It is nearly impossible to convey to new parents about what being a mom or dad will actually be like. Probably at the top of the list is the the near constant question of, “Am I doing enough, or the right thing?” There may be days or moments where we feel, “Yes! I think I’m doing this parenting thing right!” However, these days or moments can be far outweighed by a continuous feeling of heavy dubiousness of our own abilities as parents. Further, this sense deepens as your kids get older. As you witness your children experience the rockiness of adolescence, you may fear in your own abilities as a parent. This can become overwhelming. For me, getting back to parenting basics is the best way to calm my fears.
Why Do We Feel This Way?
If you live in the US, your lack of confidence may be tied to our culture’s lack of one “right” way to parent. For better or worse, most other cultures have clearly defined parenting norms. I know most parents would prefer freedom and lack of judgment in parenting the way they feel is right. Yet, it can be isolating not to have a clear definition of what is the “right” way to parent.
Due to the massive insecurity mothers in the US feel, judgment amongst moms is rampant. Moms (often subconsciously) try to make themselves feel better about their own parenting choices by looking to another parent. She may think, or even say to others, “What she’s doing is wrong because she’s not doing it the way I’m doing it.”
Burnout and Feelings of Failure
There is no “right” way to parent. There is no all-knowing being who has written a book on the subject that is relevant to your exact, specific, family dynamic. Think of your partner and your best friend. They are different people, and they need different things from you. You may know your partner requires a listening ear when she gets home from work complaining about her troublesome coworker. You also know your best friend well, and know all he usually wants to do is share his frustrations about a particular subject, then move on, and not dwell on the negative.
An emotionally intelligent person senses how to be most supportive to their peers. They typically shift their approach to meet their peer’s individual needs and preferences. THAT IS WHAT PARENTING IS LIKE! How can there be one right way to parent when each individual child needs something slightly different from their Mom or Dad? Wallowing in feelings of uncertainty about your own abilities to meet your child’s needs, when you know deep down you are trying your best and working to be the best parent you possibly can, will cause burn out. And you will consider yourself a failure. This only robs yourself of feeling the happiness parenthood can bring you.
What Do Your Kids Actually Need From You – Parenting Basics
I am not going to tell you that there aren’t basic tenants of “good” parents. However, the list of what makes a good parent is far shorter than you think it is. So let’s get back to parenting basics. All humans have strengths and weaknesses, and thankfully your weaknesses as a human (and thus, as a parent) don’t necessarily mean you’re not doing a stellar job as a parent.
There are two categories that make up “good” parents – physical and emotional. Physically, your job as a parent is to feed, shelter, and clothe your child. Emotionally, your job is to strive to hear and understand your child and honor their feelings and thoughts. Almost more importantly than that is to model behaviors you want them to emulate.
Do you want your child to grow up to be a person who controls their temper, tells the truth, and works hard? Then all you have to do to be a “good parent” is model those behaviors, and course correct when you notice behaviors in your child that don’t line up with your expectations.
Understand Being a Parent is Complicated, and Mistakes are Common
Something I accepted a long time ago is good enough will just have to be good enough. Since no one trains you to be a parent to your specific child/ren within your specific family dynamic, mistakes are to be expected. Focus on the big picture of loving your child. Honoring them as individual people who are deserving of respect. And take your job seriously of using your critical thinking skills to help them overcome their weaknesses. And you can do this all in your own style that feels right to you.
The fact that you’re even reading this means you’re doing a GREAT job as a parent. You are not alone in your uncertainty, so choose to feed emotions of grace for yourself, and be satisfied in simply loving your children and trying your best.
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