The Most On-Point Parenting Quotes of All Time
Parenthood is one of the most gratifying and simultaneously challenging human experiences. Just when we think we have it tapped, everything shifts, a new phase begins, and we find ourselves bumbling through the chaos once again.
Let’s face it — sometimes, we can all use a bit of parenting wisdom to get us through the day or through any given challenge that comes up along the way.
Here are 16 quotes that perfectly capture the very real and often poignant journey of raising children.
It’s impossible to know how to be a parent until you are one, and even then, it’s a lot of trial and error. Most of us are usually knee-deep in raising kids before we realize that our kids don’t need us to be the idyllic parents we promised to be while they were still in the womb. In fact, our kids are each individuals with needs that are different from our own and often even from the ones neatly outlined in all the parenting books.
Novelist, essayist and mom of four, Ayelet Waldman has the most beautiful, eye-opening advice about this, “There are times as a parent when you realize that your job is not to be the parent you always imagined you'd be, the parent you always wished you had. Your job is to be the parent your child needs, given the particulars of his or her own life and nature.”
No parent knows exactly what they’re doing. Sure, we all try to follow our instincts, heart and know-how. Sometimes, everything works out well, but other times, it can backfire. All of us parents are just feeling our way through … now if only someone had warned us about this the first day we held our babies in our arms. At least then we’d know it’s normal and that other parents feel this way, too.
In her 2012 piece, “The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto,” on HuffPost, Brené Brown, research professor, author and mom of two, explained how this feels.
“When we obsess over our parenting choices to the extent that most of us do, and then see someone else making different choices, we often perceive that difference as direct criticism of how we are parenting," she says. "Ironically, parenting is a shame and judgment minefield precisely because most of us are wading through uncertainty and self-doubt when it comes to raising our children."
P. J. O'Rourke
Years before he was a dad of three, political satirist and journalist P.J. O’Rourke perfectly nailed a long-true cultural peculiarity about parenting in his 1986 book, "The Bachelor Home Companion: A Practical Guide to Keeping House Like a Pig."
O’Rourke wrote, “Everybody knows how to raise children, except the people who have them.”
Actress and comedian Amy Poehler shared with "Ladies Home Journal" a little bit about the judgmental comments she has faced as a working mom.
"People always want to know where your children are in relation to you. So if I'm in New York, people go, 'Are they here?' And it's like, 'Of course they're with me. They're wherever I am unless I'm working for a couple days and then they're not with me. And no, they're not at this party because I'm an adult. And this party is for adults.'”
Poehler then goes onto explain, though, how age has prepared her for these types of comments. “But age gives you a couple of things: One, you get better at not taking everything people say personally. Two, you learn those type of questions are more about the person asking them than they are about you. And three, you realize no one can make you feel bad about your choice without your permission."
If you and your kids are good, then no one else can take that away from you, even if they’re choosing to parent differently.
Lest you think all those hours and days spent parenting have been woefully wasteful, think again. Former CEO and chair of Mondelez International, Irene Rosenfeld, once told the U.K.'s Independent newspaper, “Parenting is one of the best management training programs there is.”
Rosenfeld gave birth to two daughters while earning her PhD at Cornell and went on to a career of 36 years as an executive in the food industry while raising her girls. So we’re going to take her word for it.
“I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less,” wrote author, journalist and mom of three, Anna Quindlen, in her book "Loud and Clear."
If only we, as parents, can remember this even half the time during the busy-ness and messiness of raising kids, maybe it can make a difference.
After all, even a momentary memory made with our child has to be more satisfying in the long run than the memory of an always-tidy home.
Surely there doesn’t exist a mom or dad, past or present, who hasn’t yelled at their child. (Because how long, really, does it take to put on just two shoes?!!)
Of course, most can probably also agree that raising our voices isn’t the most effective way to get through to our kids on a regular basis.
Rumi, the Persian poet and dad of four, left this lovely reminder about how to more effectively communicate, “Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”
Before you talk yourself blue in the face at your kids, it’s important to remember that most children learn less from what their parents say and more from what their parents do.
Or, as author and Unitarian Universalist minister Robert Fulghum so brightly put it, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”
It’s natural for parents to want to protect and prepare our kids to survive in the modern world, warts and all. However, if we can teach them not only to survive the world but also to make it better, haven’t we truly succeeded as parents?
In her book, "Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages," author and mom of six L.R. Knost writes, “It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.”
Finding support among parents with kids the same age as your own can feel live-saving at times. We all need to know we’re not alone in our struggles. However, sometimes it’s also good to reach out to the parents who have been there, done that, and have the priceless advantage of space and perspective.
Novelist, non-fiction writer and mom Anne Lamott gave this brilliant parenting advice in her book "Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith."
She writes, “Talking to the parents of older kids was helpful for me, since the parents of kids the same age as yours won't admit how horrible their children are.”
As parents, loving our kids isn’t the hard part. Oh how we love them! The hard part is accepting them for who they are at any given moment and adjusting our parenting accordingly. Fred Rogers (aka television personality Mister Rogers), a dad of two, said it best in his book "The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember."
He writes, “Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”
According to developmental psychologist and father of five Gordon Neufeld, a child should not have to work to keep her parents close and earn positive attention.
In this clip from his "Relationship Matters" DVD, Neufeld said, “Children must never work for our love, they must rest in it.” Instead, a child should be able to rest emotionally knowing she has her parents’ unconditional love. That is the place where kids can truly grow and thrive.
If you’ve ever felt alone in the messiness, literally and figuratively, of parenthood, you’re certainly not alone.
In a quote from her book, "Lift," writer and mom of two Kelly Corrigan perfectly explains this feeling, “If John Lennon was right that life is what happens when you're making other plans, parenthood is what happens when everything is flipped over and spilling everywhere and you can't find a towel or a sponge or your ‘inside’ voice.”
Lisa T. Shepherd
There is certainly relief in knowing that crazy-making role of parent — the hardest job you’ll ever do — will also grow your heart and inner self beyond your wildest dreams.
Family wellness coach and work-life balance guru Lisa T. Shepherd of the Abundant Mama Project hit the nail on the head when she said, “In raising my children, I have lost my mind but found my soul.”
Actress and mom of two Helen Hayes famously left the world with probably the most important parenting reminder of all time: “Childhood is a short season.”
Now if only we can remember it mid-tantrum in the Target checkout line.