We occupy so many roles, and in each one there are expectations we have of ourselves and others have for us. Many of us work hard to live up to these expectations – to act in a manner that shows others that we are a good parent, a reliable employee and a dependable friend. Yet I wonder, who defines what a “good” parent is, who determines what makes someone a “dependable” friend?
For many of us, the definition used to describe these roles comes from friends, family, and what we hear and see in the media. Everyone has an idea about how to fix what’s “wrong” or how to do “it” better. And though most of these ideas are intended to help, there are times when they serve as an obstacle to being the parent you want to be.
A friend of mine recently told me that she felt her parenting style was similar to that of a “drill sergeant.” She was so consumed with chores, routines and schedules that she felt her role in her family was to give orders. As a result, she feels successful in getting “everything” done yet feels unsuccessful in being present for the needs of her children. She acknowledged that who she has become as a parent does not align with who she wants to be nor does it match the qualities she likes most in herself.
What she and I determined through the conversation was that when her children were young she needed routines and a chore list to keep on top of everything. As a working mom she felt a lot of pressure to balance work and home – and schedules helped her to do that. Yet as her children grew she continued these practices and even increased her expectations of herself. She often compared herself to her friends and tried to mimic their actions. And through all her mimicking and owning of others’ opinions, she lost her own style of parenting. She forgot to parent in a way that matched the best of herself.
I think that what happened to my friend happens to many of us. We go day-to-day living up to the expectations we acquired along the way, but I encourage you to take a moment to stop and think about those expectations. Which ones are coming from your heart? Which ones can you get rid of? It will be easier to be the kind of parent you want to be if you ensure the expectations you have of yourself match who you are.