5 Ways Motherhood Has Changed Me As A Therapist

How Motherhood Has Made Me a Better Therapist.Kim's Counseling Corner

My son turns 2 years old today. It has gone by so fast and and I haven’t been a mom for all that long, but I know I have definitely changed. Thinking about all the joys and challenges over the last two years, I can’t help but also think about how motherhood has changed me professionally and made me into a better therapist.

1. I am more empathetic to parents. In counseling, we like to believe that we can empathize with just about everyone. After all, pain is pain, joy is joy, etc… no matter what the circumstance. I still think this is true to an extent. But now, when a parent sits across from me and says they are devastated because they don’t know why their child feels so sad, or they want to know where their little angel has gone, I think of my own children. How will I feel if my happy little guy is one day an adolescent who rages in my living room, or if my sweet girl one day talks about hating herself because she is not accepted at school. The pain for me is so unbearable. I channel this empathy towards my clients to help them see better days ahead.

2. I give limited “homework” assignments to parents now. Pre-motherhood, I had all kinds of homework for parents, such as charting 5 different aspects of a behavior during the week (when, where, why, your response, their response…sigh), completing daily exercises with their children, taking personal time out for an hour a day… can you imagine? I am much more cognizant of the daily demands of parenthood. Now, I still recommend personal time for parents, but aim for one hour a week, and my homework assignments are given with more realistic requirements. I get much more follow through now!

3. I am more confident. This increased confidence is not completely due to being a mother, but also due to just having more experience under my belt. However, I do feel that since I am a mom, I can connect better with parents and kids. I also feel more secure in setting personal boundaries for my time and commitments. As a professional who aims to teach healthy boundaries to my clients, being able to set them for my own life is important.

4. My priorities have changed. Now that my family life is set, I can begin working towards long term professional goals that sink with the demands of my family. For example, I hope to establish a successful private practice over the next several years that will allow me to schedule appointments during the time my kids are in school.

5. I have more life experience. No matter what field you work, life experience always give you a leg up. The more I live and the more life phases I enter and travel through, the more I can relate and offer help to others!

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Is There A “Right” Way To Parent?

A mother once told me how she was upset with herself for not using a parenting style discussed in a book she was currently reading. This is someone I highly respect- adoptive parent, thoughtful, caring, and highly involved in her son’s therapy. I was surprised to hear how quick she put herself down because of this author’s idea of the “right way” to parent. Thinking about how you may have done things differently is one thing, but beating yourself up over it is another!

There are definitely some wonderful approaches to parenting out there… Positive Parenting, Love and Logic, Attachment Parenting, etc. but I don’t believe there is ONE RIGHT way to parent that works for everybody. There is not one right way to potty train. There is not one right way for your baby to sleep. There is not one right decision to make on whether to let your child have diluted juice or not. In reality, if one parenting book tells you to do one thing, I guarentee there is another book out there that will have a variation, or even a contradiction. So, please, don’t be so hard on yourself! And don’t be so hard on your fellow mommies out there!

Are there some general guidelines out there? Are there general standards, for moral and health reasons, that all parents should follow? Absolutely! Some are even recommended by the American Pediatric Association. These are not what I am referring to now. What I am talking about are the “styles” and “techniques” that are offered to us each and every day as parents and all the little things that we criticize ourselves and others so much for.

Every child, every parent, every family, and every circumstance is different. We all have values, priorities, obligations, and a bunch of other “stuff” that affects how we choose to raise our children. Read all the books, magazines, and blogs you want, but at the end of the day, you have to make a decision to do what fits best with your child.

No matter the age of your kids, when you have a choice to make, gather all the information you can, reflect on your own goals and values, and make the best decision you know how with the information you have available. If you learn later of a better way you could have handled that stage of your child’s life, or that a certain food is not so good after all, you can rest assured that you did the best you knew how at that time.

As a therapist, it’s important to me that parents of my child and adolescent clients feel a sense of confidence in themself and their abilities. Judgment from me, other parents, or family members is not helpful.

In summary, there are several parenting philosophies that I think are fantastic. I tend to pull a little bit from each and apply what works with my own philosophy and values. So, is there a right way to parent? There is for me! But it may be different for you! What do you think?

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