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As a parent, who do you look up to?

Tori Bowman Johnson

Tori Bowman Johnson

Tori, a freelance writer, has worked in production, talent management & branding since her agency role at Vivien’s Model Management in Melbourne in 2011. Tori has recently launched, The First Word; a conversational podcast for women, particularly those who juggle young children & paid work. Tori is also a very proud mum of two little boys.
Created on May 10, 2024 · 5 mins read
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It’s a question I often find myself wondering. I spend so much (too much) time scrolling social media and peering into the lives of those I find aesthetically pleasing. Many of those I follow have things I resonate with on a deeper level, but for the most part, I scroll for escapism and entertainment.

So who drives me to want to learn new things? Who inspires me to find new pathways to unravel? Who encourages me to take risks in an effort to both unlock potential and isolate personal boundaries?

It’s not the people I flick past flippantly. It’s not the people on the gold and silver screen who make everything seem grand and dramatic.

It’s actually my girlfriend who is raising her gorgeous children as a single parent. It’s the woman who does my spray tans, who is navigating the world after losing her mum to cancer. It’s the darling bloke I purchase ‘The Big Issue’ from every Saturday morning. It’s my mum for being the woman who taught me right from wrong. It’s my son’s school teacher. It’s my husband. It’s my two little boys. Their actions are continuous reflections of what I need to work on as their parent.

Finding our 'parent role-models'

Becoming a parent also seems to encourage us to look over at our ‘parent-peers’ and assess how well we are doing with the task of raising ‘good’ children based on what they are doing.

To continue growing and becoming more open-minded and self-aware individuals who are in control of their emotions and empathic to the diversity in all facets of life, we also need to find people that we feel compelled to look up to.

This is not to say we can’t be inspired by our friends, but maybe can we go wider. Deeper. Can we go beyond what we know to discover variety and nuance in parenting? 

I listened to a DailyDad podcast the other day. I’d never actually heard of the podcast before this instance so I can’t speak too much on the series, however, a particular outtake from the episode had me thinking.

Here the host references an idea his wife and the mother of his children shared with him.

“The most valuable skill a person could have, is the ability to appropriately deal with frustration. And there’s really no way to teach how to be good at dealing with frustration to your children … other than getting better at dealing with frustration.”

It’s so basic. So simple. And yet, so true. Our children watch us in every moment, and what they see is what they learn.

Looking up and ahead

Since hearing this quote, I’ve found myself ‘looking up’ in the sense that I am looking ahead. How can I manage prickly emotions in the future, while simultaneously teaching my children life skills?

I also looked inward. How do I wish I dealt with prickly emotions? Whatever the answer is – just do that. Right?

While it’s so much easier said than done, it felt liberating in the moment of realisation.

There is no point in comparing ourselves to anyone else if we are seeking validation for being a ‘good parent’. To achieve this goal, we actually just need to be good people. 

For many of us, this may mean expanding our social networks, meeting new people, being open to new ideas, and welcoming diverse ways of thinking. Perhaps less social media scrolling and more social discussion? 

Going back to who I look up to as a parent, again, yes I look up to so many of my ‘parent-peers’ as they’re fabulous. But I’ve learned that it’s wonderfully expansive to also look up and look around.

Expanding my parenting perspectives

So how am I doing this?

  • I am making more of an effort to talk to the other parents at school, people I don’t know, instead of racing out after drop off.
  • I am reading biographies of people with different experiences (I can highly recommend ‘The One Thing We’ve Never Spoken About’ by Effy Scott – an important story about a girl (Effy) who was raised by a mother living with schizophrenia.
  • I am reading and speaking more openly about my parenting struggles and assessing what type of feedback comes back. For example, I struggle with teaching my 4-year-old about physical boundaries (he’s just starting to become curious about the human body – which is fine at home but tricky in social settings), so I am going beyond my ‘social network’ and branching into informative podcast pockets with expertise on this topic. 
  • I am willing myself to simply look up more. Watch and listen to the world around me, instead of scrolling right past it. 
  • I am putting more of myself out there through writing, to become more available to connect with people from different walks of life.

Real insights lie in difference

I stumbled across another thoughtful quote the other day by Stephen Kinnane, a Fabric Quarterly magazine issue contributor. While I am shifting the context of his quote here, the sentiment still holds truth within this topic.

“Our stories are sometimes connected in ways that we can’t even fathom, until the diversity of our stories is made clear to us through the inability of rigid boundaries to define, classify, and label us.”

It took me a while to articulate his point, however, I concluded with this; we are all exceptionally different. These differences do not define us, nor do they determine where we should disconnect from people. The differences between people, fill our own unique missing gaps.

Wrapping it up

I can’t help but think that a byproduct of learning to be more open and accepting of people, will be that we make space to become better parents.

The next time you look over to your ‘parent-peers’ or scroll past a bunch of photos and reels after you pop the kids to bed – try to then look up. Look for a new space to enter, a new person to meet, a different question to ask and just see what comes back. See what’s on offer.

Expand, evolve, and find your true potential as a parent. If you do this, it’s almost definite that in return your children will look up to you too.

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