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Filtering by Tag: Wisdom

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.


A Glimpse of What It's Like: Being a Parent

Rachel O'Reilly

By Courtney Ward

I’ve been a parent for three+ years now, and the number one thing I’ve learned is how to let go. This stems into so many parts of my "new life" (which is how I refer to being a parent). Nothing is the same as it was before, and that’s a good thing. That said, it took a very long time to accept, to let go of my previous life and any expectations I had of how I would be as a parent. 

At first, I was determined to cling to the life I had by my bare hands; to not be “one of those parents,” who I had seen change so much or become “not cool” anymore. This was an exhausting and unattainable goal. I wish I could go back and be more accepting of myself, and know that making changes was okay and even a positive thing. Over the years, I had watched many people change drastically after they had children. Before I experienced it myself, I couldn't relate, and saw the changes as negative because they didn't align with my life at the time. These people no longer came to parties, had to honor curfews, couldn’t be spontaneous and always had their child with them. It didn’t look fun. If you haven't yet had children, you may hold the same view - which is why I wanted to be a part of Cherish. I want to share what it's like on the other side, and help a future parent who is apprehensive or scared feel a little better.

I have gained so much as a parent, more than I could have ever imagined, but I also lost a part of myself. One of the hardest things to let go of was the ability to be spontaneous. With a child, a simple trip out the door takes twenty minutes (at least), to get everything together. Parenting is truly more than a full-time job. You can no longer do what you want when you want, as small as a notion that may be. Before leaving home, you must ask yourself, “what do I do with my child and is this right for him/her?” Every single time I have considered doing anything, this is my first question.

Unlike many jobs I’ve had in the past, you can’t half-ass parenthood. Parenting makes you step up your game. I’ve been pretty hard on myself in this new phase, setting unreachable expectations, as I am sure most parents do their first couple years. The adjustment and changes are huge and continue to happen, and I’ve questioned myself a lot. Am I working too much? Too little? Is my baby getting enough stimulation? Am I present enough? Am I focusing enough on my marriage? Am I a bad friend? The second-guessing can be endless.

Eventually, I decided to give myself a break. I let these thoughts come and go, and I'm accepting of them. I’ve also decided that I am enough. Those three simple words I repeat to myself have really changed my mindset and my overall well-being. I am enough. What I CAN do is enough. So what if the kitchen isn’t spotless? If the laundry isn’t put away? If I have a little softness around my stomach? This applies to so much. Letting go of the idea that everything has to be perfect and releasing expectations has allowed me to enjoy my daughter, and life in general, much more. 

I’ve also stopped trying to be at every social event, now carefully selecting things that I want to do without feeling guilty about it. Truthfully, I would rather be with my child and do things that make her little face light up and create memories for her that she will in turn cherish. You can’t put a price on the feeling you get when you see your child’s smile when she first discovers that a rose smells so sweet, falls in love with a giraffe at the zoo, or experiences the wind on her face for the first time. I’ve had to sacrifice things I used to love, but it’s worth it. 

I know this phase of my life won’t be forever, and eventually I'll have time for more social gatherings, girl-time, and travel. I miss those things, but I also know that I have to accept the time of life that I am in, trust it and fully embrace it before it passes me by. I finally feel more at peace, and by letting go of my pre-parenthood expectations, I'm able to be a better parent and person. 

Park Life vs. Social Life

Rachel O'Reilly

By Courtney Ward

A funny book I read when I was pregnant was, “Sippy Cups Are Not For Chardonnay," by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor. I am down with a little humor to ease into major life changes, and this book was on point. The book ends with a summary of the different "types" of moms you may encounter at the park, and how to handle them. I remember reading it and thinking, "there’s no way that this is going to happen" (a thought I had several times when I was reading parenting books, but that's another story). For example, "Your baby doesn't need to be making friends at three months old—you do! But not with people you'll meet at Mommy & Me”. It made it sound like I was about to enter junior high school all over again. Yikes!

One of the things I realized as a new mom is how much my multitasking abilities would come into play. A win for transferable skill sets! However, it was a challenge to multitask socializing and taking care of my child, especially while at the park.  

If you are like me, before having a baby you weren’t exactly sitting around on weekends sipping rosé while watching other people's kids fight over the teeter-totter (or let's hope you weren't). But once your baby starts to move around, there is no escaping the park, so you can plan to make it a regular go-to (rosé in the sippy cup optional but not recommended).  

Since going to the park is one of the easiest things to do with your child, why not make it a social event too? Inviting a girlfriend or fellow mom and child along sounds like a great idea - but only in theory. The idea is to "let the kids play while you have an adult conversation." The reality is that, from when your child is a baby up until three and a half years old, you still have to keep your eyes glued to her. From trying to eat the little bark bits to doing her best Peter Pan "I can fly" impression off the high point of the play structure, it is unexpectedly challenging to keep them safe and carry on a meaningful discussion. Too many times I have made the mistake of scheduling a play date at the park and left feeling a bit frazzled and disconnected. The park and play dates in general are more about letting your child explore with supervision. Consider it a bonus if you are able to sneak in a bit of girl time too. 

As far as socializing goes, it is better to meet friends that you do not see that often in the evenings, or times when your child is with another caretaker so you can really listen. It takes a bit more juggling, but it's worth it. For the park, I have found it's best to take my babe solo and embrace that time with her. After all, there are only going to be a few more years where she will need this level of attention from me.

Times when socializing at the park has worked well: Meeting up with friends who have kids that you already know well and see often. The kids are comfortable and there are zero expectations for real conversation between parents. I always leave these situations feeling good.

Times when socializing at the park has NOT worked: Seeing friends you have not caught up with in a while. Inevitably this will be the day your child will want to cry for over an hour because they are “scared of the wind.” True story. 

Lastly, enjoy the parenting perk of re-discovering your surroundings and finding new parks. I recommend choosing one or two parks that are close to your home in case you forget something crucial like a hat for your baby, snacks or an extra set of clothing.

Savor all of your park adventures with your child, because before long they'll be gone, and your true friends will be around for socializing for many years to come!