So I’m A Terrible Parent–What’s Your Excuse? How Societal Norms Prevent Parent’s From Connecting With Each Other

This morning in my inbox, I was greeted with an email from an acquaintance who alluded to the fact that perhaps through social media my kidlet might need some positive influences which should come in the form of another teenager. Oh yes, good idea, that should work! Totally dumbfounded as I have not spoken with this person in months, I moved forward and checked it off as a parent who was in desperate need of emotional support. After all, this parent is also raising a teenage girl and from the looks of it, as a single mother. At the time, I might have been a bit confused, but I was not surprised.

Why was I not surprised? I was not surprised because an unprovoked email leads me to believe this parent is facing intense challenges and feels compelled to place blame on somebody else. How do I know this? I know this because I raised two teenagers and am in the process of raising another. Successfully or not would be a matter of opinion, mine or yours, so let’s not go there.

People are talking

This morning’s event reminded me of an article posted last week in Piedmont Parent magazine, “Support, Not Criticism, Is What’s Needed Among Single Moms.” It was about single moms garnering support from the community instead of criticism while raising their children. This article was in response to an article written by Brittany Wong of the Huffington Post. Wong’s article lists ways in which divorced parents are considered single parents and how some people have their own ideas about who actually qualifies as a single parent. Nevertheless, both articles made me think about the challenges of raising children solo. Clearly, both single mothers and single dad’s have their challenges, so I would not want to come to a conclusion on something for which I know nothing about.

Societal norms

That being said, I would like to take these articles a step further and add “parents of young adults” to them. Both articles discuss single parents, but what about parents who are single or even married, and raising teenagers? I might put them in a category all their own. The above articles show the day to day struggles and sometimes desperation. I don’t think it is mainly because these parents are single, although, that is a big part of it. I think it is because single parents are so overwhelmed, and many communities are not as accepting of the single parent lifestyle; it is difficult to ask for help. Our society as a whole stigmatizes certain groups and single parents are one of them. This is changing now in modern day societies, but the underlying premise is still the same.

Mindless criticism

But what are we really talking about here? Is it really our place to decide who is worthy of emotional support while raising children of any age, in any environment? Are we really going to play semantics as Wong suggests? Of course not! I agree that any parent is in no position to critique another parenting style based on a relationship or lack thereof. The truth is, we simply cannot know the challenges other parents face. We really only know what they want us to know.

All parents

Support for parents should include everyone. If I sound a bit cynical, I am. Anyone who is rearing a child, or has already raised a child, has had their fair share of “what the heck’s.” They might not want to admit it, but I suspect the, “My kid will never do that out in public” club will eventually sing a different tune if they have not already done so.

No difference

This brings me back my to email this morning. Parents of teenagers have challenges and mine aren’t any better or worse than the next guys. As the children get older, the stigma continues, but at different level. I become impervious trying to defend myself so I just don’t do it anymore. The ugliness from other parent’s is exhausting. We’ve all got the same problems with social media, bullying, and homework, but so many parent’s hide behind their ego. They can’t see the big picture. So, instead of judging other parents, we should tell the “naysayers” to get off their high horse. Better yet, invite them for a beer! We should be trading crazy stories and tapping into each others’ ideas for positive behavior solutions.

A cocktail and some free advice from someone with whom I have something in common–I’ll go for that. I’m buying!

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