She sat next to me at the small table at the coffee shop, drink in hand. She was polished, professional, polite. She is getting married in two months; life is full of plans and thoughts of the future. Thoughts of December celebrations, holidays, and then when all the hubbub dies down, a marriage. Starting in January thoughts will turn past the wedding bells to family planning, the next item on the list, though truth be told thoughts have already turned that way. That’s why we are sitting here today. This woman is well aware the wedding lasts only a day, but the marriage means the beginning of something that requires a great deal more perseverance. Starting a family is already on her mind.
“That’s why I was so intrigued to hear that you’re a parent coach.”
Here was a young woman who is not yet married, does not yet have children, and yet has already felt the hint of a burden about planning for the future, planning for what is to come. It brings some anxiety. She is the second young unmarried woman in as many weeks to share with me that though she doesn’t yet have kids, she wonders if she might benefit from talking with someone about the implications of parenthood. These young women are educated, capable, professionally successful and in strong relationships, and yet they wonder if they have what it takes to successfully raise children in today’s culture. They worry about their ability to succeed given the expense, the expectations, the culture of criticism, the ubiquity of technology, the threat children pose to marriage and career. They look at the world around them and wonder if parenting might not be an endeavor best left to those with loftier ambitions or sharper skills.
Ironically, this woman in the coffee shop, on paper, is ideally prepared for parenthood. She is from an intact family, has close relationships with her parents and siblings, enjoys the full support of a loving and like-minded fiancé, and has spent her entire professional career in education teaching kids in elementary and middle school and learning the ins and outs of how kids learn. What has happened, that a woman with such advantages should be anxious about her preparedness to raise a family?
The world today is not what it was a generation or more ago. Anxiety it high, depression is high, and stress is through the roof. We have more information than ever but we don’t know what to do with it. We have more access to each other than ever but we feel more isolated and alone than ever. We are richer the world over than ever before, yet we live in constant fear that what we have isn’t enough. This is the state of our world today. This is what we bring our children into. It’s a daunting task, to think of raising our children in the face of such challenges. But the good thing is that while the above observations are true, they are not the only true things.
We may not know what to do with all the information at our fingertips, but thankfully there are ways to filter for what is useful and ignore the rest. This takes practice and discipline, but it can be done.
We may feel isolated and alone, but the truth is we are still surrounded by real people with real compassion and wisdom to share. If we dare to reach out, we will find people on the receiving end who are so glad we had the courage to take that step.
We may fear losing what we have, but if we practice gratitude and commit to being a blessing, not just possessing them, we will find the abundance will not run out.
Parenting today is no easy task, but I believe parents are up for the challenge. Have you ever noticed that people tend to rise to the occasion in front of them? How many times have you heard someone’s inspiring story of triumph through adversity and thought I could never do that? Chances are good they thought something similar until circumstance forced them to find the gumption to carry on. We never know how strong we are until we are forced to flex our muscles and make the best of what life throws at us.
As a parent coach I love the idea of working with parents-to-be to help them prepare for the challenges before them. So much of what overwhelms us originates from unknowns and unrealistic expectations. Parent coaching can help with both of those things, preparing young couples for the adventures to come when they decide to start a family.