What Are The Real Parenting Problems?

I got home tonight and found myself quickly getting sucked into the parenting debates. Co-sleeping versus crib sleeping. Crying it out versus not crying it out. Breastfeeding versus bottle feeding. Working moms versus stay at home moms. Feminist parenting versus non-feminist parenting. The list goes on and on. We argue about so many different things.

And then I step back and remember.

These are high quality problems. We have really high class problems.

I do therapy with children. This means I’ve worked with kids who have horrible childhoods. Kids who were kept in cages and fed dog food. Little girls who were sold for money to buy drugs. Toddlers who were homeless and those who only eat cheese pizza because it was all their 14 year old brother could steal successfully. Teenagers raped on a nightly basis by those they were supposed to trust and others who society has already written off as damaged before they even turned 16.

These are real parenting problems.  I needed to remember this tonight.

We have it so good, my friends. We really do.

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44 Responses to What Are The Real Parenting Problems?

  1. T. says:

    Totally agree.
    Also, don’t get me started on “attachment parenting.” I have seen parents who can’t de-tach from their children when they aren’t children anymore and it isn’t pretty. For the children.

    Problem with common sense? It is sadly uncommon :P

  2. Meagan says:

    Well no… These are real UNparenting problems. Except for the homelessness thing which could potentially happen to anyone. Putting a child in a cage or raping them is NOT a parenting issue. It’s a being human issue.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Meagan. I see your point. However, for a significant majority of children these are their experiences with their parents. These instances are common and prevalent. Many kids grow up in homes with severe poverty, abuse, and neglect all which contribute to the manifestations that I described. I think perhaps we need to spend more time figuring out a way to educate parents who are disadvantaged than the time we spend trying to educate people about let’s say the adverse effects of crying it out. If we help these parents then we help society as a whole.

      • Meagan says:

        But that’s a PARENT problem, not a parentING problem. It’s just semantics, but it’s sort of a huge difference. A parenting problem implies a challenge faced by parents. Homelessness? Totally fits the bill. Child rapist father? Does not. This is certainly a significant and tragic problem, bit it’s not going to be solved woth a parenting class. Neither is substance abuse or child slavery. This isn’t about education, it’s not about parents in tough situations who need help and

        • Meagan says:

          *… don’t know what to do.

        • Mommy Psychologist says:

          I have to respectfully disagree although I do see your point about the semantics. Substance abuse, the mentality of poverty and lack that drives lots of abuse all are challenges faced by many parents. I hope it’s clear that I never implied any of these problems could be solved with a parenting class. Also, I just wanted to point out that I never said “child rapist father.” I really appreciate this discussion, though.

          • Meagan says:

            You didn’t… I took child rapist from “Teenagers raped on a nightly basis by those they were supposed to trust.” Yes, I know there are many other trusted adults, so maybe I misunderstood you.

            And I respectfully disagree right back. :-) Just because it is a parent facing it doesn’t make it a parenting problem. I am very close to someone who went through years of drug addiction. I assure you, although he was a parent, and although his addiction came close to ruining his family, it was in NO WAY a PARENTING problem.

  3. Rach says:

    You are so very right. I taught in an inner city school. The problems facing those children were far bigger than the debatable issues.

    Even if you go with what Meagan is saying about those being NONparenting issues, there were certainly PARENTING issues that arose quite often–mom having to work two or three jobs to be able to pay the bills so she was never home with the kids; parents who had had such traumatizing experiences in school they couldn’t bring themselves to return to a school building, even for their children just to name two.

    We’re lucky that we have those problems and those debates. As I’ve said before, I don’t understand why we insist on beating each other down over our parenting choices instead of supporting one another.

    • Meagan says:

      Very true. There’s just something about labeling a caregiver that rapes his/her child as a “parenting issue” that really doesn’t sit right with me.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Rach. I see Meagan’s point, but the reality is that these situations are very common and so many children grow up with parents in situations filled with severe poverty, abuse, and neglect. For these kids, these are the issues they deal with when it comes to their parents. They deal with parents who have abandoned them, parents who were on drugs, parents who beat them, and so forth. And no matter how atrocious the circumstances, they still love their parents. So, it makes you think of parenting in an entirely different way when you have to find a way to help them make sense of this.

  4. We do have it good. And it makes me feel good to focus on all that good. I’m glad there are people like you who can help those who don’t have it so good.

  5. Dr. Momsie says:

    So glad I found your page! I’m also a mommy and a psychologist! I work in an urban public school district and can totally relate to your perspective (working with children who experience horrible circumstances). It can be a blessing and a challenge. Humor helps. I look forward to reading your blog more, and I might be interested in a guest post on my blog sometime :) Check me out at drmomsie.blogspot.com.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Dr. Momsie. Love the name! And yes, humor is one of my most favorite tools. I’ll definitely check out your blog.

  6. Julie says:

    I posted a link to this blog post on my facebook page and I got some interesting feedback on it. Mostly from a friend of mine who works with similar at risk kids and could share similar stories. Her thoughts were that you’re minimizing parents concerns about their parenting decisions and that it “might be more help to normalize and validate for the parents their concerns instead bringing up extreme cases”. I completely agree with you that some have it worse than others and that thinking about that may help to reel you in when you start to get a little crazy in your internal debate about smaller issues, but that doesn’t mean that those issues aren’t “real parenting problems”.

    Say you’re having a bad day. You go to talk to one of your friends about it for a little pick me up and they say “Well, would it make you feel better if I told you my day was 10 times worse?”. No, not really. Sorry you’re having a bad day too, but that doesn’t fix my problems. All it does is put things in perspective. It doesn’t make it go away.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Julie. I can see the point. However, these really aren’t extreme cases. I wish that they were. They are actually very common and very prevalent. When it comes to trauma and kids, the need for help is overwhelming. The system is completely loaded with kids. There are so many the wait lists have wait lists. Although we’d like to think these are extreme cases, the truth is s that lots of children in our country live very hard lives.

      • Julie says:

        I have first hand knowledge of the hard lives children live. I was one of them- in an out of shelters, my mother running to and from an abusive drug addict stepfather- and at almost 30 years of age now, I’m still in therapy myself. I’m definitely not trying to minimize anyone’s problems because I know they are real and I’m thankful for people like you, I really *really* am. But it’s just in the title of your blog post “What are the real parenting problems”, “real” being the operative word. Those other issues aren’t fake problems. The may not be as severe, but they’re still real. That’s all I’m saying.

      • Meagan says:

        Extreme here is not a synonym for rare. Of course these cases are extreme, no matter how common they are.

        • Julie says:

          I was thinking that, I just didn’t add it into my comment. Thanks Meagan. There can be things that are extreme that happen all time, prime examples are listed in this blog post.

          I just want to reiterate that I’m in no way trying to make these horrible things seem less significant or important. I know that horrible things happen all over the world. When I start to get out of my head crazy about what choices I make for my daughter, this post will definitely help put things in perspective. I’m thankful for what I have and grateful for the peace in my life and family. I wish there was more I could do to help those who need it most. I just don’t want to feel like it’s inappropriate for me to have concerns.

          • Mommy Psychologist says:

            That is exactly what I needed the night I wrote it- a good dose of perspective.

    • Heather says:

      My 2 cents: It’s not that we don’t have legitimate debates or problems. They are debates worth having, and they should help mothers make the best and most educated decisions possible.

      Where the perspective comes into play is when people get so militant and judgmental that anyone who disagrees with them on these [undeniably smaller-scale] parenting decisions is a horrible parent who must be publicly ridiculed and punished… I mean, yes, breastmilk is better than formula, and all mothers should know why, but do we allow people to equate formula with smoking or beating a child? Education & debate is one thing, but the anger & nastiness should reserved for those who truly neglect & hurt their children.

      • Julie says:

        I’m not sure if I’m following you correctly, but I never did equate the smaller issues to the bigger ones. That’s not what I was saying at all. And I have no anger towards women who would choose to do something differently than I would. I most certainly don’t do everything by the book and there are some things I do with my 7 week old daughter that I don’t want to talk about with others for fear of being judged. It shouldn’t be like that because I’m in no way harming my child and what I do is my choice. But by saying that these things aren’t “real” problems only amplifies those insecurities and makes me want to talk about it less. When I first read the posting and talked about it with friends my initial reaction was that what if I had gone to her as my therapist with these concerns and her reaction was that I shouldn’t be bothering her or myself with these little issues because others have it much worse? Instead of saying that it’s normal to feel this way she tells me these aren’t real problems and to get some perspective? I love this blog and her views and I highly doubt that’s the way she meant for it to come across. All I was saying was to be careful with her wording, because it could seem that way to some people. I never meant any offense to her or to anyone else.

        • Heather says:

          I think we’re basically saying the same thing, but getting there in a different way :)

          I didn’t think either of you were equating the size of the issues, but the main vibe I got from the original post was just that there are things to be truly angry and infuriated about — where there is no doubt of what’s right & wrong, and then there’s the things where the “solution” is individual, personal, and nobody else’s business. That some people (clearly not you!) feel the need to wage a vicious war over how I feed my child distracts from LEGITIMATE issues that are more deserving of a public-facing “war”.

          For the smaller, legitimate, problems &issues we all face as parents, it would be nice if everyone would support each other, share/provide their perspective and opinions, and then trust these good, caring parents to make the best possible decisions for themselves.

        • Mommy Psychologist says:

          Omg- Julie, I would never say to a parent who came into my office that there problems weren’t “real” and that they should think about all of the kids who were beaten. I hope that’s not how it came across.

          • Julie says:

            I don’t think that you would. I tried to make that clear. I know you from reading your blog, but if someone new came along and didn’t know you that well.. you never know how people are going to perceive things, that’s all. No ill will towards you, I promise.

          • Mommy Psychologist says:

            Whew…

  7. Lynn says:

    So very true. Thank you for this reminder. I’m also a mommy, and a psychologist/counselor-wannabe, lol…but not really laughing. I have my masters and have been stuck in an office job since graduating and becoming a mom 4 years ago. But that’s another story entirely. I’m relatively new to your blog and haven’t read many of your posts yet, but I’m really looking forward to it. I see everyone’s points about not minimizing these everyday parenting concerns, and how important it is to validate our concerns, because we only want to do the best we can for our children. Personally, I feel that sometimes we really do need to take things in perspective- there is always someone that has it worse. In the grand scheme of things, when we are stressing about how our children will turn out because we let them cry for 2 minutes over a pacifier, it really doesn’t matter. I think it’s a good reminder for all of us, when we are feeling very frustrated with our kids, to take a step back and say, you know, I am so thankful that we are not one of those situations. My child is loved, fed, and safe. How important are all these other things, after that? I mean of course they matter, but taking a few seconds to look at the situation in perspective can really help a person rethink how to approach it. IMHO.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Lynn and welcome. I met two other mommy psychologists today. It seems we are everywhere. Watch out world!

  8. So true and so very sad. We get stuck in our little bubbles of daily life and forget sometimes that there are families in real crisis. I try to remember that every day when I watch the news and hear the horror stories happening around us. That’s not to say that the other issues you mentioned are not real. But they’re just that – issues. Not imho, problems to be toiled over with the same urgency as neglect or abuse.

  9. Great points! I think what you are getting at is that the most important thing is that a child is loved, nurtured, and provided safety and structure, and there are MANY ways to do that. So while those of us who are decent parents are busy arguing about the “best” way to parent, we would well to remember there are many paths to similar ends, and perhaps to put our energy into the issues that truly have horrible effects on children (poverty, abuse, homelessness, etc.). I did quite a bit of therapy work with inner city kids and kids in foster care, too, and it is truly heartbreaking to see what some children must survive and the impact it has on them.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Ellie. You summed up my entire post perfectly in one sentence.

      • Gen says:

        Thank you, Ellie and Mommy Psychologist. I just came upon this blog and Ellie’s comment. Both truly resonated with me. I’ve been feeling uncomfortable with the divisive debates that I’ve been facing since becoming a new mother. I always just want to tell people, you do that you the best you can do with what you have. Also, it’s important to put things in a larger perspective, to understand our problems within larger institutional problems, to understand our own privileges.

  10. Tianana says:

    I completely agree with Ellie. I raised 3 step kids who were sexually and emotionally abused by their mother and the impact that has had on them is heart breaking. If there was ANYTHING I could have done to make that different, I would have. I hope for a day that we are all talking about “quality problems” that are being experienced by all parents.

  11. Carolina_D says:

    You are truly brave. I could NEVER deal with hearing things like this on a nearly daily basis. Plus, even though I’m a pacifist, I would be very tempted to go after those ‘parents’ with a deadly weapon. How is it even POSSIBLE for anyone to treat a child like that? Something must be missing/dead in the very souls of such adults. From the moment I knew I was pregnant with each of my children I felt such overwhelming love for them, and knew I would lay down my life for them if needed. I thought this was simply nature’s way. Sadly, I’ve read the horror stories since then, but I will STILL never understand HOW it can happen. It is simply evil, in its purest form. No other evil can come close. Really, how do you bear it all? I know I could not. Is it possible to heal these children? Ever?

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Carolina. Thankfully, I don’t hear these things on a daily basis today. Once I had Gus I stepped into a different role for awhile. I’ve been teaching for the last few years because honestly, it got really hard to think about seeing clients after I had Gus. Don’t get me wrong, it was VERY emotional and intense before I had Gus. I can’t tell you the number of times I cried in my car on the way home from work. But then I had my own child and it became even more horrendous. It’s such emotionally taxing work and even though I know we don’t live in a safe world, during his infancy I really wanted to believe we did. It is possible to heal this children. Lots of variables influence it, though. One of the biggest predictors is how early intervention occurs. The earlier the better.

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