The Anxiety of Parenting
Look around you, do you see us? We’re not hard to notice. We are the current crop of modern day parents doing our best to care for our children while tending to the sometimes overflowing spring of anxiety stirring beneath the surface. (Full disclosure here…as a working mom of two school-aged children, I count myself as one of them.)
For some parents the anxiety seeps out of their pores and is tangible in their aura, for others it’s a little better concealed but nonetheless just as potent and jarring. (Personally go back and forth as it totally depends upon the moment, situation and what headspace I’m in.)
It’s an odd period time we’re living in. We have at our fingertips technological advances generations before us would have deemed too futuristic and impossible to achieve. Handheld devices offering windows to the world, with the swipe of a finger nearly anything is possible. We drive cars with eyes to see oncoming traffic and even now have cars that can drive themselves. Not to mention a global web of communication, information and delivery services that can bring just about anyone or anything to your doorstop leaving very little if any need to leave your home, it can all come to you!
All of these technological advances are geared to make life easier and help us be more connected and accessible to one another. And this technology is geared to help our kids too, with boundless learning and educational activities, I swear some children are born with innate finger swiping motion.
Commercials that advertise these technologies and services depict families and people living a life of ease and calm. But I strain my eyes to see these glamorized calm, cool and collected families in real time. What I do see ever more are stressed out and taxed parents who are working A LOT, moving mountains to provide all they can and beyond for their children.
It’s no doubt we all want what’s best for our kids and so we strive to give it to them. After all, it’s part of our inherent duty as parents to love our children, provide for their basic needs, protect and keep them healthy and safe. This parental duty translates into a lot of different activities. We offer guidance with homework, plan doctor and dental check-ups, scout out tutors when needed, coordinate playdates and plan for birthday parties.
We are watching their diet, their sleep routines and how they dress for the elements. And if necessary, we look for the best alternative school environments and work like hell to get them there. We join the parent’s committees to influence their school experiences and we try to provide our kids with as many extracurricular activities we can reasonable (and sometimes unreasonably) fit into a week’s schedule to meet and shape their budding minds and interests. And we are working like hell (did I already say that?) for the financial resources to provide for our children the best of everything and often sacrificing ourselves inordinately so to do so.
The parents I encounter both personally and professional appear tired, anxious, encumbered, preoccupied and laden with responsibility. After tending to all the needs of the family and their jobs that support their responsibilities to their family, there usually isn’t a whole lot of time left over for self-care. In addition, more and more children are presenting more frequently for therapy to help manage their anxiety – social, performance and otherwise – and sometimes at very young ages.
Parenting is one of the ultimate sacrifices and in my opinion it is one of the most beautiful sacrifices there is. We bring these beings into our world via birth or adoption to provide them with all of the necessaries so they can make the most out of their lives and be the best they can be. But I can’t help to wonder – are we over-sacrificing ourselves and spreading ourselves too thin and is all of this striving for what’s best derailing us from being our best for them? And what does it mean to be our best selves for our children?
Sure, we have all heard of the term self-care and we may ebb and flow with how much we actually practice on a regular basis. Exercise, diet and meditation are all just part of it. What about time for extracurricular activities for parents? Play dates with our friends? Oh yeah, and catching up on sleep…that would be great wouldn’t it!
And even more crucial is time for downtime for us to spend with our children. And I don’t mean downtime sitting in front of the boob tube or any sort of screen. What about time to take a walk outside, sit on the grass, take in nature and lull about aimlessly. Time in which the only goal is to not be goal-directed but to just chill and giggle together.
Behaviorists for decades speak to the power of modeling. When we are working ourselves to the bone to provide the best of everything to our children, yet we not at our best, do our children invariably suffer? If we are walking around as anxious, over-taxed and stressed out parents, what is the real price we and our kids are paying? Besides tempers that can get short, kindness and compassion that can wan, are we creating a new generation of little people who are all about doing and are mystified on how to just be?
Look, I understand, the bills won’t pay themselves and there are certain circumstances in life that we need to tend to and deal with. I am not calling for a radical transformation to how we parent, instead I’m suggesting that we take time to reflect upon how we live, the choices we make and the choices we don’t as we navigate this journey of parenting in modern times. I’ve been pondering this for some time and appreciate your taking the time to read this and invite you to share your thoughts, concerns and questions. My hope is to prompt more conversation on these issues and hear what others think and how they manage the ever-elusive life balance. Please feel free to share, comment and offer any feedback that you can.
Here’s to furthering the conversation, and furthering the awareness and raising our children to be their best selves!