By Lahar Bhatnagar
Too many choices, unsolicited sources of information, increasing dependence on the internet, fall of the joint family, threat of abuse everywhere, mounting academic pressures, everything seems to have made millennial parenting rather stressful! And as a parenting coach, who deals with panicked parents on a daily basis, I can vouch for that.
Which side should you choose – should you be a friend or a parent? What is safe – helicopter or tiger parenting? What is the norm to follow – CBSE schooling or IB board? New age parents deal with umpteen pressures and trepidations every day. Parenting is the biggest power you have ever been bestowed with. And with great power comes great responsibility, as told to you by that Spidey guy! But power and responsibility can be enjoyed and executed without getting stressed. Let’s get rid of the hysteria surrounding modern parenting and simplify it with these five rules of parenting which I have tailormade for today’s new age parents:
If an award was being given out to the era that had the maximum number of helicopter parents, we would win hands down. Remember the last coffee conversation with your bestie where you wondered how your mom and grandmoms brought up so many kids with such ease and you are at your wits end with the one (or two) you have? Well, the answer lies in the parenting styles we are following nowadays. Did our mothers sit with us till each morsel of food was pumped down our foodpipe? NO! Do you think your grandmom knew the syllabus for the upcoming Monday assessment when your father was in Grade III? NO! Do you think a pre-historic Amazon (if there were any) would be selling knee guards to protect the skin of a nine-month-old crawling baby? Oh God, NO! Parents today are way too involved in planning each minute of their child’s life. They are present way too much to protect their little ones from every bruise and scratch. They are way too entangled in showing off every Science Olympiad score their five-year-old has achieved! (Yes, there are Olympiads for five-year-olds now). My advice is, and shall always be, to back off!
The thumb rule is: No reaction, till you’re asked! Don’t jump in to scoop your child off the ground after a tiny fall or get him out of a scuffle with another toddler. Don’t lose patience and help him with a piece of puzzle he is playing with. Don’t jump the gun and show up every day to talk to the school teacher about your child’s progress. Let him/her sort out things on their own. It’s only then s/he will know how to make informed decisions and good choices. Your job is to applause as loud as you can, once your little one has used her head and sorted things out on her own.
Be in touch with the non-mom in you
Parenting can be overwhelming. It can also be exhausting and tiring. And sometimes, before you know it, it becomes all you are left with. Being a parent is a responsibility you have, not your identity. It surely is a huge part of who you are and who you shall always be, but it can’t be the only thing that defines you. Many parents lose touch with who they were or what they liked just in the race to be the best parents and bring up the best kids in the world in a perfect manner. Well, let me break the news to you; you shall make mistakes, some big, some small. Some will affect your child, some won’t. But living with the anxiety of “what if I make a mistake” won’t get you anywhere. It will just make you an over-anxious stressed parent with an equally anxious kid in the house. That’s it. The best way to prevent yourself from turning into Momzilla is to be in touch with the old you. The one that you were before you became a parent. You might have been a writer, a painter, a potter, a cook, a grand hostess, a fashionista, a philosopher, a yogic. Apart from your work and home commitment, remember to fulfill this commitment to yourself and take out 30 minutes to do what you loved to do as a girl. You shall do yourself and your child a great service!
Keep it simple and customised
Apart from the competitions we are enrolling our kids for, there is another silent competition in every neighbourhood. The competition of parenting! If a neighbour’s seven-year-old is going for an English class, I shall also enroll my five-year-old for the same. He will learn how to read English two years before the neighbour’s son will! Me: 1 Neighbour mom: 0. If there is a ballet class in the neighbourhood, I shall also enroll my daughter because ballet is the new cool word. And if the daughter loves painting and doesn’t want to do ballet? Well, enroll her in both! Painting is her hobby and telling everyone that your daughter is doing something cool called ballet is yours.
Parenting should be as simplified as possible. If you are struggling with taking your kids to three different hobby classes, cut it down to just one class. Even better, enroll her for only weekend classes. Trust me, she won’t lose out on any extra edge in her future life if she doesn’t learn ballet at age five! Parenting has no rule book because it is meant to be customised. But most of the times, sadly, I see that parents have not given a thought of what makes their family unique. How shall they then customise their parenting? Think about what you stand for as a family, think about your situation, think about your priorities and ideals and then decide how you want to parent your child. Your child is given to you because you are the most capable person in the world to raise him up. Raise him as you think fit, not how everyone else is doing it.
Build a mental blind spot
Every woman who has ever been pregnant will vouch for the fact that as soon as your belly starts showing you are deemed public property. Every female stranger in the mall feels comfortable to come up and feel your tummy, while passing down some golden anecdotes of parenting. And that is just the beginning. You are going to be at the receiving end of so much advice (both solicited and unsolicited) that your new mom brain might fry before you know it. So before you stop thinking straight for yourself and your kid, build a mental blind spot. You can’t stop the neighbourhood aunt from dishing out her thoughts on mothering to you, but you can simply smile and nod and pretend to listen, while you store everything in a small blind spot in your brain. This blind spot comes especially in handy when remarks on your breast milk not being enough for your baby are being made or the lady who gave birth vaginally tells you how you had it easy with a C-sec.
Just because you can buy it, doesn’t mean you should
I am particularly stoked about how Indian society is becoming economically stronger. We are much better off financially than our parents were. More women are working now than they were during our mother’s times. A lot more moolah is coming to each middle class/upper class home than ever before. The only thing overabundance is not spelling well for is parenting. We tend to start with the excuse that we did not have it as kids, so we want to give a better childhood to our children. Of course, it’s great that now our child doesn’t get allocated amounts of mango, though we had to duel with our siblings because we can now afford buying a kg of mango daily. But it doesn’t end there, does it? Slowly, materialism starts taking the place of time with our kids. Gadgets and toys become scapegoats for coming home late or working on a Sunday.
I am not saying that life as a working parent is easy. Yes, our heart breaks if we have to work on a holiday or miss a performance. But lack of time should be made up with time and not a toy. So just because you can afford it, don’t buy it. Teach your child rationing, budgeting and most importantly, priorities.
(The writer is a neo-parenting expert, author of 100 Ways to be a Stress-free Mom and Raise Happy Kids, blogger and founder, Nirvanama.)