Parenting without ego
The other day in a Crossfit gym I saw a poster with a sentence that made me think about raising children: “Leave your ego at the door. (CrossFit) Parenting is humbling to everyone, aim for progression not for perfection. Trying to be perfect and better than everyone will leave you in tears”.
I loved the advice because six years into my journey, I agree that parenting requires you to leave your ego at the door. There seems to be a not-so-secret competition between parents, where we all think that we’re doing a better job than the parent next door. I think that’s healthy, in the sense that nobody knows our child better than us. Our babies are our test subjects, we try all the possible strategies with them, and we finally get that perfect combination of complex algorithms, magic tricks and sticky tape that will work for our child…and only for our child.
But other times our instinct doesn’t work. I find myself again and again knocking my head against a brick wall because I don’t know how to handle my child’s last challenging behaviour. Those times I’m so caught up in the emotion that I cannot see the wood for the trees. It’s then when I leave my ego at the door and I reach for help.
Six years into my parenting journey, I’ve learnt that not all help is helpful.
I was at a social event a while ago and I was joking about Dragon Ryder (6 years old) always ignoring my demands when she’s so agreeable with the teachers at school. In the group there was a Mum who has written a parenting book and quickly replied with a raised eyebrow: “Oh, that doesn’t happen in my house!”.
I instantly decided I would never read her book.
Yes, the comment hurt my ego.
I’m happy that Writer Mum has a discipline system that works. We all pick the battles that matter to us and become experts at them. One of my friends has managed to stick to a no-sugar diet for her family. Another one gets her boys to tidy up their room every night before bed. And I’m determined to deprive my children of mobile phones at least until they’re 20 (wish me luck).
We all excel in some areas of parenting, then we do satisfactory in other areas, and we probably get “raised eyebrows” in a few of them. There’s a high chance we also raised our eyebrows to other Mums, maybe we were aware of it, maybe not.
When I ask for advice, I prefer when it comes from a place of humility and generosity.
I like it when Mums don’t offer black and white suggestions. I like it when they accept that they don’t have all the answers either. When they admit they stumble over the same stone again and again. When they remember that they also wanted to excel and then settled for satisfactory. I like the Mums who will just sit down and listen. If possible, make me laugh. I like listening to those Mums.
Sometimes that’s all I need. A Mum who helps me realize what I already know: that this major parenting crisis will soon be replaced by another bigger one.
I think that parenting advice may be the hardest to give… and to receive. Perhaps because there’s no absolute truth and the truth is absolutely everywhere. Perhaps because leaving the ego at the door is not easy when it comes to our children. But if we all do it, then we can all meet in a room to exchange our humbling experiences and “aim for progression, not for perfection”.
I’m sure our children will thank us for leaving our egos at the door.
Anna is a journalist and a mother of three children under the age of 7, Dragon Ryder, Gecko Princess and Baby Anaconda. She spends most of her week being a stay-out-of-home Mum to tire her three energetic girls while she thinks and writes about the joys and struggles of parenting.