I have a lot going for me as a parent. I have a strong partner in parenting. I have the support of friends and family who also have young children. I have a wonderful role model in my own mother. These are all things I am grateful for every day.
Despite these advantages, this parenting business is HARD. I’ve received a lot of advice about parenting over the years. Some good. Some not so good. Here are the four best words of wisdom about parenting I’ve ever received.
1) Be informed, but trust your instincts. One size does not fit all when it comes to almost anything, particularly parenting. It’s important to be educated about what experts recommend for the health and safety of your child. However, many aspects of parenting are more of an art than a science. Stay informed about different approaches so you are aware of different options, but then trust your instincts. YOU are the parent, not anyone else.
2) Set realistic expectations. Stop measuring your value as a parent by how “easy” it is. If parenting feels easy all the time, you’re not doing it right.
Just as there are no “perfect” children, there are no “perfect” parents, so don’t make that your standard. Instead focus on the bare essentials that your children need first: Do they have food to eat when they are hungry? Do they have a safe and loving environment around them?
Some days these are the only things you can (or should) focus on. It’s great to have other goals as a parent, but accept the fact that life (and parenting) is unpredictable. The measure of your worth as a parent should not be whether everything goes according to your plans (they rarely do) or whether you accomplished every single good thing you can think of for your child on a given day.
And don’t compare your life as a parent to anyone else. What good can come from that? Oftentimes, those who make it look “easy” are dealing with more challenges than you know.
Just as each child is a unique individual living out their life in the environment you create, you also have a unique perspective and style as a parent.
Are you creating an environment where you can never live up to your own expectations? If so, your child will notice how hard you are on yourself and may adapt the same attitudes themselves. So, keep perspective and focus on what matters most.
3) Take care of yourself. As a parent, our natural instinct is to care for our young. One of the most important lessons we will ever teach our children is how to take care of themselves. Isn’t this the whole point of being a parent?
So, ask yourself, what are you teaching your children when they see how you care for yourself? Are you teaching them the importance of rest? Are you teaching them that it’s okay to take time out just for you? How do you treat your body?
Taking the time to care for yourself in the midst of caring for others will encourage your children to do the same when they someday leave the nest. And don’t underestimate the impact positive personal wellbeing will have on every other area of your life.
4) Get support. Parenting is hard. Be willing to accept the support and help of others. Talk about the challenges you face with other parents and those close to you. Listen to their experiences and realize you are not alone. And most importantly of all, be willing to ask for help and accept it when it is offered. It truly does take a village, not just to raise a child, but to keep their parents sane.
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