How much can you learn from parenting?

I was going to share this article on Facebook and then I thought perhaps this would be a better forum. Over the weekend two people apparently suggested that their ability to do their job (or proposed job) stemmed from being a parent and perhaps grasping for content, The Guardian asked some of their journalists for the opinion on what they’d learnt from parenting.

I can’t say I agreed with all them.

We obviously learn things about ourselves from every life experience we have – I don’t agree with Tim Downing taking the question so literally when he says “I can’t think of a single parenting skill I would consider transferable”.

I actually think it is a bit of a non-question really – the nub of the matter is that being a parent is the single most obvious lifestyle change that has potentially contributed to making me a better person than the previous non-parent iteration of myself, but it doesn’t make me better than anyone else, and there are also lots of ways that I could have changed. A lot of the changes are perhaps simply attributable to growing up and having tangible responsibilities and being relied upon as part of a team in a way that I had never been before. That didn’t have to come through parenting.

That said, I am now a parent, and there are a few things which *I* have learnt from parenting. They are mostly about compromise, letting go and working together consistently in a team with my husband. About setting rules and boundaries and applying them consistently – even to myself. About biting my tongue when he does something in a way that I wouldn’t; not insisting that everyone conform to my “right” when there are of course many ways to do things.  Of considering how I present myself and difficult concepts when discussing things with my 4 year old so that she has both a fair but also not terrifying impression of things. Considering body image, consent, gender, potentially inherent racism when explaining the world or through my own actions. Being braver than I am. Being a parent has taught me to prioritise; how to fit a full working day into a 9-5; the ability to understand from a different point of view and the blissful blissful sound of silence when everyone is asleep or out and I don’t have to think about or talk to anyone else.

I was also reminded of this which I wrote what feels like a million years ago, but was in fact only less than 4 years ago:

Like most things, motherhood is everything I thought it would be, and yet, nothing at all. The (my?) ultimate dichotomy between expectation and reality. The days are long but the years are short someone once told me. That about sums up my experience so far. 

I didn’t expect to come face to face with my selfishness, my laziness and my lack of patience so brutally or abruptly. I didn’t expect that my self confidence would wither or that I would battle so much just getting through the day. I didn’t realise that such a small creature could expose me the way Pip has (and I don’t mean literally, although breastfeeding created a fair few incidences).
I thought I could just go on being me. Me with a baby. Turned out, I had to be stripped back and rebuilt from the bottom up

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