How Can I Be A Different Parent Than My Parents Were?

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I’m about to have my first child and I’m worried that I won’t be a “Fun” parent.

MOLLY: This came from a reader based in Washington, DC, and she added that she wants to build a “fun, active, creative, easy-going household, not one based on strict discipline and chores.” She also mentioned that she was an only child and didn’t remember “having a lot of good, creative FUN” during her childhood.

Dr. Susan Rutherford (Molly’s Mom):  It’s certainly common to be anxious before having that first child and to wonder about what kind of a parent you’ll be.

This mom feels that her own childhood was lacking in fun experiences because of her disciplinarian parents and now she worries that she’ll need to focus on the responsibility of being a parent and either she won’t have the time to play with her child or she won’t be able to because she didn’t have that role model in her parents.

I have to reassure her that she is now an adult and soon will even be a mother, too. This means that she is free to create her own definition of a household and is not tied to replicating the one her parents envisioned. If she wants to create a fun, active, creative environment for her kids, that is completely within her power to do so.

Awareness is always the first step when you want to change a pattern. If she’s aware of what she did and didn’t like about the way her own parents addressed parenting and running a household, then she can consciously choose what to emulate and what she wants to do differently with her own kids. It can help to talk this through with a spouse or a therapist in order to see things clearly without emotional filters.

As for the execution of her plan, she can enjoy moments of fun and play with the baby even in the beginning when babies take a lot of work. Joining a baby group will help her meet other new mothers and see how they interact with their babies while launching her new parenting model of doing activities together with her child.

MOLLY: It seems like in my world, the dads spend more time simply playing with the kids while the moms are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day grind of chores, meals,  homework…

DR. RUTHERFORD: It’s true that even in our modern society many families still depend on the mother to take care of all the basic necessities while the father comes home and provides play time and entertainment for the child. Parents can work together to change this division of labor by identifying how they can share more of the chores in order to share more of the fun times.

But, this mom can also take everyday tasks and make them fun. For instance, she can make the daily, routine activities such as getting meals ready, bath time, and reading a book together at bedtime, more fun for both her and her child by simply approaching them with a joyful and playful attitude and a smile on her face. Life is as fun and playful as you make it for yourself and those around you.

MOLLY: She did mention that she was an only child and doesn’t remember having a lot of fun because of chores and discipline.

DR. RUTHERFORD: I think she can succeed in creating a different world for her child than she had for herself as a child because she’s so conscious of it. The key is to be conscious of what she wants to create for her family because then she won’t unconsciously repeat the parenting from her own childhood.