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Am I "Parenting" Well?

Being a parent can be challenging. It involves consistent (yet balanced) emotional regulation, confidence, and humility (in addition to numerous other traits and behaviors). Over the years, the societal view of being a parent has morphed; we now even refer to it with a single word: parenting. This word is often treated as a verb, a behavior that is intentionally enacted. We are "parenting" our children. However, the word itself is worthy of further examination and processing.

In her book The Gardener and The Carpenter, Dr. Alison Gopnik challenges our current beliefs of what it means to be a parent, as well as how we understand our role as caretakers/parents. In effect, she is operationalizing the term. This exercise can be tremendously helpful in so many areas of life. For example, we may look at a few of our friendships and appreciate that they vary in quality, depth, and purpose. Some friends serve as rational sounding boards while others provide us with an escape from the urgency and seriousness of life. In defining these friendships, we often realize that some are lacking; they may have deteriorated due to distance, simple exposure, or effort. If we decide to attempt to rebuild these friendships, we would not describe our behavior as “friending.” Rather, we’d emphasize how we’re trying to reach out or “be there” for our friend more often; these are specific behaviors! Similarly, if we’re trying to improve at a specific sport we would emphasize an aspect of it (i.e., serving within tennis), rather than stating we will be “tennising.”

This brings us back to defining what it means to be a parent. Are we truly “parenting” or are we engaging in a more comprehensive subset of behaviors of which being a parent is comprised? We’re attempting to help our child learn emotional regulation; we’re attempting to teach specific educational skills; we’re attempting to convey love, understanding, and compassion while also communicating mutual respect is important within a relationship. These tasks are difficult! And they don’t simply fit under an umbrella term such as “parenting.” In order to better allow ourselves grace in the daily challenges of being a parent, we must first appreciate the tasks we’re undertaking and specify how we view these. Just as we allow our friendships the freedom to wax and wane in quality, it’s important that we understand our efforts (and success) as a parent will wax and wane. It is vital for us to check in on our own perceptions of our roles in order to understand what our roles are, where we are excelling or struggling, and when grace and self-compassion is warranted.

If you are finding yourself seeking growth as a parent or you simply want to better understand how you are defining your own roles in life, please reach out today for a complimentary consultation. Therapy allows us the opportunity to operationalize the more abstract aspects of life, in order to facilitate change. Roswell Psychology is here for support.

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