An inexact science

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Being a parent for the first time brings major changes to your life. It will never be the same again, writes Ian Munro.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro
It's a while since I've written about being a parent for the first time and when I talk with young couples in this situation I like to point out the 7000-day commitment ahead. Not that I'm trying to put them off - it's usually too late by then.

The 7000 days comes from Sydney psychologist Reinhard Ronnebeck, who describes parenthood like this. Your duties are to be in charge of rearing a one-day-old infant, i.e. to turn them into a competent, well-balanced, independent, ethical, lovable young adult. It will involve a 24/7 minimum period of 18 years. Including pregnancy, it will take approximately 7000 days.

Ronnebeck might also have added that no experience is required to undertake these duties and ``job satisfaction'' isn't guaranteed.

Being a parent for the first time brings major changes to your life. It will never be the same again. Children take up a lot of time and energy and you never really stop being concerned about them, or for them, even when they're adults, as I'm finding out myself.

We all learn on the job and we all make mistakes - lots of them. There's no such thing as the perfect parent. And there's no such animal as the perfect child. When you start out it's natural to feel a lack of confidence at times. For most, our only experience is having been parented ourselves.

And while it's a 24/7 job, you can't expect to be at peak performance 24 hours a day. If you do have that expectation, then it's easy to start feeling that you're somehow failing.

Parenting isn't an exact science. Good parenting is about responding to our feelings and those of our youngsters. It's about unconditional love. There's really no magic formula beyond that.

We all fail as parents every day and we're all successful as parents every day. We will often make decisions and judgements without all the facts. Unfortunately, hindsight is great for making us feel guilty. However, honest mistakes motivated by our child's best interests are allowed. If we can get through the day with everyone still alive and functioning all right, we can relax.

And it's all right to be unpopular. It can be hard not to get upset when we've made a ruling that they don't like and they let us know about it. But they'll move on from it and one day might even thank us for it.

Life's unlikely to be a bed of roses but, unless we do something deliberately cruel or negligent, you'll find that, whatever else we do, our youngsters will still trust us, love us and miss us when we're not around.

I like to maintain that most kids are built to withstand being raised by most human beings.


 

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