Sunday, January 8, 2012

Feeling The Pressure To Be A Good Parent?

Even though we know the perfect family is a myth,
why do we try so hard to have one?
There are so many times, as a parent, when you just feel as though you are doing everything wrong. On those days when your find yourself slamming doors in frustration or muttering under your breath while your children are yelling at each other and you feel as though you've botched yet another attempt at remaining cool, calm and connected, it's pretty easy to feel like a lousy parent. 

And there are so many ways in which we compound this feeling by comparing ourselves to other parents and feeling as though someone else is doing all the things we're not doing. The more we know about parenting and how our children develop, the more we can become painfully aware of our own shortcomings.

This morning in the LA Times there was an article about how much movies that depict parenting have changed because, in fact, parenting itself has changed over the years.
"In the past, people parented based on instincts and how they were raised, but now with technology and the ease of transmittable information, we know so much more about parenting, We do so much more thinking about parenting, You can't turn on a morning show without an expert talking about college anxiety, how to keep our kids busier...Everyone wants to know how everyone else is doing it." 
Have the massive amount of parenting books I've read
in the last 5 years helped or made me more stressed?
Granted, I tend to be anxious and neurotic at times, but is having so much information at our fingertips always a good thing? In my experience this increased knowledge has been a double-edged sword. On the one hand I feel empowered because the information I have helps me understand why my children behave the way they do, be more conscious of what they need and feel more closely connected to them as people. On the other hand, having so much knowledge about all of the things that can help children blossom (especially during their first 5 years) can, at times, make me feel as though I will never be as good a parent as I want to be. 

Logically, of course I know there is no possible way we can all do everything "right". It could make you insane to try. As one mother in the the LA Times article comments: 
"The focus on having the right things and what are they eating...lactation consultants, crib consultants, I swear to God there are curtain consultants. Parenting has become this whole other culture".
And yet, I do get down on myself for not doing more. Logically I know that I am a good mother and that I do a lot of things really well, but are there areas in which I wish I did things better? Of course. Are there areas in which I look at others and compare myself? Of course. Its that pointless and self-defeating? Of course. But perhaps it's also human nature to compare and contrast. Would I prefer not to know so much? I'm not sure. I would imagine that our parents and grandparents had a much different experience being parents than we are having. They were probably less self-critical of their parenting and less stressed out. But was ignorance actually bliss? I suppose for some, but I don't think I'd trade in knowing so much. 

The other angle of all of this increased interest in parenting that intrigues me are the parents who see their children as extensions of themselves. As the Times article points out, "It's almost like keeping up with the Joneses. Instead of who's got the nicer car, it's who's doing better for their kid." Living in Los Angeles this is an all too common occurrence. A friend of mine told me recently about being snubbed at the park for bringing Doritos for her son to have as a snack by a mom who had brought organic, grilled salmon and quinoa for her own child. 

At the end of the day, what I want most
is for my children to be happy.
Have "good" children become the new status symbol? If your child is seemingly the most well-adjusted, does that mean you have done the best job parenting? Does it mean that your parenting philosophy is the best one? Do we, as parents, get to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done when our child shares or empathizes or eats salmon and quinoa? Well, perhaps. But not if we are simultaneously looking down at someone else for having a different parenting style, or for having a child who is struggling in some area ours has mastered. What, then, are we modeling for our children?

My sense is that no matter your philosophy, we're all doing our best to raise happy, healthy children. The fact that there is so much information out there on how to do it is both wonderful and overwhelming. I think the best we can all do for the children involved is to choose what information resonates in our hearts, be gentle with ourselves when we mess up and just be as loving, kind and respectful as you can my experience, when I do those things, I find that I am a pretty awesome parent.

Thanks for reading!
The Twin Coach
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