Did I make a conscious decision to parent differently to my own mum and dad?

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I generally don’t find writing prompts all that inspiring. None had persuaded me to put my fingers to a keyboard for some considerable time until an email crash-landed in my inbox that I simply couldn’t ignore. The email in question came from the Good Men Project and has had my mind in a whirl ever since.

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In some respects I did make a conscious decision to parent differently to my own parents, but it wasn’t entirely straightforward.

The email was challenging me to write something about my own father and whether I had made a conscious decision to be a different dad to him. This, I felt, would be an interesting subject to tackle.

I didn’t, however, want to look at whether I had made a conscious decision to be different to my dad. That’s a difficult question for me to answer because I lived with a stepfather from a young age.

Had I made a conscious decision to be different to my own parents? This is a question I was inspired to answer.

My initial reaction was to think: “Yuh huh, like massively different.” Having slept on it, I’m not so sure.

There’s no question about it, I am a very different parent to the previous generation. I am much more hands-on and dedicate more time to my kids than was ever spent on me as a youngster.

Then again, I was the oldest of three brothers. They came along very quickly when I was almost 10 years old and my mother simply had to dedicate her time to them.

Added to this, my kids have me as their main carer. Having a dad as the main carer is a novelty in the 21st century. If we go back to the 1980s and 1990s, when I was young, it was unheard of.

Schooling is a further big difference. My mother and her brothers and sisters, my stepfather and my brothers all went to boarding school.

In my mother’s case, she attended boarding school from the age of five. I look at my five-year-old daughter Izzy and I just can’t imagine sending her to boarding school. It would be such a massive emotional hurdle to cross and yet in those days, it wasn’t such an odd thing to do.

For reasons that are far too complicated to go into, I was never sent to boarding school. As I have got older, I have come to appreciate this does mean I have a slightly different mentality to the rest of my family and this has an impact on who I am and how I parent.

There’s also something of a town / country divide. I grew up in a gloriously rural location and I disappeared off on my bike for hours at a time. The back door of the house was opened up and I was told to go off and play and play I did, totally unsupervised.

Living on the fringes of London, my kids have never known this freedom. I simply can’t give it to them because of the horrendous traffic.

Although it’s not in my nature to restrict the Helen and Izzy’s freedom like this, I simply have to. I speak to other parents of a similar age and we all say the same thing. We’d love to just let the kids play in the streets but we worry about the traffic.

Back to the question that prompted all of this. Am I consciously a different parent to my own mother and father?

Yes, I am. I can think of various ways that my approach differs to the way I was raised such as attitudes to authority and so on. My parents, for instance, would never have questioned a school teacher’s authority. It probably says more about my awkward character than anything else, but I have no issue with speaking to a teacher if I have a concern over something.

Circumstance, however, is a much bigger influence that I ever appreciated. Where my kids live compared to where I grew up, the school system my parents were educated in compared to the school system I was educated in, the fact Mrs Adams and I only have two kids whereas we were raised in families with three siblings, these all have a massive impact on how my kids are raised.

Added to this, feminism has worked its magic. My wife is free to work and provide for the family, thereby freeing me up to be Helen and Izzy’s main carer. That has probably had the biggest impact of all on how I parent.

I consciously try to take the best of my parents and pass that on to my kids. There are, naturally, elements of my upbringing I didn’t want to emulate with my offspring but I have to concede circumstance has been a bigger influence on how I parent than I thought.

What do you think? Do you consciously try and parent your children differently compared to your own upbringing? Maybe you think your own parents had things sewn up and you try and emulate them? Please do leave a comment below or leave me a comment on social media.


6 thoughts on “Did I make a conscious decision to parent differently to my own mum and dad?”

  1. Well John this is interesting, am I different parent or dad to my own. The answer will always be a yes for me, my parents taught me how NOT to be parent. Which is something I will be eternally grateful for, the bond and relationship with my own children exceeds my wildest dreams. Something I never had with my own parents. My parents negative parenting made me a positive thoughtful parent and made me reaslise to always be there for my children. Which I am whatever happens. Good read John made me think this morning. And possibly write about it.

    1. Oh yes Nigel. When you’ve written about your own experiences you’ve always done it with such striking honesty. At least your own children benefit from what you learned. I look forward to reading your thoughts if you do choose to put something together yourself.

  2. I am with Nigel, the way my parents parented me verged on cruel and barbaric at times, and for all I am aware I was not always 100% perfect with my children I truly set out to do things so differently than my parents did with me. I loved each and every one of my kids through good and bad and although my kids may say differently I did not have any favourites. There may have been behaviour in my children I did not like but never disliked the child. Having grown up as the 3rd of 4 children in a household where my mother hated me and made it plain every day that she hated me and told me so I always made sure my children knew I loved them.
    I do remember my aunt leaving my uncle with 3 young children in 1968 as she could not cope with them, but for all that was hard on them and him I felt it was better than staying and resenting them. But as you say it was unusual for the men to be the main carer. I am glad thinking has changed and that men are actively encouraged to be more than the sperm donor.

    1. Wow, just wow. You had a very tough time. None of us gets it 100% right with out own kids but you could clearly see where your own parents went wrong (not too difficult really). It doesn’t take much to let your children know you love them. How sad it didn’t happen in your early years.

  3. Symatt™ (@symatt)

    Oh the answer to this is YES YES YES.
    I had no relationship with my parents. Spending 11 of my childhood years in a children’s home. My father was a bully and used his fist and belt above and beyond.
    I hated my childhood while at home.
    So now my children get all my time. I want them to be happy. Maybe to the point I spoil them a little more than I should. I show them and tell them I love them everyday. We are very close, even closer with my #2 daughter.
    I’m not an authoritarian person. My children know it.
    I may live to regret how I am now but that’s for the future and I’ll address that when it gets here.

    So there is now way I will treat my children the same way they treated me.

    1. You’re the third person to have penned a response to this blog post and all of you had such negative experiences. I can’t imagine what you went through but it does show the chain can be broken and that you and others who come from such backgrounds can put it behind them. I felt quite emotional reading your comment as it happens.

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