Parenting and Self-Love: How One Begets the Other

Mid adult woman holding her baby while being kissed by a mid adult manAt what point did you make the decision to pursue parenting? Did you grow up knowing that you wanted children? Did you first consider it during an important romantic relationship? Or have you always known that you didn’t want to be a parent with all of the joys and struggles that the job entails?

As a guidance counselor, I was often surprised to hear elementary school students reveal that they not only wanted children, but they also knew how many children they planned to have. This gave me some insight into their nurturing instincts and into their desires to share the joys of childhood with their future offspring. On the other hand, someone who experienced a difficult childhood, whether from parental abuse, a painful divorce, or otherwise harsh conditions, is less likely to want to raise a family.

The reasons for having children are many and complicated. While some have children without giving it much thought, others struggle through endless in vitro fertilization procedures in an effort to achieve pregnancy. Some simply want to extend the bloodline and to carry on the family name. My father, for example, always wanted a son to carry on his name. After four daughters, my parents quit trying, but the regret is still firmly etched in his mind. The reasons for having children have many cognitive and emotional origins.

What about the effect of parenting on the marriage itself? Studies have reported that having children actually lowers marital happiness, and this is probably due to the inevitable distractions inherent in raising children. To keep a romantic relationship strong, the relationship itself demands ongoing attention. Like a flower that isn’t watered, a relationship will quickly wither from neglect. The first year of marriage can be stressful because couples are adjusting to living together, and the hormonal highs from the endorphins of new love may begin to cool as each partner looks at the other with the thought, “Who is this person I married?” Here, true intimacy has a chance to develop and percolate, though this is also the point at which a child may enter the picture.

Once a child enters the relationship, child rearing takes priority over all else. A parent’s inner mantra becomes, “That’s not how my mother did it. That’s not how we did it in my house,” or perhaps the reverse, “I’ll never do to my kid what my parents did to me.” Thus, the newly christened parents become locked in their corners. They will either want to raise the child exactly the way they were raised, or they’ll endeavor to do the complete opposite of their parents—swearing never to repeat what was said to them. Of course, in the heat of the moment, when the creative part of the brain shuts down, we repeat what we know.

Whether you are engaged in parenting by choice or circumstance, give time and attention to your marriage. Your children will bask in the comfort of the love you generate. In addition, remember that you two are the experts in your family, so develop your expertise by taking some parenting classes or reading books on the topic. Through this process, you will come to realize that all parents struggle. Remember, too, that your children are individuals. No tabula rasa. They are born with their own temperaments and Myers-Briggs types. Be sensitive to their differences.

All kids crave structure. All kids want to know up front what the consequences are and trust that you’ll enforce them. All kids want to be given choices rather than demands. Save the demands for the big stuff. All children want to feel like a part of something larger than themselves, such as a family, and they’ll cherish the family traditions that you create. Remember, you’re making memories. And finally, don’t forget to notice and affirm good behavior and the things that you like about them. Kids misbehave to get attention so be sure to give attention for the good stuff. This way, you’ll see more of it.

When your children are successful and happy, you’ll feel more self-love, because you’ll know you’re contributing to future generations of well-adjusted children and happy adults.

 

© Copyright 2010 by By Teresa L Trower MA LMHC, therapist in Jacksonville, Florida. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 13 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • Hester

    Hester

    July 15th, 2010 at 11:43 AM

    “…or they’ll do the complete opposite of their parents and swear never to repeat what was said to them. Of course, to their dismay, that is exactly what is destined to come out of their mouths because, in the heat of anger, the creative part of the brain shuts down and we repeat what we know.”

    You don’t know how good it feels to hear you say that. I swore I’d be nothing like my mother and yet heard myself sounding just like her when I was angry, which made me even angrier at myself. At last a reason why that happened! Thank you Teresa.

  • jerry

    jerry

    July 15th, 2010 at 12:55 PM

    I would never want to have a child at any point before at least three years of marriage…its just like you’re putting an obstacle in your relationship…only after your relationship has matured can you think of having a child.

  • rose

    rose

    July 15th, 2010 at 4:46 PM

    I’m one of four siblings too, Teresa. Three girls, an eight year gap, and then a boy. I remember feeling very resentful that my dad was so thrilled to have “a son at last!” as he put it. I don’t think he realized how hurtful his comment was. It was the first time I remember in my life feeling I wasn’t what he wanted in a child.

  • Rene P

    Rene P

    July 16th, 2010 at 3:29 AM

    I did have an idea about how it would be to have my own kids when I was growing up.I would think to myself that I would do things like this or like that.But now that I really have my own kids,things are not as I thought they would be.We tend to learn that what we thought was best while growing up may not actually be the best and also maturity plays a big part in this.So you will think more maturely when you are actually a parent compared to when you are growing up.

  • Amy

    Amy

    July 16th, 2010 at 4:16 AM

    Personally there has been nothing that has given me more feelings of self value and worth than what I experienced after having my own child. She brings so much joy and love into my life that sometimes I think my heart will explode. And the thing is I did not have the best childhood- far from the worst but I can’t say that my parents were all lovey dovey. They gave me everytng I needed but we just were not super close. <aybe that is why I was determined to make something differet for my own child. I wanted her to know every step of the way that I am there for her and that she should never have to question whether or not she is important to me or if I love her because I tell her numerous times a day how much I do and that has given us a very strong relationship with one another.

  • mitch

    mitch

    July 16th, 2010 at 3:04 PM

    My sister has said from the time she was about six that she’d never have babies. She didn’t want them. I don’t know why because our parents were good ones. I always thought that was unnatural at that age and could have been because she was first born. When the rest of us came along she wasn’t quite so special anymore. She’ll be 50 this year and never did have a family, choosing to be a career woman instead. There was no medical reason. Her husband was also not interested in having any. I wonder now if she really did know at six she’d never have children.

  • Marylou

    Marylou

    July 16th, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    Some people just shouldn’t be allowed to be parents. The casual, oh I might be pregnant again type, place no emphasis on the importance of raising a child right and planning a family you can afford to care for properly. I have a friend that’s spent thousands trying to get pregnant for twelve years and nothing. I know I’m being illogical…it feels so unfair though. She has so much love to give and every day children are discarded like trash and abused, born to parents that see them as nothing more than an expense.

  • ASmom

    ASmom

    July 16th, 2010 at 5:58 PM

    When I was in my teens, I wanted to have three kids when I was grown. A boy first then a girl, then a boy. It needed to be a boy first because everybody needs a big brother! :) I had a boy and then couldn’t have any more because of complications. That broke my heart until I thought of all the childless women that would love kids who never get to experience the joy of one baby, let alone three. I was blessed and didn’t know it.

  • Douglas

    Douglas

    July 18th, 2010 at 2:40 PM

    Good advice there Teresa! It’s so easy to sweat the small stuff. The more kids you have, the more you realize that you don’t have to. We learn as we go along. Choose your battles wisely, spend more time loving than chastising and most of all enjoy them before they get too big to want to hang out with you in public LOL. :)

  • Maria

    Maria

    July 18th, 2010 at 4:26 PM

    Why get married if you don’t want to have kids? I don’t see why your sister bothered, mitch. That’s the whole point in getting married, to have a family together and raise them to the best of your ability. My kids are my life and I’m PROUD of that! I give them everything I never had.

  • whitney

    whitney

    July 19th, 2010 at 9:47 PM

    And there was me thinking people got married because they were in love, Maria. How naive of me. You don’t HAVE to have kids if you get married. I don’t have any yet and may or may not in the future. I’m married eight years. I sure didn’t do it to be impregnated! We’ve decided to wait until our tenth anniversary then decide. I married for love, not kids. I hope you’re not one of those woman who loses their identity and can talk about nothing but their children.

  • Lauren

    Lauren

    July 19th, 2010 at 11:06 PM

    If you are, Maria, with all due respect: get a life of your own too and fast. I was a real soccer mom and when my very bright children grew up they couldn’t wait to move out and get as far away as possible from me. When they describe their childhood now they use words like cloying, overprotective, suffocating, over scheduled and cloistered. That hurt very much. When I calmed down I could see they were right. I scheduled them for everything and nothing less than being the best was good enough for me. I paraded them in front of friends and family like trophies, made them study all the time and never gave them the freedom to just hang out like normal kids do. Everything had to be educational and not a minute wasted. Fun counted as wasted minutes. They weren’t allowed to go to the mall and they certainly weren’t allowed to mix with kids I felt weren’t on an intellectual par with them.

    I’d taken my own life disappointments and forced what I’d never had and always wanted on my kids. Now we all live thousands of miles apart and rarely get together because they hold these resentments. They are all high achievers but at what cost to our family? When they all left the nest, I didn’t know what to do with myself and sunk into depression. My kids had become my life and I did indeed lose my identity. I didn’t even know what I liked to do anymore. My husband had long ago left me because he didn’t like being last on the list. My friends had drifted away because I was quite frankly a bore. I had no-one and had to begin learning all over again who I was. Don’t make that mistake and lose yourself, or your kids.

  • Teresa Trower

    Teresa Trower

    July 25th, 2010 at 10:22 AM

    As I stated in the article, the stronger the marriage bond, the more secure the children will be. Parenting is, as always, a rewarding, but difficult job.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

 

Advanced Search

Search Our Blog