Career responsibilities, social pressures and domestic roles – is the stress of modern parenting affecting your wellbeing?
Indeed, while parents differ in culture, backgrounds and child-rearing methods, they all share a common desire, and that’s to give nothing but the best to their children. Bene Katabua, educational psychologist at KidsFirst Medical Center, says that the role played by parents in the overall development of children cannot be overstated.
“The child’s very first relationship is with their parents,” she says. “This parent-child relationship shapes a lot of their thoughts about self and the world around them.
“As your child develops, parental roles evolve and so this relationship continues to change as your child moves into adulthood,” she continues.
“However, as many changes as there are, some things should remain constant such as being able to place the child’s care above one’s own, providing routine and structure, and meeting a child’s physical and developmental needs.”
Not so picture perfect
The proliferation of picture-perfect Instagram photos projecting the ‘ideal’ family image has also added to the social pressures now commonly felt by mums and dads. These factors can lead to parenting stress, a condition that arises when parents are overwhelmed with the demands of domestic life. The subsequent emotion is feeling inadequate in fulfilling your parental role and providing what’s good for your children.
Symptoms may include feeling emotionally and physically drained, experiencing a sense of detachment towards children and having a crippling sense of guilt for being a ‘bad’ parent.
If left unmanaged, the condition may lead to other mental health problems that could strain relationships both inside and outside the family.
“There is no such thing as the perfect parent,” assures Bene. “Our busy lifestyles make parenting seem impossible, and therefore we may need to change our philosophy on parenting. I would propose that parents work on being ‘good-enough’.”
The concept of being ‘good-enough’ initially came from psychoanalyst DW Winnicott, who used this with regards to mothers. Today, the term is being used for parenting in general. The idea pertains to raising children into adulthood without focusing on flawlessness.
“Perfection often comes along with unrealistic expectations, blame and magnification of imperfections – none of which are helpful,” Bene points out.
“Instead, ‘good-enough’ parenting takes into account the complexities of human nature that both themselves [parents] and their children are susceptible to. It’s about acceptance, perseverance and resilience.”
She continues: “Parental guilt is a common occurrence, some may even say that it’s intrinsic to parenthood as there is always some or other decision that could have been improved. But it doesn’t have to be this way.”
Making me time
“Quality time does not have to be big, grand gestures,” says Bene. “It can be as simple
as looking away from your cell phone when your child is telling you about their day. The aim here is not to be overwhelmed by the idea of perfect parenting.”
It is also critical for parents to maintain open communication lines and share household and childcare responsibilities with their partners or family members or someone that they truly trust just to relieve some of the pressure.
Parents are naturally selfless, but taking time out to spend even a few hours or a day away from the children can help a lot in rejuvenating tired and weary spirits.
“The work of making a living and raising a family can be quite stressful. It is important to keep in mind that one also needs to take time to take care of themselves,” highlights Bene.
“Just as a cracked cup cannot successfully hold water, an overwhelmed parent may equally feel unable to successfully hold the family together.
“Therefore, time for self-care should also be a priority. This could be in the form of a bath, a book, meditation, gym, coffee with friends – anything that will benefit the parent’s individual well-being can go a long way in improving mental, emotional and physical state.”
WORDS Ferdinand Godinez