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Friday, January 25, 2013

Remaining True to Yourself While Parenting

APBC - Authentic Parenting Welcome to the January 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Authenticity. 
This month our writers have explored "authenticity", what does it mean in our homes, how do we establish it, what pushes us away from being authentic? Read on to the bottom of the post to find the other participants posts. 
APBC is hosted by Living Peacefully With Children and Authentic ParentingFind out how to participate in next edition of APBC.


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Many parents experience some sort of loss of the self while parenting. It is true that having a child is a life changing event, suddenly, you're responsible for another human being's wellbeing 24/7. Your life will be legitimately turned upside down and many things will change.

Some women fight this loss of self by refusing to breastfeed, or to stay at home with their child, or to care for them at all.

But should we lose ourselves in order to be (good) parents?

If we look at more traditional cultures, like here in Africa, having a child does not mean the loss of self. Quite on the contrary. Having a child in Africa - as far as I can attest - means an enrichment of life and also a continuation of life, in various senses.
In the obvious sense that when you die, something of you remains on this planet, but also in the sense that when you grow dependent, you will have someone to care for you. But most ardently: life goes on pretty much the way it was before after you've had a child (not counting the postpartum period, because in most of Africa, this is really respected).

What's the big difference here?
Image source
 Obviously, in Africa, parents parent within the greater community, and not next to it as we do in the West. There are closer family ties and childcare is a community thing. In rural Africa, it's also normal to have your child with you at all times, which means while you're working too... These are things we have lost in Europe and we have replaced it with something else altogether:
Child-centeredness of parenting - For since we cannot spend every waking hour with our child, we must at least make the most of the moments we have. We must sit with them and play with them and read them stories.

I might get a few rotten tomatoes for saying this, but child-centered parenting is at the source ofd many parenting frustrations in the West, such as tantrums and bad sleeping habits. In this way of parenting, life indeed stops when it is time to become a parent.
We try to cater to our child's every need, want and desire. (well, attached parents often do - we won't go into how paradoxical mainstream parenting tries to ignore needs, but does cater to wants).
But children thrive when they get to live with an active parent, who tends to him/herself too and who doesn't dissolve him or herself because of them. Who follows passions and keeps busy. Who feels ands speaks their emotions (in a non-violent manner).

So how does one go about parenting a child and remaining true to oneself?

  • ensure a safe environment for your child to roam free
  • Trust your child and stop hovering and fretting
  • Make room for your child in your life, not the other way around
  • follow your passions
  • be active
  • take care of yourself
  • try building a community of care
  • stop your fatalistic thinking: yes you can do anything with kids, it just requires sound judgement and a bit more planning
Have you struggled with the feeling of losing yourself? How did you turn it around?


This post has been added to the Tuesday Baby Linkup

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Thank you for visiting the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully With Children. Check out the exciting posts our other participants have for you.

  • Remaining True To Yourself While Parenting - Authentic Parenting tests Western Child centered parenting to African parenting and discovers some ways to maintain your authenticity. 
  • Honoring My Forgiving Heart - Destany at They Are All of Me writes about how honoring her forgiving nature allows her to break down emotional barriers and allow her to more fully connect with her children.
  • Sincere and Credible - Mari from Honey on the Bum uses the definition of authenticity to relate what it means to her and her parenting style
  • Being Authentic - Mrs Green at Little Green Blog ponders how to achieve authenticity when there are cultural, community and family expectations to take into account...
  • Authenticity - Sustainablemom writes how her values have been shaped through life and are now the basis of how she parents her own children.
  • Authenticity through Consensual Living - Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children challenges parents to push past socially learned reactions in order to foster authentic interactions with their children.
  • Authenticity Through Emotions - Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her belief that being a truly authentic parent means allowing and supporting both her daughter’s emotions and her expression of them but also her (Jennifer's) own emotions.
  • Authentic Grief - Erica @ ChildOrganics talks about not shielding our children from the topic of death and dying. She shares how being open and honest on the topic can help our children grow to be healthy well adjusted adults.



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10 comments:

  1. I love this post. It explains very well the difference between a parent whose priority is her/his child(ren) and a parent whose life revolves only around the child(ren). Although my children are my priority, my life still goes on. Of course, a small tiny newborn is very demanding, and a school-aged child is a lot more autonomous, and that makes a difference, too. I put some things on hold, like running, which I took up again only when my last baby was 1 yo (not wanting to jeopardise breastmilk production before that). And I took up running again, with a stroller and my 1 yo baby :-)

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    1. If you look at more traditional societies, the postpartum period is always very respected. Mothers 'emerge' from it rejuvenated and receive close continuing support throughout early infancy. So even that period is lighter and less self-losing.
      In the Congo, it was tradition that after 4 months, the father would take the child on regular outings, because at 4 (or 6 if they live in the city) months, the baby's immune system is stronger, and it gives the mother time to do something for herself after a long period of closeness.

      Ever since I've had the 'aha' moment about child centeredness, I have remarked that on times where everyone is doing their own thing and we tend to each other's needs, then everyone is more relaxed too

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  2. There is so much food for thought here! I am particularly interested in cultures that remain closer to the human's natural intuitive way of being.
    I know so many parents who view their duties as a punishment and how they have to "give up" so much for their children. But you're so spot on that when you include your children IN the things which you enjoy, you're adapting them - not giving them up at all. The honest exception is party nights in clubs, but hey - the adaptive parent can find a way to get that once in a while as well.

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    1. personally, partying late night is something that's been eradicated from my life, for numerous reasons, I don't drink, I'm not really interested in it and I don't want to pay the price the next day!
      We do have some get-togethers at people's houses that run past midnight, but the kids attend with us and just get put in bed when they are sleepy. But clubs... not for me

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  3. I feel like I'm losing myself because I have an EXTREMELY clingy child...she was held 24/7 for the first three months of life besides diaper changes because she would freak out otherwise. No joke. She's a little over a year now and it's a bit easier, but she's still pretty clingy and it's still really hard to get to have the time alone that I need. I have back issues so babywearing isn't really practical besides perhaps a back carrier which costs $$ that I don't have. So yes, often I feel stuck.

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    1. my first is also a child who needs a lot of closeness. I think it's a longing she has from being induced at a time where she wasn't ready.

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  4. Personally, I have grown so much since becoming a parent. I think your post exemplifies why consensual living works so well for us. Our family is working together. It isn't child centered and it isn't parent centered. Everyone's needs are met.

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  5. I think you are spot on in the post! I am guilty of loosing a bit of myself when I became a mother. I gave up my passions to be fully present for my daughter. However, as she has grown, I have learned that it is far more valuable for her to see me as a full person and not just as her doting mother. There is a huge difference between being an AP parenting and being an overattached parent.

    I think a huge issue is the lack of a village of support for mothers in the west. We are often isolated or alone without family or even like-minded friends with whom we can collectively raise children. Despite having my parents close by, I still parent in a vacuum. We have to change the mindset of what child rearing really is before woman will stop loosing themselves to motherhood. We have to come together in support of one another. But sadly, I do not see this happening in the west. I only see the isolation getting worse.

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  6. I enjoyed this post. In Mexico, it is common to have your children with you while you work. Unfortunately, most children are sitting in the store watching TV, instead of doing something productive. My son has always been my assistant in whatever work he accompanies me with and we both have enjoyed our time together. Childhood passes so fast.

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  7. I really enjoyed this post. I have always tried to strive to not be a parent who is child centred. We do many things as a family which we did before we had children and I love it all the more for this. As they get older we can be more adventurous as their skills grow. I do not feel that there has been much, if anything that I have truly given up doing since having children except perhaps having to be realistic about the amount of time there is in a day and make sure that I do not over fill it sometimes.

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