The professional parent vs. the actual parent
Sitting in the classroom patting my swollen belly ripe
with baby, I would often occupy myself with visions of my upcoming blissful
journey through parenthood. My mindís eye would see a healthy, happy and
spotlessly clean child skipping happily beside me as we sailed smoothly
through the ups and downs of childhood. I was after all a professional
parent. Flash forward to eight months later, and my sweet child is sitting
on the floor with this morningís breakfast on his face, eating old onion
skins off the floor. My professors would be so proud.
Through my education, I had worked with countless children and youth with an assortment of different issues. I was always really quick to come to the conclusion that the childís problems were in some way or another fault of the parents. While examining nature vs. nurture, in my mind nurture always won. It was pretty obvious to me at the time that when children act out, it reflected on the mother or fatherís ability to parent. And then I became a parent myself.
As it turns out, a CYW diploma does not equal parenting excellence. Now, I wouldnít say I am lacking immensely in my own parenting ability. In fact, I think Iím doing pretty well. My baby signs to me, he doesnít stay wet or crying and he has an outstanding personality if I do say so myself. However, I have gained a new found empathy for the parents of my clients and those clients that are already parents at a young age. Parenting is hard. I have had a few moments where I would have given almost anything for some respite. I have spent countless hours pacing the floor with an inconsolable infant just wishing the crying would stop. Toddlerhood and talking back are still events far in the future and Iíve already felt challenged.
During these moments, I often reflect on the challenges
some of our clients face. They donít all have the advantage of a partner to
co-parent. They may work 60 hours a week just to pay the rent. They may be
14 or have no one to help them figure out how to parent. They may be living
with an addiction or have mental health issues that add yet another element
of difficulty to an already challenging task of parenting. They may have a
child with special needs. They may have all of those. Some may even have a
Until I became a parent, and lived in those moments, I couldnít fully understand how someone could make certain choices that would harm their child, or that would impact upon a childís healthy development. This is not to condone abusive behaviours, but rather to communicate empathy and to validate that parenting is hard. Our clients and the parents of our clients deserve our compassion and understanding that their journey is challenging. Sometimes the most thoughtful act is to offer a non-judgmental, sincere, empathetic attitude as we work with parents who are struggling during different points of their parenting process. More importantly, letís help them recognize their strengths and to use those during difficult moments.
Although we may have the diploma, it is important to acknowledge that parents are the experts on their children. As Child and Youth Workers we can provide ideas, tools, and education, but ultimately, with the information and support we provide, we must trust that the parents will determine what is best for their child and family. If we can encourage them to see that parenthood is a series of highs and lows with ways to manage the lows, everyone benefits.
Clark, C. The professional parent vs. the actual parent .
Relational Child and Youth Care Practice, Vol.20 Number 2 page 73