I recently listened to Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming. I was fascinated by her life and the depth of skills and experience she had before becoming the First Lady. I was also surprised to hear her describe self-doubts and the number of times she questioned whether she was “good enough” as a child, a student, a professional, and a parent. My first reaction was disbelief, since I’d only seen the confident, public version of Michelle. My reaction was followed by the realization that I often ask myself that same question – am I doing “good enough” as a parent, a partner, a professional, a friend, a sibling, a daughter? Sometimes, I ask that question to remind myself to be present and available. Other times, I ask that question because I’m my own harshest critic, facing the same kinds of self-doubts as Michelle. I know I’m not the only parent who feels this way, so really, we are all Michelle Obama.
This article is created by Nicole Young, the mother of two children, ages 14 and 17, who also manages Santa Cruz County's Triple P - Positive Parenting Program. Scientifically proven, Triple P is available locally through the Child Parent Institute. Our classes are listed at calparents.org/classes.
Dear Child Parent Institute,
My sister and I both work full-time, but she manages to volunteer at her kids’ schools, help with homework, and drive them to different activities. Sometimes it feels like she’s comparing her parenting to mine, which never feels good. When my sister brags about how great her kids are (and how it’s because of her parenting), it makes me feel like I’m not doing enough for my kids. But I’m worried that if I take on more commitments, it will make me feel stressed and resentful. What can I do?
Thanks for your question! Raising children is one of the most rewarding and challenging jobs a person could have. The job of parenting becomes much harder when it feels like we’re doing it alone or are being judged for our choices and actions. Here are some tips to consider:
Keep taking care of yourself so you can take care of others. Self-care is one of the key principles of positive parenting for a good reason. It’s common for many parents to put the needs of their children, partners, other family members, or friends ahead of their own physical, mental, and emotional needs. This can be especially true when parents feel pressure to be a “superparent” that never gets tired, upset, frustrated, or too busy. When this becomes a pattern, it can lead to burnout, which makes it even harder to be a patient, loving, calm, fair, and positive parent. Setting limits and saying “no” to extra commitments that would make your life more stressful is a form of self-care.
Be kind to yourself. When we feel judged or self-doubt, it’s easy to fall into the trap of telling ourselves unhelpful thoughts, such as “I’ll never be good enough,” or “I’ll never be able to do that.” This can stir up emotions such as stress, anxiety, depression, anger, or hopelessness, which can be paralyzing or create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Try replacing unhelpful thoughts with affirmations or coping statements such as, “I’m doing the best I can,” “I can make my own choices,” or “I’m doing what’s best for me and my family.”
Talk with your sister. It’s possible your sister is seeking acknowledgement for the care and attention she gives her family, especially if she feels her efforts are overlooked or unappreciated at home. Let her know you understand how hard it is to balance work and family life, and that her kids are lucky to have such a loving, available mother. You can also tell her that it sometimes feels as though she’s comparing your parenting to hers, which sends the message that you’re not doing enough, and it doesn’t feel good. She might be unaware she is doing this, or that her words have this effect. Let her know you want to support and encourage her choices as a parent, and you’d like the same from her.
Final Thoughts: Many parents wonder and worry about whether they are doing enough or doing the right things for their children. While self-doubt is common, too much of it can keep us from learning and growing. In the end, our children will benefit more from being raised by happy, healthy parents and caregivers than having their days filled with endless activities. At least that’s what I’d like to think Michelle would say.
Child Parent Institute