This is the 3rd part of a 4-part parenting series. The first post covered your relationship with your partner or partners and whether it was a solid environment for raising children. The second post covered your personal feelings, thoughts, etc. around having/raising children, coping with stressful situations, and the importance of learning parenting skills and ongoing therapy before and while raising children. In this post, I want to talk about your expectations of parenthood and the relationship you want to have with your child as they are growing up. What are your expectations? How do you see the role of parent? How do you see the role of child? What is the purpose of children? What are your responsibilities as a parent? Try to come at this series with an open mind and heart. I want to encourage self-reflection here and walk y’all through how one can figure out if having children is a good fit for them and their life. And if you already have children, this is more of a how to check in with yourself and see where there’s room for growth and improvement.
Set The Scene
I wanna help y’all start to think about the expectations you have about parenting. Start to explore how you think raising children is supposed to go. Who is this all for? Is having this baby for you, for your partner, for the relationship (to take it to “the next level”) or for the baby? Once you can honestly figure out who you’re doing this for, it will be easier to figure out how you think parenting is supposed to go. As I said in previous parts of this parenting series, having a baby won’t make you feel better about yourself. Having a baby won’t fix the problems in your relationship. That’s what it definitely won’t do. Again, having babies and raising children are stressful. This is an obligation and a responsibility. It is a full time job. Let’s talk about what a baby definitely will do though. Adding a baby to an unstable relationship is going to be make the relationship more unstable. And it hurts the child. Babies are not made to love you. Babies are not made to make you feel a way. Intentional adults raise children because they feel ready to take on the extra responsibility of training little humans on how to become grown adults.
Despite what society and the people around you say: having kids isn’t about the person you’re with, the relationship you’re in, your feelings, and/or your personal life goals. And I get it, there’s all this pressure to have children from everyone. It’s what everyone says you’re supposed to be working towards. I see on twitter all the time: “If you haven’t had kids by now (mid-20s to 30s), what’s stopping you?” without considering if people are ready for kids or if they want them. Questions like that put people, especially cisgender heterosexual (aka cishet) women, on the defensive because now they have to justify themselves and their choices. All this constant pressure. And someone is always there to make it seem like your life wouldn’t be complete without babies. Being real and true…it’s interesting how there’s all this pressure to have children, but once you have kids, you’re expected to do everything by yourself. And you will be shamed (“Oh you need money, help with childcare, etc.? Smh. Why did you have kids then?!”) for asking for help.
Everyone is expected to live up to the same expectations, goals, and values. Going along with what people say you should do when it’s not right for you is…a personal decision. But you deciding to bring another life into the world means that life isn’t just about you anymore. Now your decisions can affect at least 2 people. Do whatever you want to do to yourself, but forcing a baby (who will grow to be a whole adult) into a situation that isn’t stable and/or safe is potentially neglectful and abusive. If you ain’t ready, you ain’t ready. Society and the people pressuring you to have children just want cute pics and feel good moments. They don’t know you and your situation. But you can know you though. Take an honest look at yourself, your situation, and your expectations to see what kind of child care situation you’d be ready for (if any).
Society isn’t the only thing influencing how you look at parenting. How your parents handled their relationships with you as you grew up can have a huge effect on how you see children and on what raising children means to you. Your parents/guardians/the adults that raised you had a huge impact on how you see the world in general, but definitely on how you view the relationship between parents and kids. They were the 1st relationship you ever had. The 1st people you had to learn how to trust. The relationships you had/have with them influence you on some level. That’s how you can find yourself saying and doing some of the same things your parents did. Like I talked about in the corporal punishment/humiliation series, the decisions/actions of parents can have long term effects on the child even when they grow into adults. Many people are still dealing with the emotional, physical, and psychological effects of their parents’ decisions. Like I said before, you’re making decisions for more than just you the moment you decide you want to raise a child.
How do you see the role of parent? Meaning what purpose do parents have? What do parents do in your opinion? Many people grew up in a household with parents who saw themselves as unquestioned leaders. A “my way or the highway” kind of parent. Parents with this idea of parenting expect compete obedience in exchange for providing you with your basic needs. Other people see the main role of parents as caregivers and caring for the child’s physical and emotional needs is a huge priority for them. Parents need to make personal sacrifices to provide as safe and stable a home and childhood as realistically possible. Also as full time coaches/trainers, parents prepare the child for their future. Much of your job as a parent involves actively preparing your child to be a grown adult and walking the walk so your child has someone to show them the way. Actions speak louder than words here.
How do you see the role of child? What is the purpose of children? More often than not, people see kids as extensions of parents and not as individuals or as adults-in-training. Because most people see children as just another thing they have to do before they die (somewhere after marriage, but before retirement), kids are expected to fit into the world of parents. Especially once children are old enough to walk and speak, they are expected to be seen and not heard because children shouldn’t get in the way of the either parent’s life plans. To say it real blunt: People are generally encouraged to treat their children like accessories to show off their personal achievement in the world. And that’s so much pressure for both parents and their children. All these expectations before your child can even decide what they want to do with their life. Parents are trainers/coaches. A trainer’s job isn’t to live vicariously through their trainee. A coach’s job isn’t to push the athlete into doing something because it makes the coach feel comfortable or because it makes the coach look good. Trainers that only focus on themselves and not on developing the skills and interests of the athletes are trash trainers. Those athletes probably wouldn’t be as prepared as athletes with trainers who got to know them as individuals and trained them how to be the best versions of themselves. How you see the relationship with your child and how you come at the relationship affects how you will treat them, your relationship with them, how they feel about you, and how they feel about themselves and the world. No exaggeration. This 1st relationship is a big deal. If you come at this like your child is a tool to be used or something to show off, that definitely sets a tone. Versus coming at the relationship like you are open to learning about this new person and open to coaching them into adulthood.
Another common role I hear people assign to their children is future home health aide: many people at least claim to have children so “someone will be there to take care of me when I’m old”. Many people want children who will obey them without question without thinking about the long term effects on the parent/child relationship as long as they get a free built-in home health aide when they get sick. Remember what I said in the corporal punishment post? If the only kind of behavior you have modeled for your children is powerful vs powerless, weak vs strong, do what I say no questions asked…what happens when the roles are reversed? I never understood the logic of having children to force them to become caretakers AND not bothering to build a close, honest relationship with them. Again, have you prepared this adult-in-training for the real world? What happens to this now grown adult once you die? And remember, children aren’t young children forever. How do your responsibilities as a parent/trainer change as they get older? Parenting is a full time job that requires a lot of sacrifice. How do you plan on changing to meet these needs? They are the child. You are the parent. This isn’t a “they have to meet me halfway” kind of situation. You have to do most of the work because you are the adult and you are their guardian. If this sounds intense, it’s because it is.
Even Trainers Need Training
I’ve talked about how game-changing therapy and parenting skills classes can be in the Part 2 from the perspective of a counselor assisting people with coming to terms with their own personal feelings, fears, etc. around being a parent. Good parenting skills classes also teach child development so parents can learn how brains grow, what children are physically and psychologically able to do at each stage in their life, and how to speak to children in a way their child brains can understand. Many people, including our parents, were just winging it and didn’t have an understanding of the child human brain. How many times do you see a parent fussing at or yelling at a young child to sit still for an hour or more? Or yelling at them to not ask for something shiny or sweet in the store? Young children can’t do that. They literally not mentally there yet. They don’t even fully understand what they’re being punished for. And remember, shaming/corporal punishment (I wrote about this before: part 1 and part 2 don’t even work and can cause future psychological issues and violent behavior.
Again, a parenting skills course would teach you other ways of child care. And if you think parenting skills classes would be “white people shit” and not sensitive to your specific cultural concerns/issues, look for classes, trainings, and/or books written by licensed, certified, and/or degreed professional therapists, social workers, psychiatrists, researchers, doctors, etc. of color. Check their credentials and make sure their degrees and/or licenses are in the same subject as what they’re teaching you. A degree in business, law, marketing or fine arts doesn’t make the person qualified to talk to you about child development and/or psychology. Also check their work experience. Degrees and licenses are great, but also how much direct experience doing research with or working as a therapist with our communities do these people have? Do they have experience working with people who look and live like you? And what is their reputation in the community? As I’ve said before, raising children and training them on how to be grown is hard work. It’s a full time job and even trainers need support. Trainers need training to do their job right. No one wants a supervisor that just wings it all the time. It sucks that you didn’t receive better, but you can definitely do better.
Thanks for reading. The next post will cover what polyamory is and how to get into polyamory (as a single individual & as people in an ongoing relationship) from the perspective of a relationship counselor.