When you consider all the parenting skills out there, many of them are around your child’s behavior, their development, and/or their health and wellness. These are all important; but what about parenting skills as they pertain to just you – the parent?
As a parent, you have likely experienced a range of emotions about your role, and about your child. Thus, one of the most important (and least talked about) parenting skills is being able to balance both the positive and the negative feelings associated being a parent. And while these feelings are normal, many parents question and judge themselves and their parenting abilities when they arise. At HPA/LiveWell we strive to normalize the experience of the parent and support parents in finding balance and sustaining well-being.
The Emotions of Being a Parent
Becoming a parent changes your whole life. Children can bring a great sense of fulfilment and love to your life, and they can also bring a lot of hardship. No one is born with all the necessary parenting skills, which is likely why parenting can feel so difficult and scary at times. The highs and lows inherent to parenting leave many feeling ambivalent. If you are an ambivalent parent (or have been at some point), then you know how confusing it can be to have conflicting feelings (both positive and negative) towards your child. You may feel immense love for your child(ren), while, at times, really disliking them (or your role as a parent). It may sound strange, but in truth, two seemingly opposing emotional experiences can exist simultaneously; and this simultaneous experience does not make either emotion any less real.
Parenting Skills for Balancing Emotions
Some ambivalent parents attribute their feelings to a loss of personal identity, or a desire for more freedom; some describe urges to run away or move to another country. Regardless of how or why your ambivalent feelings manifest, there is nothing wrong with you. Feeling negative emotions about being a parent does not mean you are a bad parent. In fact, ambivalent parents can care just as deeply about their children as non-ambivalent parents. It might just mean they have yet to gain the parenting skills for managing their emotions. And in reality, these feelings are hugely common. Societal pressure around parenting, and expectations about how a parent “should” feel towards their child likely contribute to why so many parents remain quiet about their experience. The problem does not lie in the negative emotions or ambivalence, yet in the fact that parents try to deny what is going on emotionally. Repressing feelings is unhealthy, and in the case parental ambivalence, can lead to decreased mental health in parents (often contributing to parents with depression and/or anxiety). Thus, having an outlet is vital, whether it be in therapy, a support group, or a trusted friend or family member.
While parental ambivalence is common, it is not necessarily comfortable. But having realistic expectations of yourself can help. This means not expecting yourself to never have another negative feeling about your child or sustain a sense of total love for them 100% of the time; this is highly unlikely. Yet, you may be able to achieve a better sense of emotional stability through focusing on one of the most important parenting skills – striking a balance. Striking a balance between fulfilling yourself as an individual and fulfilling your role as a parent can be difficult. Even five minutes a day of reading your favorite book, or researching a hobby you are interested in starts you on the path to balance. And by continuing to pursue your own development and engage in your own interests, you are not only promoting your own well-being, but also modeling great behavior for your child.
To find out more about developing parenting skills to deal with parental ambivalence or other services provided at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, New York, contact us at 518-218-1181.