Wed, October 11, 2023

Doubting Ourselves as Parents: Let’s Get to the Heart of It

Amy Mockbee & Emily Boucher, Founders, Work & Play ECC

Whether you’ve been a parent for months, years or decades, we’ll bet you’ve had moments of worry and second guessing. It’s no surprise to us that parents of young children can be the most impacted by the overwhelm of decision making as they juggle finding their unique style of parenting, balancing work and home life and facing new phases and milestones that can come and go with rapid-fire speed. Thoughts of, “How do people do this?” and “What am I missing?” and “Am I messing this up?” can firmly implant feelings that are hard to shake.

Our goal at Work & Play is to mentor and empower people who raise, care for and educate young children. As parents ourselves we have been journeying our own path of nurturing our children. And we’ve been on the other side of the table as educators; partnering with and supporting families in life-long learning. We’ve come to understand a handful of truths when it comes to navigating the general overwhelm that so often arises in parenting:

Second guessing is inevitable.

Parenting is riddled with opportunities to feel less than and “not good at it.” Whether it’s choosing a school, childcare, food, friends, activities…there are so many ways to feel like you’re messing it up and doubt if you’ve made the best choices. Toss in your efforts to balance a work life, home life and self-care while parenting and feeling overwhelmed seems appropriate. We’ve found there is an emotional freedom to expecting feeling uncertain as a parent, knowing it is a very real part of the journey. Framing parenthood as having a very real and far-reaching learning curve can be an emotional relief. Just as we work hard for years at learning a high level skill – whether a sport, work goal, hobby – parenting is also a journey of learning and growth for all.

Getting to know yourself as a parent helps.

Parenting is one of the most personal ventures of adulthood. From the moment you are a parent you will be faced with choices, values and opinions. While we are proponents of leaning on your village and seeking out support, we are also committed to helping parents hear their own voice and to trust their gut as they navigate raising children. Hearing and being able to heed that voice is the challenge. There will be a lot of chatter and input from the world around you on how to parent. But, at the end of the day, your family is YOUR family. Make a point to check in with yourself, make authentic connections with your child, have the important conversations with loved ones, acknowledge what you value and let that guide you.

The source of the doubt sometimes needs a check-in.

Here’s something to consider about doubting yourself as a parent: many times, in parenting, WE are the source of those feelings. It takes some work and practice to refocus that initial feeling and to see the big picture. As with anything we are passionate and committed to, parenting will have missteps and times we could have done better. There will be moments of doubt and confusion while navigating all the stages and phases – from feeding to potty training to learning to read to riding a bike, and literally a million other parenting moments. Doubt and even guilt will come but it also must go. Holding on to those thoughts and letting it over take your decision making can impact your child and family.

You can’t be everywhere, with everyone, all the time.

No matter how your days are filled, no one can be there for everyone, all the time. That means missed events will happen. You might even forget pajama day. You can try to join the parent meeting on your commute home but it’s not the best for anyone. You will doublebook or simply forget a commitment. Your calendar will be wrong and that appointment will need to be rescheduled. These are the facts, folks. And we are here to say IT IS OKAY.

You might feel bad, frustrated, near tears or angry. You may feel like you need to “make it up” to whoever you let down. Do what works for you while knowing that this happens to EVERYONE. We promise. As teachers we’ve seen a lot of “pulled together” parents show that they are human just like the rest of us. Thankfully!

And finally: Know better, do better. 

One of our best strategies in a moment of overwhelm is to own it, feel it and learn from it. Being early childhood educators, we naturally use a moment of stress and overwhelm to model a behavior we want to instill in our children. For example saying, “I am frustrated that my meeting was so long and I was late to pick you up. Sometimes that might happen but I will always get there as soon as I can. I’m sorry if that made you feel upset/sad/worried.” And then? Move on. Your child will see firsthand that it’s ok to make mistakes, it’s acceptable to talk about them and we can move on from them. This simple moment builds connection and trust between you and your child, which is at the heart of healthy, happy relationships.

Amy Mockbee & Emily Boucher bring over three decades of know-how and experience as early childhood educators. They are hands-on, imperfectly successful moms who have also nurtured thousands of children and their caregivers as they face new challenges and exciting milestones in schools.  Through Work & Play, Amy and Emily lead parent workshops, offer educator focused professional development, and author curriculum among other pursuits.

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