Parenthood. Is there any other facet of life that so completely fills us with self-doubt?
This fear and uncertainty of being a bad parent weighs especially heavy at the end of a long day, when the quirks in our children warp and expand. Some days, I can actually see the shadow of the life-long therapy I've inflicted on them by doing this whole parenting thing wrong.
My sister - younger than me and happily child-free - recently spent time with some old friends, all brilliant professionals and mothers of young ones.
She called me shortly after, her shock combining with amused disbelief when she told me, "You won't believe this, but they all think they are absolutely failing at this whole motherhood thing."
She's shocked because she knows these ladies. Like us, you and I, they're smart, confident, and generally able to take on anything. She's never seen them bowled over by this level of insecurity.
Of course, I wasn't shocked.
I know how easy it is to fall down the Google rabbit-hole searching for the right way to solve my latest parenting fail - I mean, challenge. I know how tempting it is to give in to the impulse and click on baited headlines like "9 things to stop doing before you ruin your daughter's future" or "6 simple tools to be a better parent, right now !"
All of this worry and guilt is not productive. It saps our energy when we really have none to spare!
Set aside these fears. Walk past the fearful messages.
When people ask me why I work with Doing Good Together™, my answer tumbles out without any thought of an "elevator speech" or a need to "sell it."
I work with DGT™ because the tools and the philosophy behind its nonprofit mission keep my family focused on what's really important. Doing Good Together is at the heart of the way I want to parent.
How can adding kindness to your calendar help you overcome parental self-doubt?
1. It broadens your focus.
When we set aside time each week, once a month, or even a few times a year, to volunteer together, that is time I'm not worried about whether I should enroll the kids in an after-school Mandarin class or send them to Spanish camp in the summer. That is time I'm not negotiating over the number of vegetables they eat. Instead, our focus is broader, our concerns more universal.
We pick a specific project, either through the Big-Hearted Families™ program or from the latest local volunteer listing. One project can provide distraction (and reflection) for weeks. Before we do good, we think about it and read about it. After we go, we talk about it.
2. Service is the essential multi-tasking tool for parents who'd rather be totally present.
Even as you focus on the activity you choose, you are doing good work on many levels.
- You are doing direct good in your community.
- Together, your family is learning about the work you're doing, about the problem you're addressing, and about each other.
- Plus, your are spending joyful family time together, which is something we all wish we could multiply (that's part of the self-doubt right, not enough quality time?).
3. It is empowering.
At the end of a family act of service, even the ones that go off course, I'm always so... happy.
We have accomplish something together. I've spoken with my kids about something I value. We've spent time doing something new (and screen free).
And my kids are empowered. Not every time, and not immediately. But even the projects that went poorly have stuck with them. They bring ideas up months later, ideas I thought they weren't paying attention to. They transform old projects into new ways to help their friends.
Together, we're becoming a team willing to take on anything. And it's not just us, I've seen this in many Big-Hearted Families. Over the years you've shared your stories. You've had their own "this is what it's all about" moments. And that's empowering.
That feeling eclipses self-doubt completely.
4. It can be organic (a.k.a. completely guilt free).
Helping others doesn't have to meaning giving away your one Saturday off or the money you were saving for a much-needed family vacation. It can be as simple as carpooling.
What? You do that already? There you go. Celebrate the good you already do, every day, because you live in a community. Talk about those organic bits of good with your children. Notice them together around the family table. Ask, who did you help today and who helped you.