I have learned
more about myself in the past 7 years than during any other time in my
life. It is no coincidence that my oldest child is 7 years old.
Becoming a parent has been one of the most educational and emotional
transformations of my life. I have learned about myself "in my head"
and uncovered more of myself "in my heart." My children have taught me
more in their short lives than any other teacher I have ever had.
Becoming a parent is just
that....becoming. It is a process, a role, a job, a whole host of
emotions, an awesome responsibility. It is heartache, guilt, confusion,
fear, uncertainty, helplessness, inadequacy, letting go's and grieving.
It is also the joy of discovery, magical moments, the warmth of
nurturing and sharing, remembering how to live in the moment, and
unbridled, laugh-out-loud happiness. Parenting is the essence of real,
pure unconditional love.
don't think any parent can ever be prepared for the breadth and depth
of emotions that are elicited by one tiny human being. As much as I
read, as many masters-level courses as I took, I know I certainly never
was completely prepared for this wild and wonderful world of parenting.
Despite this, while I take a look back at my parenting journey, there
are some lessons I have learned that may be helpful in your parenting
journey as well.
- Self-care is no longer optional,
This is especially true for the
child's primary care-taker. Infants and children require an enormous
amount of energy everyday. Unlike paid work, parenting allows for no
sick days, no vacation days, no start time or more importantly, no
ending time. A parent's work is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It has
been for me, the most demanding "job" I have ever undertaken, bar none.
Like most women, I too have been socialized into
fitting the "all giving, all nurturing" role. The lesson I learned was
this: At the times in your life you think you have the least amount of
time to do so (i.e. you barely have time to eat, sleep or shower) that
is the precise time you NEED to make the time to take care of yourself
and nurture yourself. (For wonderful, exciting, outlandish and
practical ways for you to practice self-care, I highly recommend "The
Women's Comfort Book" by Jennifer Louden.)
- Enlist day to day support
and utilize it as often as possible.
much like and agree with the African Proverb "It takes a village to
raise a child." Unfortunately, my experience is that the current age we
live in, doesn't promote or support this concept. The places our
parents sought support, in many cases are no longer options for the
parents of today. My parents looked to neighbors, extended family and
school-aged kids to help with their child's care. The neighborhoods of
yesterday are all but gone; many of us live in neighborhoods where we
don't even know our neighbors' names. Relatives, including
grandparents, are often strewn out over various cities and states. The
high-school-aged kids my parents relied on to baby-sit have traded in
babysitting for minimum wage jobs in retail and service industries,
while middle-school kids are so busy with sports, plays, music, and
other activities, they rarely have any free time to baby-sit.
The other big change since my parent's time is the number of
families with two wage earners. And while Moms in the workforce is not
a new or sudden change, society is still not set up to accommodate this
important change. Husbands, employers, daycares and schools, all of
which could be sources of support, many times instead create more
stress for mothers and families. Some husbands may still expect women
to do it all at home in addition to working outside the home and are
reluctant to do their fair share as fathers and homeowners. And some
women unfortunately agree to this arrangement, leading to the very
unhealthy and damaging "superwoman" syndrome. Couples need to
re-negotiate their roles at home and at work to create a healthy
balance for the whole family.
continues to plow ahead, seemingly ambivalent about the number of
families juggling multiple careers and children. Very few employers
offer flex-time or job-share opportunities, and frown upon paternity
leave. And while maternity leave is an option for most mothers, very
few families can afford to take as much leave as they would like
because it is unpaid. Many employers simply have little or no regard
for family life, requiring shift work, weekend work and "on-call" time.
Though companies often pay lip service to the phrase "children are our
future", most neglect to put their money where their mouth is.
As for daycares, my experiences have not been good. Daycare
centers are understaffed and overcrowded with care providers that are
not nearly as knowledgeable as they need to be in regards to child
The lesson I have learned is this
- "You can have it all, you just need to decide what "all" is for you
(as stated by Dr. Nancy Schneiderman, during an evening for women's
health care.) I have learned that each family needs to define and
assert their own values and priorities, and blaze their own trail in
devising a system that works for them. Knowing that what worked for
families of yesterday may not work for families of today, modern-day
families have to be clear about what "all" is for them as individuals,
as parents, as couples and as a family. I have learned that families
need to be creative, assertive and flexible when gathering and
enlisting support, because it is not as readily available or easily
accessible as it once was. I have learned to graciously accept support
from those who offer. I have learned to go with the flow more, and hang
on for dear life to my sense of humor during often chaotic times.
and utilize emotional support whenever needed.
The lack of readily available support can result in a great deal of
stress for parents. I have found it essential to get emotional support
for myself in my role as a parent. Having children is a life-changing
event that requires changes too numerous to detail. Balancing work and
family, maintaining a healthy marriage or partnership, dealing with
your own childhood issues that frequently surface when you become a
parent, and learning how best to parent your individual child are
potential hot-spots for conflict, stress and unhealthy behaviors.
I have learned to request emotional support from trusted
family members and friends. Create a social support network for
yourself that includes other parents. Ask for their time and a
listening, supportive ear to help you work through your problems. If
this doesn't provide the lasting help you were seeking, consider
enlisting the support of a professional counselor. Often, a third party
can shed light on patterns, behaviors or issues that family and friends
cannot always see. A counselor can be the key in providing the
emotional support you need and deserve as a parent.
never stop learning!!
We are NOT born into
this world knowing how to parent; it is NOT an innate skill. Nor are we
required to take any classes on parenting during our formal education.
In addition, every child and every parent is a unique human being with
individual needs; every family has its own dynamics, history and
legacies. Parenting is a journey, a process, a becoming...it is a
privilege I am honored to learn more about every day.
I have found
the following books helpful on my personal parenting journey, as well
as professionally as I work with helping my clients to parent better. I
highly recommend these books to any parent, grandparent, teacher or
adult who cares about children:
Raising and disciplining children:
- Kids are Worth It!
Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline, by Barbara
to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk,
by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
- Siblings without Rivalry,
by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
- Raising Your Spirited Child,
by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
- Transforming the Difficult
Child, The Nurtured Heart Approach, by Howard Glasser, MA
and Jennifer Easley, MA
Books for Mothers:
- The Mother Dance, How Children
Change your Life, by Harriet Lerner, PhD
- The Sacrificial Mother,
Escaping the Trap of Self-Denial, by Carol Rubenstein
- The Woman's Comfort Book,
by Jennifer Louden
- The Pregnant Woman's Comfort
Book, by Jennifer Louden
Books on Shared Parenting:
- The Second
Shift, by Arlie Russell Hochschild
- Love, Honor & Negotiate,
Building Partnerships that Last a Lifetime, by Betty
- Halving it All, How Equally
Shared Parenting Works, by Francine M. Deutsch