I hope you enjoyed reading my previous blogs on the empty nest syndrome and how we, as mothers, can recreate our lives after our children leave home. In this new series, I am actually taking a step back to talk about how we can develop our children in a way that can bring out the optimal potential in them and also give us the satisfaction that we did our utmost for them.
In my experience as a mother and life coach, I have seen three common feelings that we experience as parents:
- Ownership frame of mind: Whether our children came to us by our choice or they just happened, we feel possessive about them. They belong to our family and us; they are our progeny. We take pride in their physical and mental characteristics that they have inherited from our lineage. We would like them to emulate the path of some of our worthy ancestors. And of course we want the best for them because they are ours.
- Needing to Control: While we raise our children as responsible parents, we slowly start managing them. We think we have lived longer and know what is right for them. So we have the tendency to overrule their desires and try to influence them into following the path we have charted for them. For example, we were professionals, so we think that is the life they should also strive for. Our family has always had a musical bent, so we force our child to take music lessons instead of art classes, which he/she may prefer. Often our ambitions for them are colored by comparisons with our friends’ and relatives’ children and their accomplishments. We want them to be as good as those children, if not surpass their successes. And so in time we govern their lives so much so that we often live their life vicariously and derive pleasure from it and forget that it is their life and not ours.
- Imposing expectations: As parents, we center all our hopes and dreams on our children and force our choices on them. We look at them to satisfy all our unfulfilled desires. We want them to have everything we did, and things we didn’t or couldn’t have. As an illustration, we wanted to become doctors but were constrained, so we want them to study and work hard to become doctors. We feel thrilled with pride at their achievements and are disappointed and frustrated when they don’t fulfill our expectations of them.
All the feelings I have just described are perfectly normal and one may ask, “So what is wrong with this thinking? We only mean well for our children.” Well, such thoughts and feelings have negative repercussions on both of us: our children and us. Of the many problems that these cause, I will focus on the top three issues I hear constantly from my clients as problems they face in their relationships with their offspring.
- First, as I described in my last series of blogs, our tendency to revolve our entire life around our children often results in unhealthy manifestations of our emotions when they grow up into adulthood and live on their own. Not knowing what to do with our own lives anymore and focusing on theirs becomes a burden.
- Second, and more important, our limited vision of their future and our endeavors to fulfill our own dreams for them unintentionally curb their own passions and desires. Over time, this also impairs their ability to decide for themselves and gain confidence from their own trials and errors.
- Finally, we also often express our parental dissatisfaction and disappointment when they don’t follow our desired paths, thereby diminishing their sense of joy at their own accomplishments. Gradually, both our children and we feel disappointed with each other and our relationship gets adversely impacted.
So, what is the alternative? How can we guide them in the right ways, yet not impose our will on them? How can we be happy with their choices and equip them to make the appropriate ones? How can we be “different” parents: “good” parents? Have I kindled your curiosity? Watch out for my next blogs for some answers.
(Janaki Chakravarthy is a certified life coach and author of the ebook “From Broke to Breadwinner – A Single Mom’s Guide to Financial Independence and More.” She lives in southern California and helps single moms recreate their lives as breadwinners and beyond, through her practice Possibilities N U LLC. For a free copy of her book, email her: Janaki@frombtobbook.com.)