What if taking parenting classes prior to becoming a parent were a given? Not because it was state or federally mandated or because someone was assessed as “at risk”. What if parenting classes were so socially and culturally accepted that it is something you just do? Like childbirth classes.
Childbirth classes are available everywhere at little or no expense to parents. They aren’t federally or state mandated. Parents are not mandated to take them if they are experiencing a high-risk pregnancy. In fact, health care professionals happily talk about and encourage taking classes to soon-to-be parents frequently. Health care professionals position these classes as an essential part of the natural process of becoming a parent.
New parents flock to these classes without shame. One in three mothers take a childbirth class prior to delivery. They aren’t made to feel that somehow they are less than capable as a soon-to-be parent. We (society) applaud the decision. We (society) tell soon-to-be parents what a great thing they are doing. We (society) don’t assume that something is wrong with them because they have chosen to take a class. We (society) understand that it is crucial that soon-to-be parents get their hands on all the information they can to become familiar with what to expect, to educate themselves to make informed choices and to feel more confident in their ability to handle any problems that might arise during delivery.
In fact, according to a national study of women’s childbearing experiences titled Listening to Mothers 3, women reported the primary reasons for taking these classes were: learning about labor and birth, preparing for a natural childbirth, caregiver recommendation, and because it was viewed a routine thing one does in pregnancy. Furthermore, after taking the classes women reported positive outcomes of having a better understanding of their options and being more confident in their ability to give birth.
So if we think it’s a good idea to take childbirth classes prior to delivery, why do so many people view parenting classes as something for people with problems? I haven’t conducted a formal survey or researched reasons people take parenting classes. This assertion comes from teaching parenting classes for a number of years. The feedback I received from participants in my classes was generally of the mindset of “I never would’ve taken this class if I didn’t have to, but I learned so much.” In social situation, those casual “so, what do you do for a living?” conversations brought similar assessments – that parenting classes are for people with problems.
Childbirth is a pretty natural process. Most women go into labor naturally. Roughly, less than one in four mothers were medically induced with quite a few mothers indicating inductions were not deemed medically necessary. Parenting, on the other hand, is part natural and part learned. We have to figure out our kids, one by one and stage by stage, because every kid is his or her own person.
There is no doubt that the more information we are armed with in advance, the less stress we experience in our parenting journey. Not because we know it all. Not because our kids follow “the script” of what we’ve read or studied. Because we know the information is out there. Because we know we are not alone. Because, like childbirth, parenting is HARD! Because, like childbirth, having a better understanding of our options and being more confident in our ability to parent reduces our stress. Because when we reach out to our support groups, to experts, to resources, to our community, we find strength in numbers and strength in information. We are not alone.