Parent and toddler groups are a brilliant place to meet like-minded, and not so like-minded parents. There are so many different types of parent and they all play an important role in our support networks, but what type of parent are you?
I’ll go first… I’m the hot mess parent. I’m not just saying that to put you at ease, I really am the hot mess parent. My days are chaotic from dawn to dusk, I am the non-stop parent, rushing from this group to that group, always arriving just as everyone is getting started, always forgetting something really important despite the ridiculously over-packed bag, asking in wonder and despair how other parents manage it all so easily and swearing that tomorrow we’ll slow down and take it a little easier, but tomorrow never comes, we are just fast moving people I guess. It’s not all bad, we have fun more often than not, we go with the flow, we embrace our own madness. As my Mum once lovingly said to me, I am ‘really, really good at making it look really, really hard’.
I admit this used to bother me a lot. Like many of us before having a child I had been so sure of the parent I would be. Firm but fair, open and loving. A stay at home mum cooking fresh and varied food every day, doing arts and crafts and keeping a beautiful home. My children would be content, compliant and never have hideous meltdowns in public.They would definitely never bite me on an hourly basis for one third of their toddlerhood or run away at the end of play dates or appear naked in my dining room during a lockdown live session. No, I was going to be perfect and so were my offspring. I didn’t know it but I was already the worst type of parent… the Know It All parent.
Spoiler alert – this parent, the Know It All parent is a bit of a dick. They genuinely don’t mean to be, but they are. On the bright side, usually this type of parent hasn’t actually had kids yet so if they are at all important to you then at least you can take comfort in knowing that this is just a temporary state until they become parents themselves. Each is unique in their vision of perfect parenting but one thing they all have in common with each other is their willingness to impart their wisdom on to you, forcefully, whether you have invited it or not. They will be all up in your ears ready to tell you why everything you are doing is potentially inhibiting your child’s development and why their strategies are better, you idiot. Most of the time this is just a person who needs to be heard but every now and then you may come across a Know It All parent who just cannot be tamed and that my friend, is when it is time to get out of dodge, fake a nappy change or wave at someone across the room and separate yourself permanently before they turn you and your child into dazed and confused shells who can’t buy breakfast cereal without first double-checking its ingredients with 10, 000 strangers in a Facebook chat group.
Which leads me to my next type of parent that I have discovered over the last 4 or so years of attending groups… enter the Helicopter parent.
You will always see the Helicopter parent at weigh ins because they go every week and they talk at length with the Health Visitorabout everything, soaking up as much information as they possibly can before they are gently moved on. The only groups you will see this parent at are developmental groups where there is clear purpose, structure and ideally a tonne of evidence based information being shared. Don’t worry, you’ll get them along to the Baby Rave eventually, you just need to build them up to it. The Helicopter parents skills lay in their ability to think ahead. They will have thought of everything and almost certainly will have emailed the class leader in advance to double check their expectations of the group before booking. This parent may seem over protective but stick with them and know that they will always be in possession of spare loo roll, wipes and anti-bac gel at the soft play. Their hand me downs will be pristine and their contributions to the post-group pre-nap picnic will be perfectly nutritious, delicious and look divine. During the new baby months they will be extremely selective over who gets to hold or touch or even breathe near their precious bundle of joy but honestly all they really need is for you to be understanding and put them at ease. Make room for their big beautiful wings, relax in the knowledge that they have already risk assessed the mile radius around you. As their confidence and trust grows, they’ll chill out and you’ll get to give that scrumptious baby the cuddle you’ve been waiting for, you might even get them along to that baby rave eventually!
One of my personal favourites, having successfully scooped one of these up for myself at a Baby Signing Group in 2017, is the Group Leader parent. The Group Leader parent is the ultimate, the creme de la crème type of parent for any other parent type to hook up with. This parent has got their ducks in a row. You will not find this parent flapping in the group because they’ve forgotten a nappy or hadn’t factored in time for parking wars on arrival. This parent is confident and relaxed, they have a plan and it is a solid one. They got up at the same time as you but have accomplished at least 5 more significant errands than you have, things you thought only happened during national lockdowns like baking bread every day or working on allotments are standard morning tasks for this parent. They can maintain a proper chat with you (about anything, try it, you can’t scare this parent) whilst seamlessly performing all of the actions to Baby Shark and always know exactly where their offspring is seemingly without even looking. Their kids are relaxed and confident, they have a lot of fun but they know where the line is. Tantrums are rare because they all know exactly what’s happening next and they are all so damn chilled.
Cool Parent – all hail the cool parent! This parent is on another level to the others in the group. Smiley and pleasant but perhaps not as openly forthcoming as others when it comes to sharing their birth stories, poo dramas, sleep wars and so on. Not that this parent isn’t up for a bit of socialising, of course they are or they wouldn’t be here at this group. Seriously, they have much cooler places to be than here, they are here because they want parent friends and kid friends for their kids as much as the rest of us. They’re just doing it with style and sophistication. This parent always looks like they’ve just shopped the latest front page of a fashion magazine and so does their child. They never look tired or unwashed. If you want to make friends with this parent you will have to play it cool, they are not up for an hour of complaining about lack of sleep. They make time for their own hobbies, they have a firm sense of self, they keep up to date with some current affairs and are very happy in their own company. Their child is also confidently participating in the class without trying to be everyone’s best friend. Many other parent types might be intimidated by this type of parent but they can bring a whole new element to your life, or give you the supportive push you need to achieve your goals or get back in touch with the person you were before you were any type of parent at all.
Whilst I am obviously basing this on my own experience of the parents I have come to know since becoming a parent I bet there are some pretty common themes here that are recognised by us all. What about you? Are you one of the above or maybe something entirely different?
Either way we all have so much to offer each other and I hope that next time you are attending a group you’ll take an opportunity to get chatting, you never know, you may find your next tribe member! So go on… what type of parent are you?