mon 19-Nov-12 14:07:00

The most obsessed person on her dc health was a consultant paediatrician, and her dh was a GP too.

Luckily she could laugh at herself.

"Yes, Mrs. Consultant Paediatrician. Your ds may have a runny nose. It's known as a cold, and at 3yo he's not going to be really ill. However there's a child with a funny rash out in the waiting room that I'm not really sure. Would you mind seeing them?"
Followed by her diagnosing (correctly) said child with condition that about 2 children a year get...

She was excellent as a doctor, except panicked over her own children. I think she'd seen too many rare conditions and worried about all of them. grin
She was lovely too.

floatyjosmum Mon 19-Nov-12 14:11:57

My dd who is nearly 8 has a child protection social worker and a psychologist for parents. She is analysed and protected 24/7 - drives nuts so must drive her nuts too!

MamyPoko Mon 19-Nov-12 14:28:40

OP, thank you for starting this thread, and thanks to posters for your kind and wise words! I have a job which involves offering parenting support to families whose disabled children have difficult-to-manage behaviour. I'm due to return to work after maternity leave. In the course of my training and work life, I've remained fantastically calm whilst being hit, kicked, spat on etc etc... Yesterday I lost it because my baby declined to wear his hat! It's bloody hard, isn't it?

Learning70 Mon 19-Nov-12 16:25:45

Ok I may have dreamt this but I think it was Tanya Byron, she said being a psychologist doesn't make her a better parent but being a parent has made her a better psychologist. So you can turn it around and feel good about yourself again. And demand a pay rise lol.

Groovee Mon 19-Nov-12 18:52:01

Other people's children are a joy to work with. But my own children are hell to live with x

CrunchyFrog Mon 19-Nov-12 18:54:38

I was a SN teacher.

One of mine has HFA and is still mostly incontinent at 7, despite IQ in the top 2%.

I find it terribly hard to cope. Yet at work, I was thumped, spat at, sworn at, pooed on - no worries.
My totally NT youngest can wind me up in 30 seconds flat.

It's just different.

exoticfruits Mon 19-Nov-12 19:03:43

Your own DCs are very different from working with other people's DCs.

minifingers Mon 19-Nov-12 19:11:22

Let me rub your back soothingly. <makes sympathetic noises>

I SO feel your pain.

I am a teacher. I have decided today to stop trying to help DD1 with her education. She is 13. I teach English language and literature but my own daughter won't read (she can, she just won't), has terrible spelling and syntax and a really poor vocabulary. She WON'T let me have any involvement in her homework. She never has. It caused such grief and suffering and I have wept so many tears over it and it's poisoned our relationship to the point that I have decided to let her fail without any further involvement from me. She does the bare minimum for homework. Usually less, so she is often on report. In her last school she clocked up 23 detentions in 24 weeks. I haven't told them at her new school that I'm a teacher. I don't want them to know because I'm ashamed of how badly my dd is underachieving, and my powerlessness in doing anything about it.

Lougle Mon 19-Nov-12 19:47:03

Can I just say thank you?

I have 3 small children, who are all very different. DD1 (6.11) has complex SN and goes to Special School. DD2 (5.3) has some social skill issues and language issues which seem to be emerging but so far nobody is interested in. DD3 (3.7) is developing at a fast rate of knots and seems to be doing things that a 5 year old should do according to the development charts (she can draw a detailed house; people with all features, belly buttons, 5 fingers on each hand, feet in the right direction, arms coming out of body not head. She can hop across the room on one leg. She understands rhyming and can give an appropriate word that rhymes with one I say. Her grammar is mostly spot on, her voice clear.)

I feel like a complete failure, and often think 'if only my children had a teacher/psychologist/better woman as a mother.'

You just made me realise that many mothers feel inadequate, so I'm not that wierd thanks

bissydissy Mon 19-Nov-12 19:47:10

I'm a psychologist and with my own I just can't think clearly enough. I also don't have time to think about things, for example make a plan to deal with sleep, discuss with DH, check in with him how we are getting on. With little ones you are just so busy 'doing' and hence why families end up seeing a psychologist and using that time to sit and reflect.

Imagine you had an hour every fortnight to sit with DH and kids to make a plan to deal with the toilet or eating (like you give your clients) - you'd move forward then I imagine. so you are not a fraud - just giving them something you don't give to Yourself. You maybe need to make this time to think about your kids too if that's possible.

Also can you demand appropriate supervision - you shouldn't need to change jobs. I'm guessing if you had supervision you'd be bringing this issue there - not posting here. If there is no one in team then they need to buy it in. I'm guessing your manager is not a psychologist but buying supervision time is part of the costs of having a psychologist - same as pension and wages.

otchayaniye Mon 19-Nov-12 19:55:11

parenting isn't a skill, it's a close, largely mentoring, life-long relationship, and as such, it is a carte blanche and any normal person will at times feel unprepared, caught off guard, nonplussed and otherwise bamboozled.

toilet training, eating, sleeping - these are all processes, they will be achieved in time, with patience and sensitivity.

but no one, no previous professional experience can really get to the nub of your relationship with the child you created.

and so it should be

good luck

FobblyWoof Mon 19-Nov-12 19:56:39

A shorter answer than the other (more helpful answers) in this thread. But YADBU!

Every good parent wonders whether they're doing things right, and occasionally think that they're failing their children. It's a normal part of wanting what's best for them. But don't be hard on yourself, I'm sure you're doing an excellent job

anewyear Mon 19-Nov-12 19:59:51

Groovee - That is so true
Childminder and Pre School Practitioner here, other peoples children are a doddle grin

littlewhitebag Mon 19-Nov-12 20:12:37

It is so very different with children you have an emotional involvement with (ie your own!). I am a child protection social worker and am so impatient and shouty with my own kids i feel a bit of a fraud giving out advice to clients on being calm and not losing their tempers!

MammaTJ Mon 19-Nov-12 20:23:35

I work with the elderly with mental health problems. I have told my mum straight, a very long time ago, that I cannot and will not be looking after her should she need it.

We are trained and qualified to do our jobs. Being home looking after family does not have a manual!!

Siriusstar Mon 19-Nov-12 20:24:14

Thank you all posters, I really needed all of what has been said today. I also work in education and had high expectations that I would be better than I am as a mother. I wanted children for so long and read all the books and had clear ideas how I would not fuck them up.

My children are generally lovely and wonderful but I just see where I have failed ALL the time. I'm constantly worried that if I don't get it right then they'll end up on drugs etc. I feel like I'm alone in this but now I know I'm not. smile

nannyl Mon 19-Nov-12 21:07:42

i have a psychology degree and worked as a nanny for 10 years

looking after my own DD is so so so so SO much harder than looking after everyone elses

swaddleaholic Mon 19-Nov-12 21:47:40

Thank you do much lovely ladies. It has helped to know that I'm not totally on my own. It seems there are a few stressed mummies/ teachers out there and I hope things improve for all of you. I sometimes forget the impact of little sleep/ time, fueling high anxiety and sense of humour failure...very important for all of us.

Mini fingers in particular, I really feel for you and shows so much that these children come in their own little packages with their own string wills and wishes. I hope your daughter will find her way in good time and find something she loves and feels passionate about and motivated by.

Bisseydissey- supervisor is a psychologist! Old school, unboundaried, cbt and medical model focused. When I brought these issues to supervision she said "just wait till your kids are the same age as the kids we see here, now that's hard"! Would be wierd to ask in wider team an thoughts turn towards private work as NHS continues to be increasingly bonkers....

Why are we all being so hard on ourselves?

Thanks all, really x

swaddleaholic Mon 19-Nov-12 21:48:21

Ps what does op mean? Has taken me so long to decipher online acronyms?

McPhee Mon 19-Nov-12 21:54:13

I'm a professional nanny, and have been for 13 years. Been in childcare for 21 years. I've done some high profile, and some average Jo families. Both were a breeze. Now I'm a mum to a 5 month old girl and not a fucking clue what I'm doing grin

LetsFaceTheMusicAndDance Mon 19-Nov-12 21:55:44

And another one here. I think it's the lack of emotional distance involved that makes it so much harder to deal with our own kids.

SminkoPinko Mon 19-Nov-12 22:13:13

OP = Original Poster

God, I sympathise! I'm a family therapy-trained Mental Health social worker. My family comprise of a clinically depressed partner, a teenager whose recent behaviour has been really, really, seriously poor, another teenager whose only socialising occurs via online video gaming and a super-stroppy tantrumming 3 year old... I have worked with all these groups/ages over the course of my brilliant career and does that help? Not one iota!

bissydissy Tue 20-Nov-12 01:19:31

I'm glad this thread has felt helpful. My other thought was that your work makes it harder to see your own kids clearly - someone up thread mentioned being terrified daughter would turn to drugs and I'm assuming she knows some troubled teens through work.

Remember an 18 month wanting a pull up is pretty common and most does not mean he will grow up into or is the same as 10 year old soiler. Most kids don't after al

I had assumed you didn't have any supervision and they were being shitey about puting in place but if it's just crap that's tough. Maybe make a case for a supervisor from a sister team if thats possible by saying you want to have supervision from a different model for a bit? Or set up some peer supervision? Or make the problem clear to them, discuss what you need in supervision.

I assume they can do better as I'm guessing when clients come to them and say I'm terribly worried about my child they don't say 'You wait till they are teens - ha ha!' Or maybe they do!

Good luck.

lisad123 Tue 20-Nov-12 01:34:05

I always remember someone saying if you want a lovely house don't marry a builder/painter ect. Most of us can do wonders for others when it's our job and we are not emotionally involved.
I have spent years working with families in education and social care, have stood in court, argued with heads of CP and helped families voices be heard but sit me in a room with Dds pead and I cry like a baby sadblush

We all can only ever do our best and one thing I learnt as a parent that they fail to make very clear in training is that every child is different, same things don't work for all children and you learn as you go.

Journey Tue 20-Nov-12 11:38:01

Quite simply parenting isn't the same as a job. In a job you're emotionally detached from the work. From the heart there are no worries or concerns about the child. You're also not doing the hard work unlike the parents. You tell them and advise them and that is it. Putting things into practice is totally different.

I've sat in sessions with my dc and sometimes I think the professional's view is so one sided. Yes they have the text book knowledge and the research to quote but beyond that I can tell they haven't had a dc of their own going through it.

Value the learning experience your dcs are giving you. It will make you better at your job. Also learn to listen to the patients and their parents more. Quite often we don't have a voice because if we question anything then we're in denial about the situation; get the puppy dog eye look of sympathy which is patronising or the well you should be trying harder.

Mrsjay Tue 20-Nov-12 11:42:48

being a parent and doing your job is so different because you have that emotional bond with your own children and all the dynamics that go with it, MY dds are older but I have the old nursery nurse qualification so of course i knew what i was doing WRONG,blush It is so different please don't be too hard on yourself it is ok nobody is the perfect parent,

I have a friend who is a social worker working with young people and children with major issues and problems yet she is all in a tizz at the moment because her 2 yr old is having tantrums ,

picketywick Tue 20-Nov-12 13:37:08

swaddle, lets hope its a phase you are going through. Good luck. I sometimes get an "off it" period. It passes

FreudianLisp Tue 20-Nov-12 14:26:05

Another clinical psychologist here (although I don't work with kids), just offering sympathy. Maybe we put too much pressure on ourselves: "I'm a psychologist so I SHOULD be able to ensure that my children are the most perfect, well-adjusted kids in the world." But our children may have other ideas!

I bet you're doing just fine.

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