I recently saw a post on social media that described the difference between being a parent in 2017 and being a parent in literally every generation before. It went like this:
“How to be a parent in 2017: Make sure your children’s academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, and social needs are met while being careful not to over stimulate, underestimate, improperly medicate, helicopter, or neglect them in a screen free, processed foods free, plastic free, body positive, socially conscious, egalitarian but also authoritative, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free two-storey, multilingual home preferably in a cul-de-sac with a backyard and 1.5 siblings spaced at least two years apart for proper development also don’t forget the coconut oil.
How to be a parent in literally every generation before ours: Feed them sometimes.”
(Source: Be a fun Mum Facebook page).
When I saw this post it made me laugh and it made me sigh. It seems these days there is so much pressure to do everything right as a parent to set your child up for success and to not screw them up. One wrong move and your child will be doomed for a lifetime. Sounds extreme, right??
Most parents I talk to experience some sort of guilt – guilt about working too much, guilt about what they feed their kids, guilt about not involving their kids in enough activities or in too many activities, guilt, guilt and more guilt. Now I might be a fairly new parent, but I do wonder whether the generations before us felt these same pressures and pangs of guilt, or whether they were a whole lot more relaxed about parenting – for better or for worse. Feeling guilty is not helpful for our kids, and certainly not helpful for our own mental health as parents.
So…what do we do about this situation?
I think a helpful first step would be to stop comparing ourselves to other parents and our kids to other kids. Each situation is different and what works for one family is different than what works for another. As a community we need to hold each other up and believe that we are each doing the best we can, based on the information we have. We all have learning to do as we navigate the unknowns of each stage of parenting, but we can also be a little kinder to ourselves and each other as we succeed, make mistakes, and grow. Let’s all just give each other a bit of a break.
Something else that might help is to find resources that are evidence-based and practical, that can help strengthen our ability as parents to raise resilient, flourishing, healthy kids. One wonderful place to learn great parenting skills is through the Psychology Foundation of Canada. Their “Every Mind Matters” handouts on stress, attachment, discipline, sleep, resiliency, and other relevant topics are fantastic resources for parents of both young children and teenagers.
So next time you fall into the parent guilt trap, try and remember you are doing the best you can, and most likely a really fantastic job as a parent. Some days are harder than others, but in the long run, you are likely doing just fine as a parent and your child is very likely going to be OK too.