I have always had many questions about being a parent. Why is it so important? Why do our elders keep coaxing us to take on this new responsibility? Is it because of the unconditional love that a child brings in? Is it because they feel we need a new connection? Is it really selfless or selfish? The child doesn’t ask to be born nor can we guarantee that he/she gets the best possible life. Will all my opinions change if I become a mother? I honestly don’t have answers to these questions but I do have few thoughts on some of them.
Journey of parenthood begins way before 9 months
I have realized after all these years of practicing psychology that most of our issues come from our growing up years. Whether they are emotional, physical or sometimes a serious version of mental illnesses. Most of the clients that I come across are either very angry with their parents – to the point of blaming them for everything or they tend to block all their negative feelings for them. Neither of which I can call “healthy”.
Do we as parents think about the kind of upbringing or life we want to give our children? We often just think about the financial comforts that we can provide for the child…that becomes the top priority. The financial concerns include whether we can give them a good education, a decent house/car to grow up with and so forth. Stereotypically, the father provides and the mother cares and loves. Is it healthy for a child to grow up with just the woman’s energy flowing around the home? I would think Not – so why is it that we constantly keep ignoring the emotional and psychological effects that these aspects might have on the child? And here I am talking of both the daughter and the son. Ideally, children need to see their parents equally, in the way they show love, warmth, argue, fight and many such emotions but it rarely happens in urban Indian homes.
And things seem to have become worse. Both parents are now working, most often in hectic work environments and the child is considered lucky if he/she gets to spend a little time with either set of parents on a regular basis. Are we basing our parenthood on Luck?
Ends right after your baby pops out
Most of the time we are constantly struggling to deal with others (work, society and family) and we end up forgetting our-self. So when the baby pops out….it is usually a chaos. We sort of just flow like water (without thinking), we can now afford full time nannies, mothers come along so all the books that we read and things we thought we would do, goes out of the window. Mainly because we feel we have very little control and let others do the parenting. So after a few months/years when we do realize in bouts that this is not how we would like our children to be, it might have been too late. The conditioning of behavior has already started and to recondition would be another task so we resign to the way things have been (with much guilt and regret).
Just like there is no “perfect” marriage, there is also no perfect way of parenting. There are only mistakes and learning from our mistakes which can guide us. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we should be made to learn from our mothers mistakes…that won’t be as satisfying.
Few things we can do as Parents!
- Think hard about why both of we want to be Parents! Make lists if required
- Then together decide on what kind of parents we want to be. Write down expectations from each other. Put it up on the fridge so that it is a constant reminder. Focus on the little things here, since these are the things that the little ones remember and hold on to (play, read, food, watch tv with, cry to etc etc). I had a client once, whose earliest memory and maybe the only memory of her father was that he would pour the cereal for her. In every few months, change these duties so they see similar efforts from both.
- Decide together not to reinforce any negative behaviours (crying, tantrums, throwing things, screaming).
- Decide together NOT to insult/criticize each other in front of your children.
- Decide together on the values and principles that you want to instil in your child. Choices on schools, clothes, technology, even kinds of food should be things both your partner and you discuss – openly!
- Decide on the kind of influence you want your parents to have in the upbringing. This is also, one of those issues that couples fight about often. Be aware of that.
- Also, always praise the other to your children. Your spouse should be the “priority” and not the child
- Be conscious that both of you will make mistakes and it’s going to OK. Make room for each other’s mistakes
- Always and really always keep appreciating each other…this is most Important!
Parenting is less about the child and a lot more about the way you handle each other in front of/and with your child. By this I don’t mean that you need to put up appearances in front of the child because children always sense and understand more than we think they do. It is about creating a secure environment with love, warmth and honesty. While writing this post, I remembered Atticus Finch from “To kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. Atticus never commanded his children to respect him just because he’s their father, but because he acts in a way that deserves respect. His honesty with his children meant that they trust him, and look to him for guidance. Atticus is the opposite of a hypocrite, he says what he means, and lives how he thinks. In raising his children, he tries to get them to recognize not only how they should behave, but also why they should behave that way. “Jack! When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness’ sake. But don’t make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles ‘em.” On this note….I end this part of my piece and the next one will be on saying No to perfect parenting!