On Wednesday I wrote about some of the fears I have about being a parent, but I needed a whole separate post to address my biggest fear.
Others probably vocalize it as, “will I be a good mom?” But I don’t feel like that question gets to the core of my fear. I know that maternal instinct will kick in. In Fact, it already has. I treat my cat like my child. I eat well because I’m motivated to have a healthy baby who is accustomed to vegetables and whole grains. I know that I will respond to cries and be on the look out for hazards.
What I’m more concerned about is my child’s emotional health. It seems like such an elusive thing to monitor. I said to my therapist months ago, “what if my kid is sitting in therapy in 20 or 30 years talking about these kinds of things just like I am now?”
She tried to calm my fear by pointing out that the fact that I’m in therapy shows my willingness to work on these things. That I think about the problems I have and try to solve them. It was encouraging. I do know that one tends to be more successful at something if she works at it, but I still feel as though mental health is so confusing.
I still present my doctor with situations I feel I can’t handle and she gives suggestions that sound so simple. “Why couldn’t I think of that on my own?” I ask. The answer is that it will probably come with practice, but what if it doesn’t? What if we work on all sorts of scenarios, but never get to the one scenario that I run into with my kids and I screw up really badly? What if I yell? What if I say mean things? What if I get exhausted by being a parent?
My doctor has addressed this too. She has pointed out that it’s ok to make mistakes and that I can turn them into learning opportunities. I can apologize for getting upset and explain that I need to take care of myself to manage stress. I can then show my kid the things I do to calm down and feel better. In that way I can teach healthy coping habits like working out the problem and assertively acting towards a solution, or calming myself with a hot bath, a brisk walk, listening to good music, asking for a hug, etc.
But I still have a hard time acting on these better coping habits myself. I still bring my problems to a therapist to have her help me so I’m afraid that I will be inconsistent. This concerns me because we talked recently about how inconsistency in parents’ behavior can be worse than not practicing the good habits in the first place. The child of inconsistent parents does not trust that he or she can rely on the parent and then pulls away as a coping mechanism even when the parent is supportive.
I suppose I can always continue with the therapy and through that teach him or her the importance of seeking help when needed and problem solving. I can talk to him or her later if I realize I’ve made a mistake, but I’m just not sure what affect that would have on a kid. It still feels so complex.
Do you feel there is something your parents did that especially helped you develop emotionally? Was there anything they did that you feel contributed to a healthy confidence and self-esteem?