About a year after I became a parent, a meme started to circulate about motherhood:
How To Be A Mom in 2017: Make sure your children’s academic, emotional, psychological, mental, spiritual, physical, nutritional, and social needs are met while being careful not to overstimulate, understimulate, improperly medicate, helicopter, or neglect them in a screen-free, processed foods-free, GMO-free, negative energy-free, plastic-free, body positive, socially conscious, egalitarian but also authoritative, nurturing but fostering of independence, gentle but not overly permissive, pesticide-free two-story, multilingual home preferably in a cul-de-sac with a backyard and 1.5 siblings spaced at least two year apart for proper development also don’t forget the coconut oil.
How To Be A Mom In Literally Every Generation Before Ours: Feed them sometimes.-Bunmi Laditan
While it’s easy to look at this list and laugh at how unrealistic it is, it really does describe the ways that I often feel pressured to parent by the world around me. There is always a new theory, method, or parenting style that becomes vogue and sometimes you can’t help but wonder, “Should I be doing that too?” But trying to do every little thing right and please others with your parenting style is a battle that you can never win. You are either too much of one thing or not enough of another and there are never enough hours in the day to do everything that feels expected of you. And things get even messier when the people closest to you have different opinions on what is most important to do as a parent.
All of this can feel overwhelming, especially when you have to juggle figuring all of this out with a partner or family member who is parenting with you. How do you decide which good things to choose for your family and which to let go of? Are there good things you are allowed to let go of? How do you choose between two good choices, or even between two bad ones?
KNOW YOUR VALUES
When you know your values, it is easier to make parenting decisions. Parenting comes with a lot of expectations and your values make it clear which expectations are the most important to fulfill. Otherwise, everyone in your family will be overwhelmed, disappointed, and frankly, confused. It can be even be hard to choose values as a family because there are so many good ones, but try to narrow it down to 3-5 primary values. There is a fun tool at https://www.think2perform.com/our-approach/values/new that you can use to help you explore what values are important to both you and your partner.
Coming to a mutual decision concerning values helps primary parents set goals, communicate better, and more easily make both the hard and mundane decisions. It is also helpful for keeping your parenting grounded in the midst of all of the other voices in your lives, including friends, media, in-laws, babysitters, school, the church, and other parental figures in the life of your child.
VALUES KEEP EVERYONE ON THE SAME PAGE
One of the best ways to learn and check your own understanding on a topic is to teach it to someone else. So ask yourself, do you know your parenting values well enough to teach them to someone else? Everyone involved in parenting your child has had a different experience with the world, and even if they say they have the same values as you, their nuanced interaction with the world around them will make their understanding of a particular value a little different than your own. Being able to clearly articulate the values that are important to you to your co-parent or other parenting figures in your child’s life ensures that everyone is on the same page. If your babysitter, your neighbors, your best friend, and your in-laws all know your family’s top three parenting values and what those values mean to your family, then it will be easier for everyone to participate in your family’s life in more seamless ways that reinforce your values.
KEEP IT VISIBLE
Once you have decided on your parenting values and have taken the time to really evaluate what those values mean for your family specifically, keep them visible. Create a family motto and hang it on your wall. Have your kids draw a picture of what those values look like to them. Set a reminder in your phone to talk to your parenting partners periodically about how well you are doing in creating a life that reflects your values. Change the lyrics to a song to include your values and learn it as a family. This way when the questions and uncertainties of parenting come your way, you can make sure that what you value is also what you are living.
In the joy and in the chaos,
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