Wednesday, July 20, 2011

You Never Knew Your Parents As Non-Parents

As a therapist, and as a client over the years myself, I've had lots and lots of discussions about parents, and how they shape our lives and personalities. In therapist circles, we call this "FOO Work" (FOO is short for Family Of Origin). I certainly have looked at my Mom and my Dad over the years, and probably went through the period of blaming them for some of my problems.

This has faded in the last couple of years as I have become a parent myself. I'm doing the best I can for my little guy, but I know that despite that, he'll come out with some strengths, some weaknesses, and perhaps some problems.

I am also amazed at how much one little human has changed my life. I'll skip over the great parts and get to how I have aged, felt more tired, stressed, and responsible than I ever did before he arrived (and I had 40 years to get ready). I am more out of shape, have less hobbies, and a less active social life than before. Time feels like it's scarce. In short, I feel like a very different man than the one of 3 years ago.

This has given me some perspective on my parents, too. It came to me a bit ago that none of us knew our parents before they became parents. We didn't know the single man or woman. We didn't know the dating couple, the falling in love couple. We didn't know the newlyweds, excited about all the new journeys. We didn't see the woman, working in a job or career before she decided to stay home to raise you.

All we have ever known (and let's say we start remembering at age 3ish, eh?) is these two people who have just been transformed by parenthood into something new and different. And who were making up a lot of it as they went along.

It reminds me that before I had kids, I would consider my Dad's life and wonder "why didn't he have many hobbies?" And now I know.

So, to my fellow therapists, and fellow therapy clients, I give you pause to consider, before you judge those human beings known as parents too harshly (and this is not meant to invalidate pain from truly abusive parents), you may want to consider what you'll be like as a parent.

Yours, Peter Hannah MA LMHC
Seattle Counselor (and Dad)

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