We Were Using The Wrong Umbrella (and the parental stress scale)

childrens museum play kitchen3

There are things you imagine being a parents means.  Before you actually have kids you imagine all the wonderfully good, sunshine and gentle breezes type of things.  The people around you who already have kids try to add in some reality – no more sleeping in, the ‘Terrible Twos’, helping with homework, worrying about who their friends are, and so on.  While you know these are going to be a part of the reality, in the big scheme of things, they do not seem too horrible.  After all, for most people, they made it to adulthood and their parents are still sane.

However, this picture is not always what happens.  What about when those ‘trials’ turn into larger things?

Sometimes those sunshine and gentle breezes turn into cloudy or stormy days.  At first, the umbrella you have on hand is sufficient. “A little rain is normal in life.”  But when it begins to rain harder, sometimes you need to find a different umbrella.

Part of some changes we have made in the past year was looking for answers.  This involved having people become a part of our lives whose services we previously did not need.

When the changes first started, we thought the process would be a few weeks from start to finish.  Here we are, almost 9 months later, and we are still in the process of changing. We are in the process of changing, all of us. Seems that it was not necessarily our umbrella that was broken, but that we were just using the wrong umbrella for this particular storm.

Not only were these people not a part of my initial picture of how our lives would look when kids were added, but neither were some of the questions that accompanied them.  Here is a paper we  have seen several times, and which makes me always pause and think, “I never thought being a parent would include filling out this.”

Here is a copy of the Parental Stress Scale sheet we have been given several times to gauge how stressed we are as parents.  Just out of curiosity, have any of you, who are NOT foster/adoptive parents, ever thought of filling something like this out?  How would you feel if you were asked to do so?

Some of the questions make me pause and really think.  Then I begin to wonder if I would even stop to ponder these things if life had held all the sunshine and gentle breezes I thought it would?  Do ‘normal’ parents even consider how satisfied they are a a parent or whether their view of the future is more optimistic because they have kids?  Then comes question 14.  How is that for being asked to bare your soul?  While you know you are not being judged, you still feel as if there is a “right” and a “wrong” answer.

The scale is meant to give a general sense of how stressed the parents are, in hope of gauging whether things are improving at home.  They assume that if the parents are not stressed as much then progress is being made.  The problem I have is that it is all subjective.

“I am happy in my role as a parent” will have different answers on any given day, depending on what just happened.  Did we just go through an few hours of kids yelling at me, ignoring me, making a mess in the rooms I just picked up?  Then I probably am not very happy and it is hard to remember the day before when we baked cookies and the kids surprised me by showing me which numbers were even.

However, if we have just had a great day where everyone was on schedule, the kids were happy with the ‘new’ toys in the toy room and have been entertaining themselves all morning, then I am most likely seeing rainbows in the sky from all the sunshine after a storm and feeling quite chipper, forgetting about the battle of wills the day before.  So, which day is it that I happen to be asked to fill out this paper?  Toss a coin and you will find out.

It is still an interesting thing to go through, making you stop and look around.  At times I forget that my parenting experience does not mimic that of my parents, my siblings, nor most of my friends.  This is just another example of  how unusual our parenting experience is at times.

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