There is an African saying that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This statement is an enormous truth and a great principle in which to live. There is power in these simple words.
In parenting this same principle applies and it makes a huge difference when both parents are involved in the development of the child, it also makes a huge difference when we as parents support each other as friends and relatives. It is critical for us as parents to encourage each other on our journey of parenthood.
Nothing makes me sadder than when I see young mums competing in the parenting journey. The fathers don’t usually get as wound up in this behaviour although I have seen it from time to time. The whole journey of parenting is huge and can be challenging at times. In this, we need to be there for each other not competing, comparing and judging. I see so many beautiful mothers who are doing an excellent job of parenting, doing their absolute best, trying to get it right. They love their children and want the best for them. However, I see a lot of these same beautiful young mums criticising one another and their parenting skills. This makes me sad. If there are two things we desperately need people to support and encourage us in, I would suggest it is marriage and parenting. We all need to stop and think about how we can help each other rather than criticise others when they may not parent in the same way we do. You never know how you would raise a particular child until that child is yours.
It is all too easy for us to say how we would do things differently if they were our child, however, as my mother would say to me often,” you don’t know what you would do until they are yours and you live with them 24/7.” As parents, we invest everything as we raise our children and if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that we will never get it all right.
It would be wonderful if we could all be assured there was a formula that guarantees us complete success in our parenting. However, we all know this will never happen. I was having a conversation with a beautiful young mum, Debbie Cotugnio today, she has two small boys and one is about to start school next year. Deb has two of the most adorable little fellows; she is doing such a fantastic job, along with her husband Ryan, raising these two gorgeous little boys. They are full of life and very well behaved, and they treat people with respect.
I love it when they come to our home, they are a real delight. Are they perfect? No. Are they gorgeous? Yes. Is Deb parenting perfectly? No. No one does but the boys are thriving and Deb is enjoying her mothering. As Deb and I were chatting and I shared with her what the topic of this blog was, she told me of a conversation she had just the other day with one of her friends. The friend shared with Deb how she was fearing her first child going to school, not because she thought her child couldn’t cope but because she has been told how parents at school criticise other people’s children and parenting so much. This is sad.
Why is it that we watch teenagers and see them criticising each other and tell them how hurtful and destructive this behaviour is and then repeat it as adults when we criticise others’ and their parenting? Where does all the bullying in school come from? Do we need to check our behaviour and see what we are modelling for our children? Do they observe us supporting each other or do they hear us tearing each other apart behind each other backs and sometimes to the face? Why is it that we feel we have the right to tell others how we would handle some children and when did we become the experts? I am not saying we should never give advice; that would be sad because I am a great believer that we all have learned a lot from our experiences and that may be what we have learned can help. However, it is when we are judging and criticising that the hurt and damage is done.
If we are sure we are empowering others to do their best, congratulating them for what they are doing well and helping them AFTER they have confided in us and asked our advice, we are making a constructive, supportive difference for them and the child. It doesn’t have to be done in a way that sounds like we have all the answers, we just need to come along side each other and listen. When the right time comes we can speak generously into each other with respect, wanting the best for each other. Always remember that no matter how well our parenting is going, you/we may very well be the ones who need support and advice in the future. It is always so valuable to have a third persons perspective come into the equation, it just needs to be a positive, helpful perspective rather than criticism.
The art of listening is so important. It’s important to ask ourselves, are we judging and criticising or are we listening and speaking only when asked? Are our responses constructive and supportive? I ask myself the same questions. Let’s deliberately cheer each other on to success and not be ones who pull others down. As young mums, I encourage you to be there for each other, as a grandparent I promise to endeavour to cheer you all on because I believe in motherhood and fatherhood. I know it can be one of the most exciting fulfilling journeys in life. Yes, it is full of challenges, however, together we can make it a beautiful part of our lives and see our great children grow into great adults that make a tremendous contribution to society.
Bless you all. You truly are Champions!