A Positive Group Effect

Q: It’s at this time of the year that I really second-guess my abilities as a capable parent. There are so many details to deal with before the school year ends, such as finding new schools for children who are graduating and working out summer arrangements for each child. The list of items needed for sleepaway and day camp seems endless — from clothing to pool shoes to flashlights to batteries of every size… not to mention the time and money needed to make these purchases! Meanwhile, we’re dealing with children who claim they are “bored” while we feel overextended as it is…

How am I expected to focus on each child when I can barely remember to brush my teeth at night? We’re taught of the need to concentrate on children’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs — but I don’t do that for myself!

And then there’s the time I need to deal with social obligations. If I don’t attend other people’s simchos, how do I expect them to come to mine? I have relatives who get extremely insulted if I don’t show up to every vort and wedding and at least one sheva brachos!

I don’t want to go through life feeling guilty, feeling that I’m never good enough. But I don’t want to deceive myself, either.

My children are pretty close with each other, and are generally happy and well-adjusted, so I guess we must be doing something right.

How can a parent balance all this and manage to properly fill her children’s needs as well as her own, without feeling that she is “not enough”?

A: It is hard to be objective about our abilities and how well we are using our potential. This is why it is essential to have some sort of mentor to help us be honest with ourselves about our present level of functioning.

In terms of using your potential as a mother, finding someone whom you view as a role model and speaking to her about this issue may be helpful. (You might be surprised to find out that she struggles with similar challenges as you do!) You may be judging yourself too harshly, or perhaps you need to find ways to improve your time management skills.

Having well-adjusted children reflects admirably on your parenting skills. The combination of positive genetic tendencies and environmental factors create a well-rounded human being. Well-adjusted children have learned positive coping mechanisms; I often stress that this is perhaps the greatest gift we can give our children. Your family’s emotional and spiritual needs are apparently being met — due to a number of factors, not just your one-on-one involvement with them.

A positive group effect (as that of supportive siblings) can sometimes have more influence on an individual’s psyche than that of one parent alone. Whatever a parent transmits to one child has a ripple effect on all siblings. Siblings can share their life experiences to help one another in a way that only peers can appreciate.

A parent whose daily lifestyle exudes simchas hachaim and who perceives hashgachah pratis in every moment of life is a role model whom children can emulate. One-on-one time is not always available, even to children in single-child families. Besides, if a parent is very anxious by nature, such individual attention is not always beneficial.

Living within the consistent parameters of halachah includes the psychological “fringe benefits” of being able to achieve menuchas hanefesh if adhered to with simchah. If one is sincere in trying to live according to retzon Hashem, your direction is more clear and focused. Learning and living Torah values directly assists in dealing with family members’ spiritual and emotional needs.

We need not deceive ourselves when it is obvious we could be doing more to improve our parenting skills. However, life’s challenges don’t always allow us to perform at our optimum level. We should thank Hashem that our children’s development is not due solely to their parents’ input, and that Hashem continually helps us in this endeavor!