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Wednesday
Jan212009

Inspiring Change

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what my goal is with this blog. When I started the blog back in May and wrote my About This Blog page this is what I said:

I’m working on my proverbial PhD in Parenting. As someone that has spent a lot of years in a classroom, I learned that sometimes I need to take notes and explain things to others before I can truly master them. I spend a lot of time thinking about and reading about things that will help me to be a better parent, so I decided to start writing about it to with the hopes that more of it will sink in.



Maybe my blog will help others along the way too. Perhaps someone else that is struggling with an issue will read something I wrote and take something away from it. Maybe my husband will read the book reviews since I can’t convince him to read the books. Maybe family and friends will read it and get a better understanding for why we parent the way that we do. Maybe no one will read it, in which case it will just act as my own study guide.



But then people did start reading. Some of them liked what I had to say and some didn’t. Among those that don’t like what I have to say, a lot of them have taken offense, saying that they are a good enough parent and that I should get off my high horse. People have said that it is not healthy for parents to expect too much of themselves and that it is impossible to be a perfect parent.

That last part I would agree with. Parents should not bite off more than they can chew. They should not beat themselves over the things that they cannot do. But I also don’t think it is appropriate for us to be complacent and to just accept that good enough is good enough. There are plenty of blogs and discussion boards out there where moms will pat each other on the back and say that there really aren’t better and worse ways to parent, just different ways and they are all good enough.

Do you really think you are a good enough parent?

I know I don’t. It doesn’t mean that I spend time beating myself up over past mistakes or fretting over what I should have said or should have done in a situation that didn’t turn out the way I hoped it would. I have made mistakes. Some of them because I didn’t know any better. Some of them because I couldn’t do any better. Some of them because I just plain screwed up.

I do want to be a better parent.

I don’t dwell on the past. I don’t get offended if I read somewhere about a different way of doing things that is perhaps better than what I did. I don’t feel the need to justify over and over again why I did what I did or why I just couldn’t do it differently. Instead I plan for tomorrow. I read. I read scientific articles and studies highlighting the most recent research on the science of parenting. I read blogs of like minded bloggers looking for inspiration and new ways of doing things that are in line with my parenting philosophy. I read blogs of people who parent differently than I do, to attempt to understand their point of view, although more often it strengthens my resolve to do things the way that I do. Here on my blog, I share some of the things I read. I share the things that interested me and that inspired me to be a better parent. I share my thoughts on the art and science of parenting.

So what does that have to do with the purpose of this blog?

My thoughts on what I want this blog to be are evolving. Everything I said when I started still stands. But it has become more than that too. I believe in choice and I think that parents have the right to choose how they want to parent their children. But I also think that the levels of depression, obesity, violence, addictions, poverty and stress in our society demonstrate that we have a lot of improvements to make and a lot of room for societal change. Change can be facilitated by leadership from the top and a lot of people are counting on Obama to provide that leadership. But change also needs to come from the bottom up. Each and every one of us has an opportunity and a responsibility to ensure that our children lead better lives and become better people than we are.

We need to find a balance between the rights of individuals to choose and the need for broader societal change and improvement. So what I want to do on this blog is to advocate for and inspire that change by sharing research, experiences, stories and other resources that will help you become the type of parent you want to be. I also want to use this blog as a venue to advocate for political and societal changes that give parents and children more opportunities to be their best.

Goodness that sounds arrogant, doesn’t it?

But that is just it. It isn’t about being arrogant or pretending that I’m better than anyone else. It isn’t about me trying to be perfect or telling you that you need to be perfect. It is about me searching for a better path and new ways of doing things that will produce a better result and sharing them with you. I don’t always find the right words to express that (I’m not perfect you know!) and perhaps that is why some get offended along the way. So I’ll keep searching. Searching for ideas to share and searching for the right words with which to share them. I’ll keep listening too. Listening to the ideas that you share via the comments or through related posts on your blog (a link back to my post is a guaranteed way to get me to read yours!).

I hope you’ll join me on my journey to become a better parent and a better blogger and I hope you’ll invite others to come along too.

What do you think?
« No need to hide | Main | Another academic weighs in on CIO »

Reader Comments (33)

I am new to your blog. I think your a great blogger. Everyone can improve but out of the large number of blogs I read daily this is one of the better ones. Keep it up! I love how you express your self despite what others may think or how it may come across.

January 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChase Conway

Today is one of those days when I feel like a not very good parent. But no matter how my day goes, I am always striving to be the best parent I can be. And I am often on the lookout for perspectives from blogs like yours to help me out. Thank you so much for this blog. It is a great resource that I share with my friends frequently!

January 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjane

I am also of the philosophy that most of the time, you can do it better. I also get some responses from parents who seem upset with my approach to eating healthier during pregnancy and feeding their children healthier food. They think I am "out there." Sometimes I think those comments are out of guilt...But I do feel bad if I have inspired guilt because that is not a good way to parent either. All I hope for is that moms raise their kids to the best they can (and that's different for everyone) and to not have any regrets.

January 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeyondPrenatals

I haven't met the mythical "perfect parent" yet - I'm certainly not one. But parents should think about their decisions, and consider the example they set for their kids by their behaviour. We all make mistakes - we sometimes make the same ones over and over again. But if we are conscious of our behaviour, we can improve. That's what your blog promotes. Even if people disagree with what you've written, hopefully they're thinking about it!

January 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFamily Anatomy

@BeyondPrenatals
I think a small amount of guilt is good. Enough guilt to inspire you to do better! But regrets are not all that useful.

January 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

@jane @Chase @Family Anatomy Thank you for your comments and encouragement!

January 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

You asked, "do you really think you are a good enough parent" and I think the people who would find fault with your blog and the kinds of things you might post here actually DO. I see the look in the eyes of the couples I meet (I have had more that 5000 couples come through my prenatal classes over the last 10 years). I ask them what they worry about. Many, though certainly not all, indicate that they worry they will be good parents. THOSE are the parents that I *don't* worry about. If they are worried then they will read. They will listen. They will question. They will seek. They will make mistakes and learn from them. More than that though, they will love. They will love with their whole hearts. They will see their children as part of their family to be connected to and sharing an experience with, not to be dominant over.
You have insightful posts and I thank you for taking the time to share them. Your children are still quite young. I am interested to see how they help shape your vision of the future as they grow and you mutually mature as a family.
It is a great journey and a fantastic gig!
Thanks again.

January 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterbabyREADY

I check your blog everyday, and have forwarded links of particular posts many times to my husband and friends. You are doing a good job, and you encourage me because I feel like an island of AP parenting alone in my area, surrounded by gallons of formula, babies scarred from CIO, and people spanking right in front of me. Thank you for that, and keep up the good work. Oh, and my hubby does not read the parenting books either.

January 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHey You

I truly enjoy your blog and look forward to your posts. I too like to research the science behind the parenting assumptions our society embraces. I love the studies and I am like you...the more I research the more I feel I should advocate for change. Mainly the change being more education for all parents about these issues and more understanding that not all will choose the same path.

January 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

My grandmother always said that the "babies haven't read the manual" -- and I try to keep this in mind in my journey as a parent... I do read - at times a lot more than other times - about the science of parenting - I appreciate the fact that there IS information out there that is available if needed/wanted -- and I appreciate blogs like these who have intelligent moms backing intelligent thoughts.... but I try to remind myself that to parent MY children -- the best thing that I can do is LISTEN to them, specifically... (for me!) And that's why I blog of happy mama things and not deep parenting theories... :)

And on the topic of 'are you a good enough parent' -- personally, I know that I will NEVER be able to answer that kind of question since it's become quite clear to me that parenting needs room for growth and change... My parenting evolves, my children evolve, times change, more children may or may not be added to the family dynamic, as examples.... every single day is different than the previous -- and my goal is to be the best parent I can be at all times... the best of MYSELF. Perfect? Goodness no. Always succesful? no -- i'm HUMAN. But i'm of the strong mindset that 'when you know better, you do better' -- and so if I didn't allow myself constant growth as a parent -- then I would become complacent. For me, the decision to have children was a promise to myself to *never* become complacent. We owe our families & society so much more than that.

And since the topic of this post was a lot about your blog -- i thought i'd add that i like your blog -- and often wish I had more time to soak it in and reply... but most days you've got me nodding along, agreeing :)

January 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnnie@Imagination

I love your blog, because you do an excellent job of defending my positions on many things, so I don't have to write a research paper every time someone asks me a question about my parenting style. I just send them to you :)
You know, on my blog I tend to be flip and I try to be funny; sometimes I succeed. And I do make statements about 'doing what is right for your family.' But there is a subtext there - that doing what is right for your family implies learning, being flexible, treating your children with compassion and respect.
Often I am too sensitive to what people say to me to be up front about my non-mainstream ideas. I am so grateful that you are bold enough to say it for us, and to be a resource for those who don't yet know their way through this difficult (amazing!) journey.
p.s. sorry for the super long comment!

January 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

@babyready
@Hey You
@Amy
@Annie
@Jennifer

Thank you all for your comments and encouragement. It means a lot to me!

January 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

We are all works in progress, I completely agree! You put a lot of thought, time, and energy into this blog - I love what you've done, how it's evolved, and I have enjoyed getting to know you better as you expand on thoughts that maybe only come up in passing on the boards.

January 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

It's already been explained to you, Annie, that the concept of "Good Enough Parenting" a la its originator (Winnicott) doesn't mean that one rests on one's parenting laurels. It has to do with the fact that parent and child are different human beings and the parent (usually the mother) can't possibly anticipate or respond adequately to every need or want of the child - no matter how attentively they parent or how many "Baby Bs" they try too perform. Which is, ultimately, a good thing - because the frustrations the baby/child experiences ultimately provide space for the child's personal growth. Additionally, attempting to be the "perfect parent" (as one sometimes sees AP/NPers doing, but not only they) can actually be intrusive to the child and even inhibit development.

The problem with your approach, though, is that you've decided a priori that a certain type of parenting is the right one - for everyone. Hence, you tend to believe self-appointed 'experts' and 'academics' all too much (w/o realizing the lack of good, hard science behind their far-reaching claims). Which is sad, but no different than many other credulous, crunchy mommybloggers out there (like one of your commenters above, who is soooo sad she lives in an area with "surrounded by gallons of formula, babies scarred from CIO, and people spanking right in front of me.". Because she knows that these children are indeed "scarred" and will end up lesser beings that her Perfect APed child. NOT). But when you go to other go to other people's websites and blogs with the bad science and try to dissuade them to abandon their cruel CIO/Non-AP/ whatever ways because you have "scientific proof" your way is better?

Am I a good enough parent in the sense that you mean? I certainly try - sometimes we (my husband and I) are better, sometimes worse. I think that question is best left for my children to answer in some 20 years, preferably once they are parents themselves. I'm sure that, like my husband (who was raised by the perfect parents and even breastfed!) or me (let's just say I had a somewhat atypical upbringing)...they'll have some complaints. As will yours, no doubt :) .

January 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEstherar

@Estherar

I do believe that gentle, empathetic and respectful parenting is the best type of parenting. However, there are many different tools and techniques that can be used to achieve that. It doesn't have to be Dr. Sears' B's, but many parents do find those to be useful tools for getting off on the right foot with an infant. On my blog, I would like to present evidence that gentle, empathetic and respectful parenting is the best. Where appropriate, I will refute mainstream parenting myths (e.g. that you must teach a baby to sleep or they will never learn to sleep) or demonstrate where some mainstream approaches could be dangerous (e.g. my recent post highlighting Macall Gordon's work comparing CIO recommendations in infant sleep books with actual research on CIO).

However, when I present ideas about parenting tools or techniques that I like, I do it for those that feel they can benefit from it or that would like to incorporate those ideas into their parenting. I don't do it because I believe that is the only way to parent. People are free to take what works for them and leave the rest.

January 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

It's certainly no myth that many babies take longer than most parents would wish (most parents with jobs and other children to be accommodated, that is) to sleep for stretches. Of course babies learn to sleep; the question is when (night vs. day) and with what associations. Nor are Macall Gordon's poster and website (which I've known about for a while, and sort of alluded to in http://mainstreamparenting.wordpress.com/2008/10/22/yet-another-cio-study-which-shows-no-deleterious-effects-on-infants/" rel="nofollow">this post ) any indication that CIO might be dangerous.

I suppose a blogpost about this is in order...except the damn .pdf file of the poster keeps on crashing my browser.

January 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEstherar

i honor your striving for change. it is a fantastic energy to bring with you to your blog. i also think the gift of your blog is providing more virtual support for other parents who have similar goals and styles and who do not feel a lot of support in their day to lives. the difference is that your goal for change is not to "bring down" or bash other ways of doing things but to support and bring light to certain parenting practices that you believe in. or that is what i am hearing you say. there is enough hate in the world without parents ganging up on each other. which isn't to say we all have to agree but we can at least disagree peacefully and without name calling.

i digress, but that is because i am commenting before drinking my coffee which is always a bad idea.

January 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrobin

@Estherar

I prefer to take a cautionary approach when it comes to CIO. Unless it can be proven that it is safe, I will assume there is a chance of harm and extrapolate plausible findings from related research to explain why. This is the same approach that smart regulators make when trying to decide whether to approve a chemical, drug, product, etc. If it can't be proven that it IS safe, then it doesn't get approved.

What Macall Gordon did show is that supposed "sleep experts" are recommending CIO with very young babies, but the studies that purport to demonstrate that CIO is safe did not look at infants or did not seperate infants from older babies in their results and also only looked at a very small number of factors in determining its effectiveness/safety (not assessing the physiological or psychological effects).

As I said in http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/01/15/another-academic-weighs-in-on-cio/" rel="nofollow">my post on Macall's work:

Until that research is done, we cannot assume that cry it out is safe and my personal fall back position is that the research that does exist on the detrimental effects of prolonged crying (yes, cry it out is sometimes prolonged) along with my mommy instincts is enough reason for me to avoid cry it out with my kids.

You have come to a different conclusion obviously, but it isn't a very convincing one IMO.

January 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Annie - you have a fantastic blog! I look forward to reading your posts and I find every one to be extremely well written and thoughtful. I agree with the previous commenter in that I often feel like an AP island in the middle of a big ocean of mainstream parenting. My husband, parents, in-laws and many friends are part of that ocean and I often look to your posts to back up my positions since you have an amazing way of summarizing information and presenting it in a way that is really understandable and accessible. THANK YOU!!!

January 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSheryl

@Elizabeth @Robin @Sheryl - Thank you three so much!

January 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

[...] connected with and to learn more about getting the most out of my blogging experience. I hope to inspire more change, to discover more resources to help me be a better parent, and find new and interesting things to [...]

So I am surprised. I really enjoy your blog and I feel I do strive to be a good/better parent, but I know that I and my husband ARE doing enough. No such thing as perfect and I feel that the attitude that one shouldn't be a "good enough" parent is ridiculous. Even if we are using terms differently. I actually just had a Facebook conversation with my Rabbi about this (she adopted 3 foster siblings yesterday, to join her and her DP's other adopted son). Life needs to be lived as well as ruminated and researched. It is all about moderation.

June 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSylva

@Sylva: I think this may be an issue of semantics, rather than an issue of us disagreeing. I know that I do enough each day. That doesn't mean that I can't do better the next day. Doing better, doesn't necessarily mean doing more. You said that you strive to be a better parent. That is all I am doing. And I'm doing it by living, ruminating, researching, observing, listening, sitting back, reflecting, screwing up, trying again, etc.

June 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I am not a good enough parent. There are many times where I have taken the easy way out when life gets way too hectic and I need a time out..... time to cope. I have not always been consistent. I think that this is true of many parents. BUT..... I do want to do right for my kids. I do want to encourage them, teach them, to offer them life experiences and give them confidence to go on. As a former teacher myself, I KNOW that there are many different types of kids. Teaching these kids required different approaches. Some required a gentle hand and soft encouragement. Some required strict structure. Some learned through reading, some by doing, some by tactile, some by listening. The trick was to address it all. Well, the same is true for parenting. As a matter of fact, what works for one child may not work for another. As they grow, we may need to adapt our methods accordingly. Children change, we should remain flexible with their needs. However, I honestly think we cannot keep up with what does not work for us and our own personality either. Trying to keep up with methods that don't jive with our own personalities and methods cause quick burn out. Good enough parenting, maybe not the point. But we do need to adapt what is good for our kids and make it work for us.

June 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCorina

And semantics are so tricky. I really feel the label of "good enough" can be really positive - it removes the perfectionist, permits it not to enter (ie: my own perfectionist inside myself gets a reminder to chill out!). It is along the lines of being a good human being. You do what you can, on a daily basis, and it IS good enough.

And I agree with babyready that those who aren't having a dialogue (internal or external) about parenting (which 90% of the time is done by observing my baby and going on instinct) are the ones you label "good enough" not being enough.

June 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSylva

[...] I also want to say that like @AmberStrocel, I’m going to reserve the term “bad mother” for those that are truly abusive or neglectful. That isn’t to say that I’m lining up to give “mother of the year” awards to every other type I’ve described, but I don’t think that it is helpful for me or anyone else to label someone as a bad mother if they are doing their best. Instead I think we should stop glamourizing “bad”, we should offer a helping hand to those that are struggling, we should be confident in our own parenting, and we should continue to think about how we could improve. [...]

[...] and over again. It is the line that I walk on this blog when writing about parenting and trying to inspire change. Sometimes I maintain my balance and sometimes I [...]

[...] the way you feel, this blog may not be the place for you. This blog is about improving ourselves, inspiring change, evolving our culture, chipping away at the kyriarchy, and nudging society in a new direction. That [...]

September 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter“Don’t Judge Me&#8

I found your blog on Casey's comments from Raising Smart Girls and I just started reading your blog, I think that's great that you have your goals as a parent. Just in a job for most people, there are objectives for their job. I just see your ideas for improving as a parent as your objectives. in the business world, we have objectives, do our job, go back and revisit our objectives and compare it to the job we have already done and then think about ways to improve. I think it's wonderful to always want to better yourself in all aspects of your life, not just parenting. I totally understand that trying to improve doesn't mean that you want everything to be perfect, because we all know there is no such thing as perfect! I remember my teacher reading a book to me when I was in school called, "How to be the perfect person in just three days." If you ever get a chance, check it out!

I look forward to reading more of your blog. I've started my own as a coping strategies. I love blogs like yours and Casey because it is based on research. I want to research more, but don't have the time or energy so it's great to find sites like yours. Thank you for doing the leg work for us.

It's great to have people agree and disagree with you because it makes everyone stop and think! Thank you!

Thuan

January 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThuan

[...] Annie at PhD in Parenting is thinking about what it means to be a good enough parent [...]

Thanks for playing along in my link-up!

I am going to take my turn to be arrogant and say that in fact, I do sort of think that I am a 'good enough' parent. However, that doesn't mean that I don't continually seek improvement. For me, the fact that I am continuing to seek improvement and that I view parenting seriously is the biggest sign that I actually am 'good enough'. Trying our best, with sincerity, is the most we can ever do. And I believe that by continuing to do it I am giving my kids the best start I can.

I definitely come here for inspiration. And I think that, while sometimes our words might be different, we are really saying the same thing. That through blogging and striving we can become better parents, together. :)

March 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

[...] do you think? In your quest to be the best parent that you can be while also being realistic about the fact that you are not a perfect parent, do you calmly swim [...]

[...] in doing so, incredibly refreshing. So, check out Phd in Parenting – especially this post – and, Her Bad [...]

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