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What Defines a Successful Parent?

Rachel O'Reilly

By Courtney Ward

Last week, I was trying to come up with a post to write about. In a group text with some of my closest friends I threw this out:

“How do you define being a successful parent?”

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself since I found out I was pregnant. When it comes to being a parent, there’s no analytical measure of success. If there is, please send it to me immediately. In sports, school or work, there are tangible, achievable goals and rewards, and most of the time you know where you stand - so it's understandably hard to not have the same measure of success for this major part of our lives.

I wanted to tackle my new role with the goal of doing the absolute best I could and be successful. First, I had to determine what that success would be. While there may never be a “right” answer to this question, here are some useful insights via text from other parents in the biz and one wise as hell non-parent who made the cut.

Taking me very seriously, my sister-in-law replied, 

“Not raising a little a-hole.”

I replied, “Not leaving your baby in the car seat on top of the car when you drive away” (one of the many irrational fears and nightmares I have had).

Once we had a little banter and a lot of emojis, we were able to peel some layers off this onion…

“Giving your child what they need (emotionally and financially) and also maintaining a sense of self and an identity for yourself.”

“Someone who helps their child unlock their true potential and hidden talents.”

“I think a successful parent is available, helpful and a good listener. Someone who can remember that their child is a human being who is learning. A successful parent recognizes that kids don't typically do "bad" things on purpose. They are figuring themselves out. And we should let them do that without much judgement. Being a guide.”

“Someone who loves their kids.”

“You have to validate your own feelings internally knowing that you’ve raised an empathetic, loving and contributing member of the human race.”

In between US Weekly's and Instagram, I’m also reading a real book, “Your Three-Year-Old Friend or Enemy” by Louise Bates Ames, PH. D., and Frances L. ILG, M.D. This paragraph stuck with me,

“The more clearly you recognize your own child’s basic personality characteristics, and the more fully you respect them, the more effective you will be in helping him to become the kind of person you want him to be. It is a goal of many students of human behavior - a goal at present far from realization - that, first of all, parents might understand that their own child’s personality well enough to provide the ideal environment for him as he is growing up. And second, that the parents might help each growing child to understand his own individuality well enough so that, when he becomes an adult, he will understand himself.”

For me, being a successful parent is making my daughter my first priority, something I also want to discuss more of in a future post.

I plan to continue the quest for advice on this, not necessarily for answers, but because I think it is a conversation we should be having as modern parents. The more I think about it, why even judge ourselves? It really isn’t about winning or appearing to have it all together, it’s about the journey of becoming a parent and raising and loving another human being. It’s about knowing at the end of every single day, we did our damn best. Because we are good enough and we CAN create our own rules along the way.