Everyone’s purpose for parenting is personal. Your reasons for raising your child may be different than mine, and that’s exactly how it should be. We’re all motivated by different things, and your goals for starting your family are unique.
Why does it matter what your purpose as a parent is?
Well, parenthood has changed a lot over just the last 50-100 years. Becoming a parent used to be practical, even a method of survival for most people. People had children to help with the farm or otherwise help support the family so they could survive. Becoming a parent served a functional purpose. Even when our parents were kids, the norm was that Dad worked outside the home while Mom stayed home and raised the kids.
Parents had a specific purpose, and many people didn’t question their role.
This just isn’t the case anymore.
Now, the average parent isn’t grooming their child to take over the family farm. Instead, you may have had children for other reasons. Here are some of the most popular reasons I’ve heard for becoming a parent:
• To raise happy, healthy children.
• To ensure a family legacy.
• To pass on our values, cultural norms, or skills.
• To give our children opportunities and experiences we never had.
• It’s just what you do after you get married.
• Maybe your religious beliefs encourage having a family.
The clearer you are about your purpose as a parent, the more useful it will be to you. You’ll find you have more consistency and serenity if you understand your overall goal of parenthood. The day-to-day craziness will take on a higher meaning, and the little stuff will be managed differently as a result.
No matter what you identify as your purpose as a parent, having a clear understanding of your unique purpose as a parent will help you do a few things:
• Filter out all of the conflicting and confusing information out there.
• Make conscious decisions about what’s right for you and your family in each moment.
• You’ll have a north star to guide you through difficult everyday situations with your child.
The purpose I’ve defined for myself as a parent is basically two sides of the same coin:
1) To support and guide my son as he grows into the best possible version of himself; AND
2) To see every interaction with my son as an opportunity to evolve into the best version of myself.
At the end of the day, I think the point of our time here on Earth is to become the highest versions of ourselves, and our relationships with our children are one of the Universe’s most efficient way to help us grow. My purpose for parenthood is very closely aligned with that belief.
Here’s how I engage with my son differently, knowing my ultimate goal as a parent:
1) I don’t punish my son for misbehaving. Instead, I slow down and try to understand where he’s coming from, what challenges he’s facing, and what he needs from me in that moment.
2) I try not to do things for my son. Instead, I let him experiment and try new things on his own. I help him learn independence and success and failure through life’s natural experiences. I don’t underestimate him.
3) I don’t try to protect my son from difficult emotions (and I certainly don’t try to prevent them). Instead, I am a source of love and support as he goes through strong emotions. I’m there to stand by him and help him identify what’s happening and navigate through it, but I don’t try to stop him from having a hard time.
4) I don’t sugar-coat life for my son. When things are hard, I validate his frustration and struggle. I help him identify his emotions and reactions. I teach him how to appropriately express his emotions (his behavior), while still validating his right to feel those emotions.
5) I give my son options. I allow him to make decisions as frequently as possible, and I allow him to experience the consequences (good or bad) of those choices. I want him to understand how the world works, and the bottom line is that we all have free will. Someday I won’t be there to guide him, and I want him to have an internal compass for decision-making that doesn’t exist within me, but within himself.
And here’s how I try to utilize my experiences as a parent to evolve into the best possible version of myself:
1) When my son is pushing my buttons, I ask myself what I need to cultivate within myself in order to manage the situation. Do I need a five minute break? Do I need more sleep? Do I need to be patient and slow down so he can go through whatever he’s going through? Do I need more compassion or to be clearer in a boundary I’m setting with him? I am clear that my son is going to challenge me to be better than I want to be in those moments (it would be MUCH easier to lose it on him sometimes), and that’s the point. These are perfect opportunities for me to choose a path that allows me to grow.
2) I constantly check myself to make sure I’m not imposing my expectations for him or his life onto him. This is his life to lead. It’s his life within which to make decisions (and make mistakes), and I want his future to unravel in a way that is authentic for him. I don’t want to control that path for him.
3) I remind myself that my son isn’t a full-fledged adult yet. He IS still developing, and there are going to be times when I have to step up and be “The Mom.” There will be times when I have to do hard things because they truly are in my son’s best interests. I take that responsibility seriously, and make sure that decisions I make are in his best interests, and I try to avoid doing things just because it’s what’s convenient for me.
4) I acknowledge that parenting an independent and outspoken child who has the freedom to speak his mind and make decisions (even at his young age) is difficult. At times, I would love to have one of those perfectly-behaved children who listen to everything I say and do whatever I want with just a look. But that won’t ultimately fulfill my purpose for parenthood, so I let it go and just try to be patient when my son is “asserting his independence.”
At the end of the day, you don’t NEED to know what your purpose is as a parent. But let me tell you, it’s made my life SO much easier. I have a single principle I can turn to when I’m confused or frustrated or when I get mired in the day-to-day chaos of parenting my young son. Taking some time to determine your purpose for parenthood may help alleviate any stress or self-doubt that you feel as a parent, and instead allow you to parent with more intention.
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