Taking the long view in parenting: When it helps and when it hurts
I’m always thinking ahead. I think most moms are like that.
We see the fire that needs to be put out before it even starts, we plan for the family vacation down to the detail, we’re three steps ahead - always.
It can be a very helpful way to go through life, and at times it can be overwhelming and even stressful.
But taking the long view in parenting - the really long view, the one where you picture the end goal of this whole crazy parenting journey - can be even more helpful and, at times, even more stress inducing.
Here’s what I mean.
When taking the long view helps:
For me, I tend to look at all situations with my kids with long view goggles. “Will this interaction help or hurt our relationship in the long run?” “Is this a pivotal moment?” “Will this belief stick?”
This helps me to put the present moment in context, and it helps me to not sweat the small stuff.
Some rules are necessary for safety or for our kids’ overall well being. But some rules are actually just preferences.
Taking the long view helps you to distinguish what will matter 10 or 20 years from now, and what won’t. It shows you what’s important, and perhaps, what you can let go of.
When taking the long view hurts:
When future casting creates anxiety, that’s when it causes harm. I’m sure we’re all guilty of this, with thoughts like “this is going to mess him up!” or “I’m failing!” or “He’s going to tell his therapist about this…”
When the long view presents in this way, it’s called Mom Guilt.
Mom Guilt is never helpful and never productive. Mom Guilt is the voice that tells you that you’re not enough, you’re not doing enough.
Mom Guilt is shame. It’s fear. And it’s anxiety.
How can we use the long view to our advantage?
My hope is that we can start to draw a line between helpful future casting and mom guilt.
When you can recognize the difference you can work to shut off the Mom Guilt switch and activate the “Helpful Longview” switch.
We can start to do this by recognizing when negative feelings come in.
When they do, we need to tell ourselves that no matter how valid those feelings appear, they are not helpful and will cause us to create the very thing we are worried about.
Then, we can take a breath, and choose to think positive and productive thoughts.
It’s a habit and a muscle that needs to be built. It won’t happen overnight. So, give yourself grace when you accidentally let Mom Guilt in.
Then, take a breath and try again.