The last decade has seen the emergence of a large variety of methods for supporting and training parents in rearing children. Yet, there is a blind spot in our understanding of parenthood as a phenomenon and developmental experience in its own right. Most thinking about parents, whether in scientific, policy, or popular domains, focuses on the effects of parenting on children, rather than on the nature of parental experience. Professional training is no exception: new graduates enter helping and educational disciplines inadequately prepared for the complexities and pitfalls of working with parents.
This inaugural address considers parenthood in terms of ambivalence and resourcefulness. Oscillating between confidence and despair, love and hate, and stumbling through the vast array of adversities that tumble uninvited into every family, it is striking and worthy of deeper investigation that parents manage to withstand these inner and outer assaults. By understanding what it is to be a parent and what is required of parents to raise a child, policy makers, practitioners and educators alike can develop more effective practices and better policies. A more effective understanding and approach to working with parents is ultimately in the best interests of children, and society as a whole.