Parenting Differently

Tired mother asking for help while sitting with children

The landscape of parenthood has changed.

If you’re a parent on social media, chances are good that the accounts of Dr. Emily Oster, Dr. Becky Kennedy, Dr. Siggie Cohen, Janet Lansbury, Big Little Feelings, The Parent Project, or Big Life Journal have popped across your feed.

If they have, you may notice a theme: intentional parenting based on data, emotional self-regulation, and modeling the habits we hope to cultivate in our children (including sturdy boundaries and clear communication!).

This is a rather large departure from the child-rearing of yesteryear. In a recent podcast episode for Dr. Becky’s Good Inside, she and Emily Oster reminded the listener that even the term “parenting” is relatively new, just since the 1970s or so.

Parents born after 1970 are thus probably trying to do something very different with their parenting choices than what was modeled for them.

Establishing a Baseline

Reflecting back on my childhood, I have empathy for my parents who were doing the best they could with what they had.

My dad was our primary caregiver and had a few intentional and generationally different parenting choices based on his own upbringing: dinner was a time for the family to gather, play should happen before homework, and children should be a part of the conversation. I can only recall one time when he yelled, and he apologized to us later.

A man born at the tail end of the 1940’s, he also carried some habits that worked against his efforts to parent differently. Food scarcity influenced food choices and meal preparation. I grew up feeling alone with my big feelings because he didn’t have the tools to help me navigate them. Conflict was actively avoided, so I had no role model for how to have healthy conflict.

When I had enough distance to see the dysfunction, I knew I had some work cut out for me if I wanted to parent differently than what was modeled for me.

I want to be a different kind of parent than the parent I had.

My guess is that if those parenting sites were familiar to you, maybe you do, too.

This post isn’t about unpacking all of the parenting baggage or cycles we hope to disrupt–that takes significantly longer than the 3-minute read you’re almost through–but it is about acknowledging that there is room for choice in how we show up.

All this week I’ll be themed around some of the challenges moms (in particular, but not exclusively) face. If you find yourself wanting to parent differently, but aren’t sure where to start, grab some time on my calendar.

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