Parenting stress? What stress?

I know coming from a mother of three, going to be mother of four, saying the above seems like an adamant denial of reality. I mean, whenever I announce the arrival of baby number four, most people would go, “Oh my goodness! How amazing! How do you manage? Aren’t you very stressed?” At the back of their heads, I think they would go, “I only have (fill in any number less than four) and I am up to my neck. How would she manage four? Is she out of her mind?”

And if I may speak my mind, “Stress is only relative.  And it is not directly proportionate to the number of children you have.”

Frankly, one would only be stressed if one insists in one’s child achieving some set goals within a certain time frame, but the child doesn’t. For example, expecting the child to be in the top 10 percentile by end of P6 (say, scoring 260 for PSLE) but knowing that the child is currently only just above average.  So being stressed is dependent on these three factors being present all together, i.e. the achievement expectation factor, two, the time frame factor, and three, the child ability factor. As long as any one of the three factors is not present, the stress would not be felt.

First, the achievement expectation factor. Frankly, I do not have a set goal for my child. Sure, it would be nice for my children to all achieve something, but I am sure there is more to life than just achievements. And different children can achieve different things, and not necessarily what I expect of them. I believe that everyone is capable of achieving something great or small, and each achievement is worthy of acknowledgement, so it is not so much as doubting whether or not my child can achieve in a specific area, but looking out intently for where his or her natural gifts are, and identify the areas that he or she can truly achieve something, and gently nudge him or her (plus set resources and support in place) towards that path. So I don’t see any stress in this area, all my children can achieve something, I am sure, though not necessarily scoring 260 for PSLE. So I task myself to identify their achievements, rather than setting my expectations of achievements on them. So no stress there.

Second, the time frame factor. Some parents I know are fixated for their child to achieve by a certain age, or worse, at every single age. It is very hard for both parent and child to not burn out, by fixing such a tight time frame. I mean, how can the child be ahead all of the time, at every single milestone examination and termly test and daily assessments? If you see parenting as a marathon, then you better conserve energy for the entire duration while it lasts. If you see parenting as a 100 m dash, you better set enough rest in between the heats for the child to recover. Personally, as long as my children are able to be independent by adulthood (whenever that may be) and make themselves useful to the society (however that may be), I will be satisfied. So no, they don’t need to get double degrees and PhD by age 25. Anyway degrees and PhD is no guarantee of success in any way, and achievements at a young age by no means ensure that they will be successful at 75. So no, I don’t set a timeline for my children’s success.

Third, the child ability factor. I think this is the only factor that I have some direct control over, and so I am least stressed by this, actually. I can’t control the arena that my children succeed in, so there is some level of anxiety there. I can’t control when my child will succeed, so that takes a big leap of faith. But one thing I can do, is to ensure that I develop their abilities to the best of my ability. And I do know what I am and not capable of. So I will build them up based on my strengths, and where I am not strong, I can still leverage on my husband’s strengths, and where both of us are weak, I can still source for people around us who have these strengths and pay or beg them to impart these strengths to my children.

So really, parenting three children going on to four is not stressful. Yes, I may get angry when they don’t listen, I may get frustrated when schedules are not met and irritated when  to-do lists not completed, I may share their happiness and sadness and joys and fears, but no, I am not stressed.

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