Sometimes I feel like being a parent among other parents is like being in the Hunger Games. You’ll feel brave and confident at first, but when the game starts all bets are off! You can find allies, some will stand by your side and you’ll build one another up, and some will cut ties when the chips are down. There are always the big talkers who like to impress with stories of their parenting accomplishments. Sometimes these are the parents that, when faced with a parent who is less secure in their parenting, go in for the kill and rip them to shreds to prove they are superior. I honestly thought I wouldn’t have to deal with bullying after middle school, but surprise! When you become a parent you are inducted back into that life, only this time the pressure is on having your child compete with the ideals of other parents. Working with so many families I typically hear all types of unsolicited advice given to them that ultimately makes them feel like they aren’t doing a good job. Parenting is hard even with the most compliant kids, your still navigating life and emotions with another little human who doesn’t have the benefit of life experience yet. As a community of parents, we should be helping to lift one another up, talk one another through rough times, and celebrate our wins together. But in order to do that, we have to dispel some myths that seem to be holding us hostage and getting in the way of us accepting ourselves as the bad-ass parents we already are!
Contrary to popular opinion you can, in fact, lose your shit and still be a good parent. Got that? For myself, when I hit my “Enough” button it is because I’ve just been pushed and pushed for too long. No one can sustain a cool and composed demeanor if their boundaries are constantly being pushed. Now, I’m not advocating for letting yourself get to this point so you can verbally explode all over whoever happens to be around. You know, like the poor cashier at the market who simply asked if you wanted paper or plastic. The pressure is all around us; our partners, kids, extended family members, friends...you get the idea. It’s ok to take a minute and just let people know you need some quiet time without giving a full back story on why. If I get mad at something that’s happened at my daughters' school or something another parent has said I’m quicker to make sure my concerns are heard and that I’m not just going to keep avoiding the elephant in the room. Because guess what, that’s a learned behavior and it’s also a behavior I’m teaching my child. Coming from an abusive background I learned to navigate the rough waters of someone else’s erratic moods and how to bob and weave when insults were being hurled at me so I wouldn’t rock the boat. I knew that if I rocked the boat 1) the abuse would increase and 2) I would actually have to stand up for myself and do something about the situation. It took years but eventually, I chose the latter. It’s not always easy or fun, but confidence is a muscle that you need to keep using to make it strong and it’s a daily practice. There is a way to stand up for yourself with confidence and grace and not come off like a total jerk. I learned this the hard way when I went from being a doormat to the opposite extreme and pouncing on whoever looked at me wrong. But, hey, I’m a work in progress.
I’ve realized I’m the curator of my own energy and if it doesn’t fit then I’m doing it. Something a lot of parents need to learn (especially us moms) is that NO is a complete sentence. Just no, that’s it. You don’t need to accommodate someone else’s situation or problem if it doesn’t fit with you. You don’t need to ramble off a laundry list of why you're saying no because you think it will soften the blow. If you don’t want to volunteer for yet another school function, if you don’t want to have a play date for your kid, or if you don’t want to spend your Saturday driving to multiple birthday parties you don’t have to. Mind-blowing, right? This goes to saying no to our kids too, which seems to be the opposite of what parents are told to do today. Many people were raised that they were told no first before they were even able to get the idea of what they were trying to communicate to their parents out of their mouths. And that can color how we parent because we don’t want our kiddos to feel the way we did then, but there is a balance. If my daughter wants to talk about dying her hair magenta I’ll hear her out (and probably help her do it). If she wants to talk about dating her crush that’s going to be a hard no and I’m going to tell her why it’s not appropriate at 10 years old. I’m not going to shoot down every idea, I listen to all of them. However, I will only give my complete attention and energy to the ones that are age appropriate, encourage skills or fosters a passion. I’m not stunting her growth as an individual when I tell her no and I don’t do it in a way that makes her feel bad about herself and I’m preparing her for a world where she will eventually hear no from others and I want to teach her how to deal with that.
This brings me to my next point: choose your battles, but be damn sure you're prepared for the ones you decide to go into. Whether it be with family, friends, coworkers, or other parents I’ve realized a few things. One is that not all battles are worth showing up to. Got that? You can decline an invitation to a fight and it will be ok. At 44 years old I am just too old to waste my energy and time on nonsense that won’t matter in 2 years from now and that doesn’t benefit anyone in a positive way. If I feel like someone is wasting my time I will politely excuse myself and walk away. My time and yours is way too precious to spend on things that don’t matter to us. Another thing I’ve realized is that if something isn’t sitting well with my soul then I’m going to go all into that fight, but I’m going to do it after I’ve weighed my options. Some things can get us fired up really quickly and later on, we can see that it probably wasn’t a fight worth having. But if something isn’t feeling right then don’t be afraid to stand up and say so with confidence. In today's climate, I think it’s more important than ever to show your children that you can disagree with someone and still be friends because we have other things in common. Heck, you can disagree with this whole blog and I can still respect you and be grateful that you took the time to read it. Even if our views differ it’s ok.
A big hot topic amongst parents is screen time. We get others opinions (your pediatrician, friend, mother in law....everyone’s!) about how much screen time is ok, if at all. I have friends who lose sleep over this subject sadly enough. Monitored and timed screen time will not deteriorate your child's brain. We are human beings and need a 15-minute break sometimes, so a little Baby Einstein isn’t the worst thing you can do. If you're using the TV to babysit your child and it’s interfering with their connection with you and their development then stop doing that. But a few minutes isn’t going to hurt, so relax.
What are some parenting myths you want to dispel? Connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn and let’s talk about how we can all encourage one another on this parenting journey!