We live in a culture where 50% of those who are currently parents grew up in a fundamentally dysfunctional home. It is no wonder then that we have a generation of parents who are struggling with how to do their job.
Most likely, you grew up without the benefit of an engaged and committed Dad in your home. The repercussion of this was that it forced your Mom to struggle financially as she grappled with being Mom, Dad, Banker, homemaker, auto mechanic, and provider. To make ends meet, your Mom was required to work long hours, arrange for daycare, and do it all.
Single Moms are my heroes. My mother found herself abandoned to raise my sister and I in the early 1960s. This was a time where it was assumed that somehow broken homes were the result of broken wives who bore the blame for being unable to hold their marriage together. This cultural ignorance made the struggles of single parenting even worse as Moms were made to feel guilty about how she could raise successful, well-adjusted kids alone.
Parents, whether Co-Parenting and single, or those in a traditional nuclear home, are often driven by guilt because they have made the children the reason for their own existence and entered into a contract where everyone in the home loses. Children are not the epicenter of the home and Parents need not feel guilty for not meeting every whim or desire their kids have.
In the quest to provide the “best money can buy” for the kids, it has become normal that both parents work outside the home. Unfortunately in addition to meeting material needs, these parents feel that they must race home every evening to devote all of their “spare time” and weekends to focus on everything that their child says, does, or wants to become an outstanding musician, athlete. or activist.
Mom & Dad reason the “If I am going to be a great parent, and since I get so little time with you, I must do everything I can to make you happy with the time I have. So what can I do to fulfill your needs?” Yet in following this course, parents are actually producing selfish, entitled, manipulative and demanding children who expect more the next time.
Please don’t misunderstand me. Our kids need our time, attention and energy. But often to appease our own guilt we have tried to substitute “presents” for “presence,” feeling that we must meet every need our children have every moment we are with them. This is a symptom of co-dependence, not love. We do well if we teach our demanding, foot-stomping, over-indulged children the need for patience and selflessness. It will go a long way toward restoring your life as well.
Book stores and on-line book sources are filled with thousands of manuscripts about raising kids. They will tell you how to build a gluten-free child, how to grow a math wizard, and some books tell us how to get little Johnny to pick up his stuff. These books focus on how to make our kids more successful, happier and entitled. Few books deal with the fundamental need of child-rearing…developing you as a great parent.
With no tangible role models, nor viable resources, and little encouragement from church or community, many parents throw their hands up and consider themselves failures as parents. Because of the fear that we are somehow inadequate as parents and the guilt that this thinking generates, we put the children ahead of everything, even ahead of our own spiritual, emotional and mental wellbeing.
Emma Jenner an English Nanny and an expert on Parenting, says;
“Parents today are sidelining their own needs in favor of their children’s. I know mothers who stop planning girls’ nights out once they have a baby and other women who refuse to buy themselves new clothes or splurge on a decent haircut because they want to give everything to their kids. Mums and dads don’t expend effort caring for their relationship with each other, and in many households, once the kids come along, they even stop sharing a bed. Their commitment to parenthood is admirable, and yet taking care of themselves, not their children, is the first priority to proper parenting.”[i]
So, if guilt is what causes us to struggle as parents, how do we move on? A big part of it is removing your children from the family thrown. Remember, they aren’t the parents, you are. They are not in charge, you are. Do not fear to set the agenda, you are the boss. They don’t “need” candy, chips, or pop to be happy. Don’t be bullied, it is OK to say, (loudly, emphatically and without remorse), NO!
Additionally, to begin the process of becoming great parents, we need to determine that we are essential. Our lives matter. We will never have happy, well-adjusted kids. if we are not happy well-adjusted people ourselves. But remember, when it comes to parenting, “You Can Do This”.
Three starting steps:
1. Write a list of 7 things that are great about you. Don’t skimp. Put down 7 things from all different categories of your life…do this today.
2. Plan a “No kids allowed” time. Overnight is best but do what you can. Plan this in the next 24 hours.
3. If your children are feeding themselves, make a new rule that Mom and Dad sit down and finish eating before anyone else gets seconds. You are the parents, not the servants of your child’s every need.
[i] Jenner, Emma. Keep Calm and Parent On: A Guilt-Free Approach to Raising Children by Asking More from Them and Doing Less (pp. 14-15). Atria Books. Kindle Edition.