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Are you putting your eggs in the right basket?

15 April
Posted by:
Michael Grose

Here’s a little test to check out your priorities. Imagine you are a parent with a partner and one child. You have a weekly ration of twelve eggs only, which are your only source of protein. How will you ration these eggs?
Here are your choices:

a) Divide them evenly so you each receive four eggs

b) Give six to your child and your partner and you receive three each

c) Give six to your child, four to your partner and two for yourself

d) Take six yourself, give four to your partner and leave two for your child

How did you do?

When I ask parents in seminars to take this test most opt for choice A – the democratic, sharing model. This is not surprising as the most common parenting model today is an authoritative model which promotes a more equal arrangement between family members. Parents often don’t like to place themselves too high in the pecking order so they share the resources evenly.

Choice B is indicative of the child-centric approach to parenting where the child comes first in most areas of family life. In effect, parents go down this path when they devote all their spare time to their children and neglect to carve out some time for their own interests and activities, or spend time with their partner.

The trouble with this choice is that kids can easily become egocentric believing the world revolves around them and they don’t learn to make account for others. On a practical level, this choice neglects the fact that kids do leave home eventually, and when they do you can easily look at each other thinking, “Now what?” You have been so busy relating to each other as parents that as partners you have grown apart because you have nothing in common. So choice B is not my preferred choice.

If you chose C you are a devoted parent and partner. No doubt about it. You are looking after your child and your partner really well. People who choose this response generally experience a great deal of guilt as parents. They are guilty for many things, and only some of them they can control. They are guilty when their child is unhappy as they must have said or done something to cause it. They are guilty when their partner is unhappy because they are not attending to them properly.

They feel guilty when they are unhappy because they must be awful to be around. These parents usually put their own personal needs on the backburner, so that the other people in their lives can thrive. This is an unsustainable model as sooner or later you’ll break down and then others have become so dependent on you that they can’t thrive when you aren’t functioning at your usual 110%. Choice C is the martyr’s choice and not one I’d opt for.

Okay that leaves D. That’s the one I was hoping you’d choose, but it’s the hardest choice for guilt-ridden, relationship-driven parents. Choice D basically says look after yourself first, devote some of your energy to your partner and then start taking care of your kids. Most messages coming from media, schools and parenting experts support the belief that effective modern parents should put their children first, second and third.

According to this thinking, those that choose D are bad parents. I think they are sensible parents who realise that parenting is a marathon, not a sprint and that those who raise kids have competing priorities including looking after your own parents.

This test can be found in book Thriving!
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