Balancing the Super Parent Within Us
Robin Starkey Harpster, MA MFT
Copyright © 2011
Originally published in the Pasadena Macaroni Kid Newsletter
For some of us, spring is a time of year when the impulse to do it all and be it all kicks into high gear. The promise of warmer weather and longer days ahead brings plenty of new opportunity and an increase in expectations and over-scheduling. Is it really possible to meet all the obligations being a Super Parent requires? I hate to be the one pulling giant letters off blue leotards, but the truth is that we just can't. But hopefully there is relief in knowing that we don't have to.
In her book, Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box, Ann Dunnewold, Ph.D. attributes this perfectionistic pressure to living in the age of "Extreme Parenting": a time in our cultural evolution where an over-the-top mentality (think The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills) has seeped into our expectations of ourselves as parents. At this time of year as excitement about our opportunities for filling our calendars begins to mount, I'd like to offer you a few gifts of inspiration for staying sane, and honoring the human non-super hero within:
Breathe. A few moments of intentional breathing can go a long way in helping us find a tiny corner of relaxation and space to reflect on what is most important. Maybe that third birthday party of the weekend can be skipped, maybe it can't. For now, for five, maybe ten breaths, it doesn't matter. Recently there has been some exciting research emerging about how this type of mindful practice actually changes our brains, and ultimately gives us real peace of mind. (See this article for more information.)
Embrace the Imperfection. Another gift from Ann Dunnewold's book is the concept of the "perfectly good mother." In an age where most of us strive for perfection and find ourselves floundering to measure up, I'm in love with this compromise. No we can't do everything perfectly, but we can do a "perfectly good" job. Sometimes we do make mistakes, and that is okay. We tell our kids this all the time. Let's practice what we preach.
Make time for quality time. I know we've all heard this one, but there is a reason this adage has stood the test of time. Your kids want to spend time with you, and they (and you) are bettered by the experience. Starting to feel a little disconnected with your kids amidst the too busy social, academic and extra-curricular activity? Spend a night in with pizza and a movie. Or drive around the block a few extra times to allow for that much needed chat about your daughter's friendship challenges and joys.
Make priority a priority. Planning is oh so important, but so is setting priorities. When you are feeling overwhelmed by all you need and want to do with and for your kids it can be easy to say yes to everything and forget that we have the ability to prioritize and say no. This type of assertiveness is another opportunity for modeling the real-life social and emotional skills your kids need as they become successful and effective adults.
Put yourself on the "To Do" List. When I've gone too long between yoga classes or had to miss book club to care for a sick child, I find myself acting like my least favorite mom self. As parents, it is essential that we provide ourselves with space to let go of our stresses. For some of us that means making time for connecting with a supportive partner on a night out. For others it's a run around the Rose Bowl or a conversation with an old friend. Find what it is for you and make it happen. Your kids (and your sanity) will thank you.
Bottom line, take what works for you and leave the rest. Life is about trial and error in finding the balance that works for us. And sometimes we still feel like wearing our super hero capes to dinner and that's okay too. I won't tell if you won't -- I may or may not be wearing mine right now.
Please note: Nothing in what you find here should be construed as medical advice pertinent to any individual. As is true with all written materials, and especially information found on the internet, you must be the judge of what appears valid and useful for yourself. Please take up any questions you might have regarding the content of this website with your psychotherapist or physician.
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Copyright © 2011 by the Institute For Girls' Development, A Psychological Corporation.