When I was a new parent there were three sentences that were constantly running through my head:
- How am I going to do this?
- What comes next?
- Is there anything else I should be doing that I’m not?
While I wasn’t always 100% confident in my abilities initially, I knew I could figure out the answers to #1 and #2. #3 felt like a question I’d never be able to correctly answer. With each question, it helped me to inspect each one a little more carefully and try to figure out what the anxiety was behind each.
How am I going to do this? This took me mustering up the courage and using common sense for the most part. The question tended to pop-up when I hadn’t done something before, like taking the baby to the store for the first time–how am I going to get them in and out of the car, how am I going to get through the store–will the baby be in the cart or stroller, etc.? After attempting a task and starting to realize I could do each of these things, it made it much easier when I confronted a new task. The most anxiety I’ve had in recent years is taking my son to kindergarten–physically very easy to do, mentally very hard–letting him go be in a school with “big” kids, realizing I can no longer protect him like I was previously able to–scary! But I did it, and I know I can do whatever new is coming next.
What should I do next? This question started when I first realized there were phases to parenting and that I had little to no control over them and never knew when one phase would be starting or stopping and when I was actually in the middle of transitioning to another. Examples included when will my child sleep through the night to when will they be able to feed themselves to will my child ever not have a cold for longer than 2 weeks, etc. What I figured out was while each phase it out of my control, they are all indeed temporary. This really helps me when my children are going through a phase I’m not crazy about–the saying “no-to-everything” phase (which was accompanied by tantrums, hitting and throwing), because I know eventually grow out of it. Some of the temporary phases, I’m not looking forward to growing past–the cuddling, hugs in public and the “I love you’s”. I’m trying to treasure every second of every phase good or bad.
Is there anything else I should be doing that I’m not? This was the question that made me most anxious. I want my children to have every opportunity to thrive which caused a constant list of thoughts to run through my mind–should I be reading to them more? are they getting enough time outside? are they enrolled in enough activities? are they the right activities? are they signed up for to many activities? am I doing everything needed to make sure my child gets into Harvard (okay, any college!)? You can see why I might feel anxious, any parent would.
When my children were young, products that promoted helping raise a baby’s intelligence were very popular. I struggled with whether or not I should be committing my money to purchase these products and spending time exposing them to my children. One example that comes to mind was a set of DVDs that promoted the learning of the alphabet and numbers, which sounded like a good thing, but they were DVDs, and everything I’d read said to limit TV time. Now, I’m not a parent who was or is gung-ho on no TV, but the fact that the products were being marketed to me and my parenting peers as educational–good for our small children–was puzzling. Would my child be behind if they didn’t watch the videos? Would I be doing them harm by letting them watch the videos (everything I’d heard and read had mentioned minimal TV time for kids)? It was very confusing, until I reflected on my own upbringing. We didn’t have DVD players–a show came on once a week at a certain time, and if you weren’t there to see it live, you weren’t going to see it period. I started to relax when I realized that and the fact that I, along with pretty much everyone else who grew up prior to VCRs and DVD players, all turned out okay.
Questioning your parenting skills is common. I have yet to meet a parent that feels they have 100% confidence in their abililites or even in what they are doing–be it how they are teaching their children, what they are or aren’t exposing them to, how they are disciplining them, or what else they should be doing.
In regards to the question, “Is there anything I should be doing that I’m not?”, have you applied this to yourself in how you parent? Have you ever stopped to think what you want your parenting journey to look or be like? When you first became a parent did you know what you things you want to teach your child–morals, values and beliefs? Anything you know you don’t want to pass on from your own upbringing? Do you have time to sit and think about how things are going–what’s going well that you want to continue? Or what you think needs to be added, changed or stopped altogether (like to have your child watching those educational videos or not)?
Give yourself permission to take control of your parenting journey. Your opportunity to make you parenting journey your own is finite–your kids will be leaving the house before you know it. Make time to reflect, be proactive and in control–start to figure out what else you should be doing that you’re not–and no longer fear it.
When and how do you make time to think about your parenting journey? What changes will you make to get your parenting journey where you want it to be?