by Bernadette Healy
It’s just parenting – a few words for any lawyers currently doing the bulk of the parenting at home.
You may have met or are someone who is doing mega-multi-tasking (lawyer plus mother/ father, partner, friend, daughter/son, logistics expert, exerciser and family projects –menu-events organizer. NB if you are a male doing most of this, I hope that you have a son to help ensure the continuation of your skill set – unfortunately still less than commonplace).
If the above sounds like you, it is time to consider re-framing your approach in what is probably the most important part of this workload – parenting. May I suggest that you start by reminding yourself to be a parent in an ‘it’s just parenting’ kind of way. If you are in the law, chances are that you flinch at the advice to approach a job in a ‘just … ’ kind of way. Paradoxically the adoption of the position it’s just parenting can liberate you such that you are more available to share moments with your children in a genuine and engaged way. Such engagement and a letting go of the need to control everything, is what shifts the whole family dynamic away from tension and expectation, to moments of shared experience and appreciation of one another’s individuality.
If your aim is to enjoy a warmer, more relaxed relationship with your children then it is time to let yourself off the hook a little. Children do not need you to be a great parent or even a super-well-informed parent – they need parents who want to be around them; who are curious about the people they are becoming; and who are willing to take responsibility for their own lives. This means being aware of the possibility that issues you have about your parenting are related to unfinished business about how you were parented. Being aware of this possibility, looking out for any evidence and then reflecting on these occurrences is enough to prevent them from taking over your whole experience of parenting. Evidence of unfinished business could include: an out-of-proportion reaction to particular behaviours being displayed by your child – probably at the same age as you were when that particular issue was uppermost for you or your parent; a feeling of intense pressure about aspects of parenting such that your normal ability to laugh or enjoy a situation disappears; or an ever-present and fierce determination to do things differently than she or he did. These kinds of experiences are normal and very common. It will help if you can own them, reflect on them and the potential they have to de-rail you from being the parent you want to be, and chat about them with your partner, or a trusted other. They don’t have to be solved for you to be an ok parent and being an ok parent is enough to produce a happy child and family.
Letting go a little of the need to be right; the drive to create a perfect environment; and particularly any compulsion to control everything, will free up more energy to enjoy your children and the life you are sharing. It’s just parenting after all – a very normal thing to be doing!