Monday, January 4, 2010

Parental Insecurity - Where does it come from?

A few weeks ago I posted about the PhD in Parenting blog and included a couple of links that really resonated with me. I organized a response to her statement “I don’t know what it is that makes people so insecure about their own parenting skills” but it's been sitting in draft form because I've been afraid to hit the Publish Now button. I cannot write about parental insecurity without getting personal, and I'm afraid that expressing these kinds of personal details may hurt someone. Finally after much vacillating, I decided to take the risk and hope that, if any offense is taken, it may result in a free and open dialog. So here it is:

My Thoughts on Parental Insecurity

I believe my mother did the best job she could, given her own unique circumstances, and given the information and resources that were available at the time. And I am a little neurotic and screwed up in my own way. Not that I blame my parents for all my damage, nor do I advocate for others to blame all their problems or their own temperament on their parents, but I do believe that how I was parented contributed to how I see myself in the world and may have trained me to react to the world in certain ways that are not necessarily the most constructive. And now I am a mother. And I, too, am determined to do the best I can given my own circumstances, and given the information and resources that are available today. So, I pick and choose the things that my parents did that I think worked, and I make alternative choices based on current research and information where I think either my parents’ choices did not work, or where my parents’ choices may have worked just fine but I believe this other choice will work better.

Despite my best efforts, I’m afraid that I still won’t get it quite right because, you know, I’m not perfect. I fear my maternal imperfection. I fear there will be some need left unmet - some unintentional wrong I will commit that will cause my own children some unforeseeable personal problem. Annie writes that of course it is impossible to be perfect, but I should be confident about my parenting choices. They are, after all, the conclusion of thought and research and deliberation.

People get weird when they live with fear. Forgive the cliché if you will, but this is the most important job I will ever do. We’re not talking about the acquisition of a doll or a puppy here, I chose to force life on an innocent human being and I am responsible for creating an environment in which this human being has a life worth living. What a burden of responsibility! How can I not feel insecure and sometimes overwhelmed by the task I have taken on? How can I know, really KNOW, that the conclusions I reached when I did my research are the correct conclusions? Can I trust my intuition, when the intuition of others often leads them to alternative conclusions? Although I certainly cannot speak for all or even most women, I do not think I am the only mother who feels this way.

Here is another thing to complicate the matter. Annie writes:
Maybe if we were all just more confident in our choices and in our abilities, then we could have normal conversations about the pros and cons of different approaches, about what research says, about success stories and inspirations, without someone feeling judged or getting offended. Obviously, there are unfortunate cases where individuals get attacked for their choices or their actions, but for the most part the so-called Mommy Wars seem to start out as simple discussion about the benefits of one approach over another and then deteriorate into a war because people somehow find a personal attack in between the lines. (Emphasis mine)

Here is where it gets personal for me. I have been personally attacked for my parenting choices and actions. Not in between the lines, but openly and explicitly. I’m not talking about “I think things should be done this way” type of criticism, which isn’t really criticism, it’s just sharing a point of view which can be applied or discarded as appropriate. I’m talking about the You are doing it wrong, you are messing up and your kid is going to be messed up as a direct result kind of criticism. If I were criticized in this way by strangers I probably would not concern myself. But I am criticized by the people dearest to me, by the people whose acceptance I crave most, and whose support I need.

Look, I am always looking for ways to do things better. My parenting philosophy tends to lean more towards the Attachment Parenting end of the spectrum. This is the path on which I have found myself. It is not the mainstream path in the circle I come from. I know, perhaps I need to find a new circle. I’ve been working on that. But although I find new circles in which the parenting philosophy and choices are more similar to mine, I cannot simply cut off the rest of my life, and quite frankly it I don’t think I should. Why should I only associate with people who think like me? What kind of example would I be setting for my child? What would I be teaching him about tolerance and conflict? Why live in a diverse and open society if I want to only associate with people identical to me? I value other opinions and other philosophies and try to keep my mind open in case there is something useful that I could benefit from. Let's face it, as a first time clueless mom I need all the help and tips I can get.

I accept my circle and wish they would accept me. I wish “we could have normal conversations about the pros and cons of different approaches, about what research says, about success stories and inspirations.” Here's the rub though - the sharing of opinions without judgment necessarily requires acceptance of viewpoints that differ from one’s own and the acceptance of others is not something I can control. Nonacceptance, of course, adds to my insecurity as a mother. When a person doesn’t feel accepted in her own clan, she can have no security as a person. Where you have an insecure person, you have an insecure mother.

I am working on changing the way I communicate so that I don’t contribute so much to my son’s insecurity. I am practicing using language to express my feelings and opinions in a frame that implies acceptance of different points of view rather than judgment. I still have a ways to go. I saw an old Sesame Street repeat not too long ago where the theme for the day was practice. Practice and tomorrow I’ll be better than today. Words to live by.

1 comment:

  1. Great post.

    This is so well said: "the sharing of opinions without judgment necessarily requires acceptance of viewpoints that differ from one's own and the acceptance of others is not something I can control."