How to shake off the outside pressure on your parenting by keeping the right focus
Have you ever asked yourself how to not bend under the pressure of parenting?
Every parent I’ve ever met has this ardent desire to be a successful parent.
However, the definition of “successful” parenting can vary tremendously.
Many parents are under great pressure by defining (or letting define others) the words “successful parenting” by their present achievement.
You surely had a similar conversation in any area of parenting:
Parent A: “My baby slept through the night by week 6.”
Parent B: “Oh wow, how did you do that? My child didn’t sleep through the night until his second birthday?!”
The feeling following such a conversation from Mother A is “I am a successful mother!”
Mother B on the contrary may feel: “I guess my parenting capacities are limited. Why did my child not sleep trough earlier?”
Can you relate?
Be it a baby with only a few weeks of age that sleeps through the night , having polite and behaving kids, Teenagers that stay out of trouble, a Kid that is successful at school, how quickly I get my child to be independent, how many friend it has…
Every parent longs to see results showing that they do a great job, that they are successful in their parenting.
Being parent is connected with lot of investment of love, strength, time, patience …. and self-doubt. I have met many brilliant parents who have a great capacity of heart, who have this desire to give their best and to see their children be successful in life, yet who are struggling with the feeling of self doubt because their child doesn’t fulfill their (and other’s) expectation of being that “good child”.
Of course I can relate too.
My motherhood started off with a baby that went against any “easy-baby-dream”. No sleeping through the night, no using any crib and even the stroller looked like new when my baby turned age one. He definitely didn’t make me “show off” as a parent!
Or, like during our holidays in France this spring, where I was camping with my four kids:
We went for a trip to Sainte-Marie de mer. There we took a spontaneous ride on a boat. It was a small boat, for about 50 people. We took this 90 minute boat trip which goes a little way up the Petit Rhone and back. The boat was full, and even though it was beautiful to see the different wild animals and nature, I felt under pressure pretty much. I felt observed. I was alone with my four children and people were watching. My girl was so excited to be on that trip, it was a challenge for her to sit quiet. By the end of the trip, she did hold on to a pole, turning herself around. I told her to stop. She didn’t do it immediately – and promptly one of the sailors came to tell me in a kind way in French that children should not “run around” on the boat. I was embarrassed. I told my girl: “See, this man came to rant us because you did that! “
I felt challenged in my capacity as parent; I didn’t live up to my own expectations. Whereby all four of my kids did really great, from the toddler to the oldest, except for this little incident. My girl felt so ashamed, she came to sit very closely to me and didn’t move from my side anymore. I felt so sorry for her, as this trip will always have a bitter aftertaste for her. There was no necessity for me to exaggerate in such a way, about what this man had just said. After all, she had been behaving great on that trip. And I know her, I knew she can get so happy and excited that it is hard for her to listen and sit quietly.
- How about parenting that Baby who is refusing to sleep in his crib?
- How about this toddler who throws a temper tantrum in the supermarket?
- How about that situation, when our four year old refused to put on his swimming-aid in the pool?
- Or what if you feel that your child is not ready to enter Kindergarten or should repeat a year at school?
Are we acting out of that need to prove we’re doing a great Job as parent– or do we have an end in mind?
Having an end in mind:
When I say have an end in mind, I talk about having a plan on what our end goal is for our children. Like a Pilot who boards a plane, he always knows the destination he’s heading to. The flight itself is not always smooth and tranquil, there are times the plane gets off track (like me in that above example acting out of my present feeling of embarrassment) … but the pilot always keeps the destination in mind.
Having an end in mind helps us to have the greater picture in mind.
A baby that doesn’t sleep through the night, a toddler that throws a temper tantrum or a child that struggles at school… We can relax and are able to focus our attention on that end instead of bending under the pressure of what others think about my parenting. And we can stop comparing ourselves to other parents.
Is this other parent we know really organized, a good housewife, good at combining work and being a mom? Does that other parent have an easy time putting their kids to sleep? Does she always have the time to take good care of herself and does she seem always fresh and relaxed?
You know what?
By having your focus set on what you want for your kids, with that end in mind, by defining your definition of “successful parenting” – Guilt, pressure and inferiority vanishes and makes room for your own creative thinking, your own personality and your own way to get there in your individual life situation.
In our family, we have our definition of successful parenting, our destination, well set:
With that in mind, I don’t care at what age a child sleeps trough the night. I won’t give importance to whether that other mom is much more organized than I am. I won’t have feelings of failure as a mom if my toddler throws himself at the floor and has his temper tantrums… even if it’s in the middle of the supermarket, while I’m waiting to collect our pizzas or even at church. If my child doesn’t have many friends, I am not doubting my parenting – my focus is to understand if my child is simply someone who loves spending time by itself, or if has a problem with it because it longs for friends but feels inferior or not lovable.