What happened to putting on your own oxygen mask before helping those around you?
As the access to research, parenting blogs, and parenting expert advice increases, so have the demands and pressures on parents to utilize all the tools available to raise well-rounded healthy children. The problem with this new-found attention on parenting and the mass of available online information is that sifting through so much information becomes overwhelming and can leave parents gasping for air.
Have you ever found yourself on that seemingly perfect parenting blog, complete with pictures of homemade-nutritious lunches, creative crafty activities, and new age parenting approaches like “free range parenting”? Perhaps you felt like you had found the magic elixir to remedy all the perplexing inadequacies your parents passed down to you. Just as you were feeling hopeful, you click on the next link which takes you to a site slamming parents for being “too permissive” and spewing fear mongering rhetoric detailing how lack of structure will lead to raising an inconsiderate lawless adult.
Then the confusion sets in. How can you find the ‘right’ way to parent in age where there is every type of parenting style imaginable? This paradox of choice has led many parents to be pressured into trying to be everything for their child. While well intentioned, this is not a sustainable way of living. Although parenthood does seem to elicit superhero-like traits, we cannot sustain 24/7 lunches, afterschool activities, carpool, weekend creative art exercises, physical wellbeing, and remain emotionally present to meet the ebb and flow of big emotions and temper tantrums as our children develop.
Researcher, author, and Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Brene´ Brown, details how exhaustion as a status symbol extinguishes our ability to connect, be present, and cultivate empathy in our relationships. In the pursuit of a whole-hearted life, we have confused fulfillment with bursting at the seams to the point of depletion. While we may be aware of this problem, at times it feels impossible to break the cycle as we continue to come up against desires to be the best parents we can be. It can be excruciating to try to tolerate the judgmental stares from fellow parents, should we choose to skip that PTA meeting or mommy and me class; sending us further into the cycle of shame and depletion.
The good news is that the presence of shame in the parenting climate is being illuminated by researchers such as Brene Brown and books like “Shame-proof parenting” by Mercedes Samudio. As Brene´ Brown states “the antidote to shame is empathy”. Once we establish a cultural conversation which allows for the acknowledgment of the shame-based narrative that is driving much of the parenting craze, we can diminish its power and start to change the narrative. The neuroscience research of Dan Siegel teaches us that connection is one of the most important aspects of parenting. A parent’s ability to guide children to develop their sense of self-agency, emotional intelligence and confidence to explore the world happens through a foundation of connection in the parent-child relationship. The knowledge that shame thrives in secrecy, judgment, and inhibits connection and empathy, highlights the need for a shift in the parenting culture.
How can we change?
By bringing this discussion into our parenting groups, mommy and me classes, and PTA meetings we can slowly create a culture where we lean on each other. If we support each other in caring for ourselves so that we have the energy and empathy to provide our children with the parenting environment which best fits their needs, we can help ourselves, our fellow parents, and our children to thrive.
Hanna Stensby AMFT, RYT 200, Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator, works with parents using practical tools to create a specialized parenting approach for improved connection with their child(ren). The positive discipline approach is geared towards creating a respectful relationship between parent and child that fosters intrinsic motivation towards cooperation, resourcefulness, accountability, and problem-solving by focusing on the meaning behind the behavior. Hanna offers individual, co-parenting, and group sessions. Call (714) 757-0789 for a free consultation to discuss which services are right for you. For more information visit: sagewellnessctr.org.