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Parenting Without Parents

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

A LOT of us parent without parents, not just those of us whose mom or dad has died.

You may be estranged from your parents. Or your values might not line up with theirs and so you wouldn’t go to them for parenting advice anyway. Some of you live far from your parents and some of them are not emotionally available even if they live right across the street from you. I have a friend who invites her mom to all the monumental events in her family’s life, she calls regularly to check in, she does all the things an adult child is supposed to do for their mom or dad. But no matter how much effort goes in, there is little engagement from parent to child. No, How did Suzy do on that biology exam? or, How did your meeting with the bank go? or, I was thinking about our conversation last week and I’m really sorry I spoke to you that way, I have to work on thinking before I speak (am I quoting myself here? LOL). Many of our friend's parents live across the country or across the ocean and although technology makes it easier to connect, there is still a longing for a closer relationship.

Especially throughout my first pregnancy I needed my mom. I didn’t just want her advice and to ask her questions about her own pregnancies and births, I needed her advice and first hand experiences. I needed to ask the woman whose fleshy bonds will be like none I’ll ever have again, what each of her four birth stories were: was she very afraid the first time; did she need stitches; did she get mastitis; did she consider breastfeeding even though formula was the recommended food for the newborn of the seventies? Did she have any thoughts about what kind of a mom she wanted to be? Was she introspective at all? Did she and dad dad talk about their dreams for their family? No one else could/can answer those questions for me.

Our first little squishy, Abigail Jane. Jane was my mom's name :)

Those of us without parents, physically or emotionally or geographically, just have to figure this mothering and/or fathering thing out.

But no matter what you've gone through with your parents, please don't use it as an excuse to give up on your own parenting.

By the grace of God and with the love of my parents

Those words automatically come into my mind when asked about how I've managed to become a fulfilled and confident mother without a mom or dad to advise me along the way. First, I believe in a God who grieves deeper than I have, who cheers louder, who forgives faster, and who nurtures more wholly than the most loving of mothers has ever nurtured. It’s in God and so it’s in me, I won’t do it as perfectly of course but I’m good with that. Don’t let the loss of your parents or mom or dad keep you from being the parent that you were meant to be.

And secondly, I can mother because of the love of my parents. Although memories fade, what I remember of my childhood before the accident was togetherness, laughter, love and tenacity. We didn’t have much money but I knew my parents were crazy about each other and about the four of us. I know better than to believe that it was a perfect marriage and that they were perfect parents but I always felt safe and loved and a closeness. If you have never felt that closeness with your parents, it’s not too late to have it with your own kids. It’s never too late and it’s always your choice. It may not come naturally but I guarantee it’s in you to give out even if your parents were never ‘there’ for you.

I have become a resilient, adaptable and decisive mother despite not having my mom and dad around - although I could hug more, nag less and linger a bit longer (I can just picture my kids nodding their heads). And ok, in all fairness, mothering has been made a LOT easier by being gifted with a joy-filled, optimistic, ever-encouraging guy to be my parenting partner.

You can do it!

  • There are a lot of us out there so encourage one another. Don’t be hesitant to ask for advice/tips/wisdom from someone whose parenting style aligns with yours. If their kids are older, do you like what you see? Spend time with parents you admire, it really will rub off on you.

  • Don’t ever be ashamed to get counselling from a professional, especially if you're struggling with specific parenting issues because of serious issues you've had with your own parents.

  • Take the kids out of your will if they settle down more than 50 kms away from where you live - JOKES! Actually, go OUT OF YOUR WAY to love on them if they live far and regularly ask about the little but important things in their lives no matter where their home may be. Go visit!

  • Be a mentor to a mom or dad who is less further along in their parenting journey if you know they don't have their parents around. Don’t force it, just be available.

  • It's ok to miss your parents, whatever the cause of the separation. It's no one's first choice to not have them around. But it's still your choice to be the parent to your kids that you wish you had in your life today. Be the kind of parent that your kids will want in their lives when they start a family of their own.

Us in 1979, that's me in the coke bottle-bottomed glasses :) My little sister must have been napping. Notice the ever-present cigarette in hand!

I would do anything to have my mom and dad around. I'd like to think we'd be close if they were here...that my dad would have helped Tony rip out the walls and floors with gusto during our house reno, that my mom would have had my kids in constant giggles with all her naughty jokes. It didn't turn out that way. None of us intends to become a parent without parents but that doesn't mean we can't still become a great mom or dad.

Your kids have you right now. Go make today count.

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