“What we call reality is, in fact, nothing more than a culturally sanctioned and linguistically reinforced hallucination.’
– Terence McKenna
I’ve been reading parenting books again – it’s what I do. I research and study because I want to be good at the things that are important to me, and being a good mom is very important to me. I took parenting classes during my junior year of college. I didn’t even have a boyfriend at the time, but parenting interested me. Everything about raising the next generation interested me. Those children would grow up to take over our world, and I felt a certain self-preservation in learning how to guide them to be kind, competent human beings… especially if they were running my future nursing home. But, that was just my second thought. My first thought was – if I became a mom, I would be prepared, and I would be good.
I met my husband a few years after graduate school and married him within a year. Some would say it was a hasty marriage, but we knew what we wanted. I practically conceived the moment he proposed. It was go time. I had spent years preparing for this next phase of my life, and I had no doubt I was ready.
As anyone who has a child knows, there really is no way to be ready for parenthood. It’s like studying all weekend for a math test and when you sit down to take it, all the questions are about philosophy. There are no black and white answers. Even if you master your first child, your second child will be completely different. They say, “Follow your instincts and you’ll be fine,” but I knew there had to be more answers.
So, I started studying. I read (and still read) mom blogs and parenting books. I consulted experts. And when I still wasn’t sure, I did follow my instincts. It wasn’t until I started learning about parenting in other countries that I started to find real answers. Two books in particular stand out. One is about Dutch parenting [The Happiest Kids in the World: How Dutch Parents Help Their Kids (and Themselves) by Doing Less by Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison] and the other is about Danish parenting [The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Sandahl]. The Netherlands and Denmark are often said to produce the happiest kids in the world (according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF). Of course I was interested in their parenting philosophies. I mean, you have to have happy kids to be a good mother, right?
Ironically, one of the main things that stood out to me about these two cultures, was parents are not really all that concerned with individuals being “good”. Don’t get me wrong, they do things well, but they have a much different perspective than Americans. The Dutch and Danes are much more concerned about teamwork and the community as a whole, than individualistic goals – like a particular parent’s actions being “good”.
In a lot of ways America’s culture and all its philosophies are still young. We were just teenagers when we declared our independence from the British empire, eager to do things our own way. Independence was our greatest strength, and our greatest downfall.
You see, independence can only take you so far, especially when it comes to parenting. My Native American ancestors, who put extended family and kinship before individualism, would agree. In fact, everything we needed to know about the benefits of tribalism was right here, waiting to be understood and implemented. Still we moved forward, looking for a better way.
As a mom, I didn’t even realize that my need to be “good” was an individualistic cultural value. Once I became aware, I was more open to other ways of parenting. I started to consider the possibility that there are entire communities out there who value humility and interdependence, and I began to replicate that in my own life. I brought my friends together for hygge (pronounced HUE-ga, a Danish concept that means “cozy together”), and started a mom support website called SisterMom. Instead of looking to myself to become a better parent, I looked to friends and family. Inspired by cultures who thrive on togetherness, I finally found my parenting answers.
If what we call reality is nothing more than a culturally-sanctioned illusion, I suggest we stop and become aware of our illusions. I’ve learned that asking myself how I can be a good mother is the wrong question. In fact, it is that very question which creates problems. I now reach out and ask, “How can we be good parents?” I believe all our parenting answers lie in response to that one question.
About the Author:
Shannon Lanzerotta has a Bachelor of Art in Communication and a Master of Science in Community Counseling. She is considered to be a perspective expert by fortune 500 companies who pay her to train their employees. She is also a licensed counselor whose mission is to support moms through her Perspective Program™. In addition, she has a handsome Italian-American husband and feisty Italian-Irish-Native American son. When they go to bed, she stays up late at night looking through her old rodeo queen albums, therefore, she often lacks sleep. In additional, addition, she loses her cell phone/keys/mind constantly… so take all those degrees and accomplishments with a grain of salt, like everything else in life. You can contact her at [email protected]