Dear Caring Parent,
I have been thinking lately about the parenting stresses I have felt and that I hear about from others. From logistics, managing emotions, determining if our child fits in to the developmental norms, budgeting sanely, to managing one’s own life, it’s a no wonder parents are stressed! And because of it all, we want to hear, “you’re a great parent!”
But how do we know we’re a great parent? I’ve noticed we start out parenting with ideas about our child’s success and that turns in to our ideas about our success as a parent. Most parents I talk to say they want their child to be:
- self confident
- in good relationships
Sound familiar? When we say these things, images cross our mind. For instance a wedding, a son in a suit with an air of success, a daughter standing calm in conflict, a trim vigorous adult, as A report card, graduations….the images go on. These thoughts and corresponding mental images are consciously and unconsciously there from the day we say, “I’m pregnant”.
When you were early on in parenting, what were the thoughts and images crossing your mind when you thought about your list of what you wanted for your child?
This list, which is very normal to have, is also where the stress begins. We wonder what we are doing wrong when our baby cries, when our son is depressed or our daughter anxious, when there are Ds on the report card, when our toddler bops someone on the head or hides behind our legs, when our teen doesn’t have any idea what they want to do when they grow up or if they even want to go to college (a discussion that starts in the sixth grade these days). Before you know it, dear caring parent, you feel like you are failing as a parent! And that effects your responses to what is happening in your child’s life.
Think about the last time you were upset with your child. Were you just tired? Or was the reality of a situation not meshing with your wish list?
I have been wandering around the last few weeks thinking about my own stresses as a parent and those I hear other parents talking about. Many aren’t feeling like such a great parent and I’ve had such moments. And I find myself wondering, what if we had different measurements for our success as parents? So here is my new list. What do you think?
I know I am successful as a parent if my son or daughter
- expresses a wide range of emotions to me (even babies have a range of feelings)
- explores their world with curiosity
- consciously accepts or rejects norms
- questions the limits I set (see more on this if you want in Moody and Mouthy)
- asks for help; from me, teachers, friends, professionals
- tangles out loud with the upside and downside of a course of action/behavior
- accepts or rejects a course of action because it is not true to them (or expresses that they will meet minimal requirements if it’s a ‘have-to-do’)
- has a variety of friends because they pay attention to a persons character
- struggles with showing sensitivity to others while also having their own feelings
How does this change your sense of success as a parent? And your minds images around the idea of successful parenting?
Take care now, Natasha
p.s. If you are aware of your mental images (ideas) about parenting successfully and you’re thinking you want to change them, see if this helps. You can also watch the video I posted in you-tube; my note-to-self.