Once we become parents — without realizing it — we unconsciously subscribe to certain falsehoods about what it means to be a parent. For many parents these common myths come up time and time again. If we don’t stop to recognize what we’re adhering to, unhealthy patterns begin to show up in the way we parent. We operate from an unconscious place, automatic and reactive in nature. Here are the three most common falsehoods I’ve observed myself and other parents unconsciously subscribe to.
You’re supposed to have all the answers
False. Try approaching each decision resigned to the idea that you don’t have all the answers, nor are you meant to. The minute we recognize this isn’t true our defenses ease, and we begin to listen and observe.
Every time I find myself quick to respond to a problem, I create enough space to pause and ask, “Can I listen and ponder rather than jump into fix-it mode?” Realize your need to solve it resides in your own misbelief that you have to have all the answers. When is the last time you said to your child, I don’t know?
Many parents think: This parent-child relationship is too fragile and crucial to make mistakes. Instead of facing the notion that we got it wrong, it’s easier to defend and justify our bad choices —sweep them under the rug and don’t admit defeat. This cycle is dangerous and will eventually lead to a parent versus child dynamic.
When we accept that we don’t have all the answers it leaves us open to ask for help and consider other points of view. Mothers in particular assume they know their children best and often have difficulty accepting that someone else might have the answer to help solve their child’s dilemma. This thinking can become engrained and calcified, making it difficult to adopt new solutions. Or, to consider the “why” behind a certain event in an objective way.
When we have kids, we’re done growing
This is closely related to the previous falsehood — this idea that learning, stumbling and growing should come to a halt because you bear the responsibility of raising this human. We fall into the assumed role of parent, which deems us to be the one with all the answers.
Consider how your own parents presented themselves to you. My guess is very few parents allowed themselves to be seen as uncertain of their parenting decisions. Many of us likely grew up with a because I said so parent who never put the sword down and admitted defeat. This is likely because our parents grew up in a time when children were seen and not heard.
In both paradigms the parents appear to be self-assured, ready to assume the role of parent and pushing pause on any kind of self-reflection or introspection.
These patterns appear in our own parenting journey because we often model or repeat previous patterns observed. But, can you be confidant, self-assured and fully embrace that you will always be a work in progress? That the parenting experience, more than any other, has the potential to highlight the areas within you that continue to need work? Can we allow the parenting experience to help us recognize patterns in our own behavior and how self-limiting beliefs impact us?
If your mindset is solely focused on growing your child, you will miss opportunities to reflect on these questions. When you continue to grow with your child, you will be able to show up more fully for them and be the parent they need.
You should not be overwhelmed
Mothers especially have adopted this falsehood. As a culture we have normalized busyness, and we revere those who are the most productive. How often have you engaged in a seemingly benign conversation with another mom and both of you express how busy you are? Each of you double down with a schedule that sounds completely unmanageable, only to end with the sage advice, we just have to find balance, that’s the key.
Is it? Or is your never-ending to-do list and everything you have heaped on your plate devoid of balance? The pandemic quickly revealed the cracks in this belief.
Most mothers I work with will tell me, “It’s difficult to say, ‘I’m spent,’ or ‘I’m overwhelmed’ and I’m not sure how to proceed.” We deny the way we feel time and time again to ensure we’ve met the needs of others. This is because most of us witnessed our own mothers who were taught the same lesson. If a woman complained, she was met with an eye roll or written off as weak. How many times have you heard women revered for how much they do?
“She’s a SuperMom, I don’t know how she does it. Four kids and she always looks so put together. She’s just really organized, good for her. She works hard to take care of those kids and you never hear her complain.”
Over time these small statements start to shape the way we perceive ourselves and other mothers. In adopting this thinking, we’ve created one generation after the other of women who keep putting more on their plate, because our value lies in our productivity and how balanced we look to the world.
There’s danger in unconsciously subscribing to falsehoods. If we don’t pinpoint them, they remain truths. They will continue to erode our definition of what it means to be a parent and miss opportunities for continued growth.
Reflecting, but doing so honestly, has the potential to undo these beliefs and point you in a new direction. In an interview with Oprah, clinical psychologist and New York Times best-selling author, Dr. Shefali Tsabari said it perfectly, “Can you accept that you and your children are dancing through this beautiful journey together, but separate?”
Continue to ask questions and do the work, because it will allow you to show up and be the parent your children need you to be. Allowing these falsehoods to go unrecognized leaves us vulnerable to making the same mistakes repeatedly. As author Paulo Coelho said, “When you make a mistake more than once it’s a decision.”