There are often moments where I wish that there was a parenting scorecard, just so I could know how I was doing. I’m not sure what the parenting equivalent of runs batted in is, but I could just see what the scorecard might look like – tantrums managed, playdates arranged, and forgotten lunches. Having such a scorecard would help us know if we are winning or losing at this whole parenting business.
What makes it harder is the amount of noise that is out there about how to parent and which way is the right way and which way is wrong. The bookstores are filled with parenting books and there are plenty of parenting websites for advice sharing. Social media can make us feel like our parenting score is dropping as we look at others humblebrags about their parenting victories. Pinterest with its steady stream of well-groomed kids doing amazing parent planned activities can simply make us feel inadequate.
In her TED Talk, Jennifer Senior, a contributing editor at New York Magazine, notes that “Parent, as a verb, only entered common usage in 1970…We are all now furiously improvising our way through a situation for which there is no script, and if you’re an amazing jazz musician, then improv is great, but for the rest of us, it can kind of feel like a crisis.”
We can’t continue to function as if we are in a crisis, constantly striving for a perfection that is out of reach. Doing so only increases our anxiety as parents. And if you are already worried about your parenting scorecard, you really don’t need your anxiety increased.
The key to reducing our parenting anxiety is to re-envision our goals and values. What do we want for our children? What is important to us? What matters most to us? Is this the same for each of your children? Or does each one need something different?
When Jennifer Senior asked herself this question, she thought that “in our desperate quest to create happy kids, we may be assuming the wrong moral burden. It strikes me as a better goal… to focus on making productive kids and moral kids, and to simply hope that happiness will come to them by virtue of the good that they do and their accomplishments and the love that they feel from us.”
Senior has clearly thought deeply about what is important to her as she raises her children. Our goals and values will differ from each other and that is ok. It means that just because you posted the wonderful birthday party that you threw for your kid seemed fancier or more put together than the one that I did doesn’t diminish me as a parent. If we are keeping score somehow than that parenting scorecard needs to look out our performance in relation to our own performance and not someone else.
Setting these goals is the first step in moving out of parenting in crisis mode and into the world of innovative parenting. Values and goals can ground us. And if you have a sense of where you are going, you can start to move with more intention and create feedback so that you see your “parenting score” improving it.