There is no rule book to being a parent. For most people, parenting styles are bits and pieces of our own experiences, wanting to (or not wanting to) emulate our parents, the influence of people that we love and trust, society and it’s expectations, and many other outside factors. What I’m realizing though is that parenting is more of an inside job.
One thing I’m sure we can all agree on is that there never seems to be enough TIME. Between work, social relationships (romantic and platonic), side hustles, family, etc. most adults don’t have a lot of time to spare. Now throw in being fully responsible for all aspects of the life of one or more small people who basically see you as a God who is capable of any and everything.
Parenting consists of so many ever changing and growing responsibilities. The multiple meals in a day that children need, getting back and forth to school and extracurricular activities, cultivating and maintaining relationships and friendships for your children, working to provide a roof over their head, staying involved in their academic journey to name a few. One could get exhausted just thinking about it!
With all of that being said, who could fault parents for being tired, burned out, stressed, and just straight up not having much to give at the end of each day. This may be a hard pill to swallow for parents who feel like their children should be lucky they’re not hungry or homeless but your children still deserve a valiant effort on your part to be intentionally present. We’ve all heard it before but children really don’t ask to be here and in most cases, pregnancy is a choice. We owe it to our children to give them the best head start we can muster. You’d be surprised how huge the return is on small investments in your childs life.
The stress of everyday weighs on all of us. When I’ve talked to young children who’ve expressed to me that they think their mom or dad doesn’t “like” them, I don’t assume that that’s really the case. What they’re probably experiencing is a parent who is tired, stressed, often short or seemingly annoyed with them. They’re probably experiencing a parent who isn’t warm and inviting. They’re probably experiencing a parent who hasn’t asked about their day or their feelings in a while, if ever. They’re probably experiencing a parent who hasn’t done anything outside of the obligatory actions of everyday monotonous life. Take away the parent/child dynamic and consider what you’d assume about someone who didn’t set time aside for you, never checks in with you about your emotional and mental state or well being, never spends time with you, doesn’t take time to celebrate you and your accomplishments, etc. You’d probably assume this person doesn’t like you very much.
I challenge you to reflect on yourself as a parent. It’s admittedly hard to admit to ourselves that we could probably be doing a better job as parents. It’s hard to admit that we may be giving corporations, drama, social media, gossip, homies, or the people we’re dating more attention than we give our children because those things help us escape the monotony even if it’s just for moments. It’s even hard to think of having another thing to add to our never ending lists of things to do. But your children more than deserve a spot on your to-do list.
Intentional parenting for me looks like scheduled dates with my child where she has 100% of my attention. This could be anything from a lunch or dinner date to taking a walk around our neighborhood. Intentional parenting for me looks like me writing words of love and encouragement to my daughter in a journal because my own trauma has made it difficult for me to verbally express some things but I still want her to know. Intentional parenting for me means explaining to her some days that I’m drained and need some quiet mommy time but not being rude and short; sending her off to entertain herself with a hug and kiss in tow as well as the reassurance that my bad mood has nothing to do with her. Intentional parenting looks like warmth, and time, and learning and teaching, communicating and having an open door policy.
There is no wrong way to let your child know that you are a safe space. There will never be anything negative that comes from your child feeling supported, seen, and heard. We all know a child who was acting out and crying out for the attention they otherwise didn’t get. Food and shelter are human rights, not good parenting. Dig deeper. You’ll be doing a service to yourself, your child, and everyone who crosses their path in the future.
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