“Why is raising our children so associated with (parental) anguish?”
Each time I have watched this TED Talk, I fully relate to what Jennifer Senior shares about parental anguish and the day her son was born. For I, too, had a C-section that was planned–when my soon-to-be-born daughter turned herself around to a breach position one week before her due date. As much as I was looking forward to her birth, I wasn’t looking forward to an epidural–for I had been priming myself for a natural birth that was drug-free.
Ultimately, I was looking forward to being a parent–so how my daughter came into the world was quickly eclipsed by the rush of love I felt for her when I first heard her cry.
“That’s my son the day he was born. I was high as a kite on morphine. I had had an wasunexpected C-section. But even in my opiate haze, I managed to have one very clear thought the first time I held him. I whispered it into his ear. I said, “I will try so hard not to hurt you.” It was the Hippocratic Oath, and I didn’t even know I was saying it. But it occurs to me now that the Hippocratic Oath is a much more realistic aim than happiness. In fact, as any parent will tell you, it’s awfully hard. ~Jennifer Senior
I too wanted above all to do no harm. I wanted to tackle every future parental challenge with love and patience. I wanted to come out the other side intact having stewarded my daughter into her own wholeness. My own memories of growing up with a hyper-sensitive mother and an emotionally unavailable father were far from perfect. I was intent on not repeating certain parts of my own history when I became a mother.
In fact, it was in my 20s that I began to really take a look at WHY my life was such an emotional rollercoaster and WHY I feared most of all being abandoned. The “inner work” to understand myself better was never easy, but it was always worth the anguish–after the explorations came the revelations.
By the time I became a parent myself, I had done a fair amount of emotional healing. I felt (mostly) confident that I would be a good parent. On the best of days, I listen compassionately to my 16-year-old who is tackling her teenage years with grace and strength; and much more self-awareness than I ever had at her age.
Like Jennifer Senior, my goal is to focus on raising a child who knows herself, loves herself, appreciates herself, and feels loved and appreciated for all that she is by me–regardless of her developmental stage and her emotional ups and downs.
So what then as a parent or parent-to-be can you do to assure a good outcome for your family? Take stock of your personal history and your experience of parenting before you become a parent. That is a good start to healing the future legacy in your clan.
Absent having new scripts, we just follow the oldest ones in the book —decency, a work ethic, love — and let happiness and self-esteem take care of themselves. I think if we all did that, the kids would still b e all right, and so would their parents, possibly in both cases even better. ~Jennifer Sernior
And, if you (ever) wonder, “how ready you are to be a parent (because you want to be one),” consider doing the hard and meaningful work of taking stock of your Sense of Self, what motivates you, and what makes you tick.
P.S. For the record, being a parent is the best and hardest “job” I have ever had yet; and I wouldn’t change a moment of it.