Generally speaking, sociologists have found that parents today are more involved in their children’s lives than the previous parental generation. But more may not always be better. “Intensive parenting,” as researchers call it, may not be beneficial for parents or children.
We hear it from a lot of our adult patients, “I’m worried about my children. The world is just so tough today. Will they get a job? Will they be successful? Did I do enough?” Parents have always worried about their kids. But in today’s world where everything is fraught with competition and nothing is guaranteed, many parents have responded by being highly involved in their kids’ lives to assure success. Researchers observed that from 1965 to 2011, the number of hours parents spent per week with their children had “skyrocketed.” Economists Matthias Doepke and Fabrizio Zilibotti have suggested that this increase is in part, a “reaction to rising economic inequality.” Having a full-time job no longer ensures healthcare benefits, and pension enrollments have declined. In short, parents responded to a changing financial landscape by doing more for their kids.
Now we may be seeing the unintended consequences of these changes. With more involvement in their children’s lives, many parents may be losing a sense of their own identities. As noted by Joshua Coleman in The Atlantic, a 2006 study by the American Sociological Review showed that the average number of close relationships that adults had decreased by a third from 1985 to 2004. At the same time, more parents today cite a desire to be “best friends with their children.” Of course, all parental relationships are different, and bonds with our children are very important. But we must also invest in ourselves as parents to be better people and better parents for your children. The time we make to visit friends or spend time with our spouses will rejuvenate and restore us. We should make the effort to cultivate the friendships and relationships that matter. We can be attentive and responsible parents without giving up the things that bring us joy. Our kids will also get to see us taking care of ourselves, and will learn how to maintain their own happiness as well.
For many of my patients, being a parent is the single most fulfilling, yet toughest job they have. It seems to be a constant balancing act—being present for your kids but also making sure your own needs are met outside of the parent-child dynamic. One way to make sure you are being the best parent you can be is by monitoring and tending to your mental health. CalPsychiatry boasts an amazing team of physicians (many of whom are parents themselves!) who can help you check in with yourself and keep your mental health on track. Call or book a free consultation with a member of our team today. Together, we can help you flourish so that you can be the best person–and parent–possible.