Parenting is not a job for those who need instant gratification.
It’s also tough for those who need to know they are doing a good job as they go along.
Success in parenting is not measured the same way we measure success in other parts of our lives. Being a parent is an act of faith. If things are going well, there will be moments of immense reward. But chances are they will be for things you didn’t even know you had done or something you had no control over. Like that warm fuzzy feeling when you watch them sleeping. Or when out of the blue they turn to you and say “I love you.” And you’re thinking, “Where did that come from?”
This time of year can be a hard time for parents and kids. There’s the lack of sunshine, the holidays are over, and it seems like a long slog until the next break. So, I wasn’t surprised to hear our youngest daughter, who’s 22, announce, despite a wonderful Christmas with the whole family in the sunny south, she was feeling a bit blue. What did surprise me was a blog post she wrote to talk about how she was tackling her mid-winter blues. She talked about reaching out to her family for advice and included in her list of five awesome things she does to beat the blues, this: “When I was younger and in a really bad mood my mom used to make me stare at myself in the mirror until I broke into a smile … we laugh about it today, but I still use this trick!”
Wow, that made my day! She remembered. It worked. Talk about a parental reward.
Now don’t get me wrong, my husband and I are very proud of our four children. We are their biggest fans and are constantly in awe of what remarkable adults they have become. But, we have also been careful not to take all the credit for their success, just as we are not going to take all the blame when they don’t succeed. We had a role to play in who they have become. But, our primary role is to love them, unconditionally. That kind of love doesn’t expect praise or guilt, although we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t indulge in a little of both.
So my advice to parents, stop being so hard on yourselves. You’re doing a good job, so stop beating yourselves up. If you love your kids, they know it, but there will be a lot of days you’ll have to take this on faith. And on those days when you’re feeling blue, go look at yourself in the mirror until you smile – you’ll feel better!
Jo-Ann Roberts is an award-winning, veteran journalist who is host of CBC Radio’s All Points West, 3-6 pm weekday afternoons, 90.5 fm. Married to Ken Kelly, they have four children.