Self-Parenting is Harder Than I Thought

Self-Parenting is Harder Than I Thought

Yesterday I split my personality in “parent” and “inner child”. I probably am just crazy, but I am finding the experience rather illuminating so far. It’s not unlike wearing two hats, but with a subtle difference. Consider the following dualities:

  • Businessperson and Artist
  • Visual Designer and Developer
  • Producer and Production Designer
  • Creative and Adminstrative
  • Manager and Developer
  • Architect and Builder

Since I’m a solo practitioner, I tend to flip back and forth between “manager” and “creator” roles as need be. It’s no wonder that I lose track of which hat I’m wearing at any given time; I have to wear many hats, which involves an expensive context switch.

Now, consider the following pairs:

  • Parent and Child
  • Teacher and Student

The difference: instead of focusing on the work, you’re focused on the success of a person. The first set describes roles that are tied to process or product. That is a different mentality entirely! Shifting the emphasis to people lessens my mental overhead.


Instead of remembering and cycling through all those things I should be doing—accounting, advertising, making money, chores, and so on—I just have to think one thing: nurture the child. The rest follows in support of that. This is rather similar to an earlier epiphany about my passion: it’s not the thing that’s important, but who.

You real parents out there can tell me how delusional I am, but maybe I’ve caught a glimpse of a shadow of a bit of something that’s important.

Day One of Parenting Myself

Even with the unfair advantage of parenting myself, I still managed to goof it up. The morning started well enough: I got a good chunk of work done on some ActionScript 2.0 work, using a new library and development process that will pay off in the long run. However, I did not get as far as I wanted, and clearly I could have pushed harder to finish up by 5PM. As it was, I frittered away my time until 8PM, upon which I remember I had to eat. In my bachelor days, this wouldn’t have bothered me because I eat when I want. But with the responsibility of an Inner Child, this is an entirely different matter! Is that any way to run a household? What if this got out to Inner Child Services? I might have to get a real job!

So I belatedly cooked dinner and ended up eating around 1000PM. Tomorrow I’ll set cooking time to start at 5PM, and shoot for no more than 30 minutes of preparation.

On the plus side, I ate a healthy meal of pan-fried chicken and collard greens. I thought about watching some TV, but my budding parental senses compelled me to do the dishes and tidy up the kitchen (though I didn’t sponge off the stove…don’t want to overdo it on the first day!) Only after that, did I allow some TV time, watching an episode of Full Metal Alchemist. It’s a rather disturbing animated series, dealing with complex occult themes. Which of course makes it awesome to my 14-year old self…I just hope he doesn’t get nightmares.

Anyway, after dinner I was back down in the office salvaging my less-than-productive day. My plan: hit the sack by midnight, start the next day early, instead of starting another shift of work and staying up to 4AM. Since time was short, I decided to just sort some bills. After much gnashing of teeth and popping of eyes, I realized there would be no Xbox-360 for Little Dave, but lots of government cheese unless I lay down the hustle more thickly. I am newly motivated!

One bummer is that I had promised my inner child that we’d draw spaceships and shoot hoops. At best, we managed to watch some TV—I mumbled something about work taking longer than I thought. This is a disappointing precedent to set. Tomorrow I’ll make it up to him, and already I wonder if I’m going to make this a habit, turning myself into a latchkey kid through neglect. Self-parenting is harder than I thought!

A Note On Silliness

I’m kind of amazed that this is such a compelling exercise. I suspect it’s working because I have an empathic imagination, which makes it easy to objectify the abstract notion of my “inner child”. As an example, when I bought my first new car in 2000, I had really wanted a “tornado orange” VW GTI. They didn’t have one at the local dealer, so I settled for a silver one, which was also nice. The day after I said I’d take it, another dealer called me excitedly and told me that they had JUST GOT IN a new orange GTI, and that I could pick it up any time. A sane person would have ditched the silver one and switched, but I felt I had made a commitment to the silver one and didn’t want to just dump it like that. Sometimes, I am saddened by uneaten cookies; here was a cookie brought into existence to be enjoyed by someone’s happy mouth, but instead its potential was wasted and unmourned…

I should say in my defense that the main reason I kept the silver GTI was that it would be less visible to police, as I was planning to “fully enjoy” the capabilities of the car. And while an uneaten cookie is rather sad in theory, the reason they remain uneaten is because they are empty calories and lack a certain tastyness—a lot of cookies are just mediocre, you know. Still, part of me cares just a little bit, before I toss ’em down the garbage disposal. I am a such a monster!

It’s not much of a leap from that to adopting an inner child :-)


  1. CarlenLea 15 years ago

    Can’t tell you how much I love your blog.  I usually read it on mobile RSS, so it makes commenting difficult.  Yesterday on the train home, I was reading your self-parenting post and it made me so happy!  I know a lot of people struggling with the same things, including myself, and you’re able to capture it so well.

    So—just in case you don’t think anyone appreciates you sharing your life struggles, be assured at least on person does.


  2. Denise 14 years ago

    Having recently come to the conclusion that I have been parenting myself for more years than I could count, I got immense enjoyment out of your post. Thank you for putting your ideas out there so that the rest of us can say “Okay, so I’m NOT the only one!”

  3. Dave Seah 14 years ago

    Thanks Denise! I just out-of-curiosity did a quick search on “self parenting”, and apparently someone actually coined this term back in 1988 in a book.

  4. John Pollard 11 years ago

    > You real parents out there can tell me how delusional I am, but
    > maybe I’ve caught a glimpse of a shadow of a bit of something
    > that’s important.

    Just wanted you to know that there’s a site on this topic, and people who have been doing this for years.

    [ed. note: I usually delete self-promotional comments, but this one is actually relevant to the post, straightforward, and names matches up]

  5. John Pollard 10 years ago

    Hey, thanks for keeping my comment. Here’s another one you can decide upon.

    I just wandered by here today and saw my 1986 trademark all over your site again. But that’s okay. Maybe you’ll make it more famous than me after 23+ years.

    Me you ask? I’ve done a half-hour of positive S-P every single morning since my post. How about you?

    Actually, why don’t you have a look at my site. Give it a review. I’d like to hear what you have to say. You write cogently on this topic.

    Just moved the new site to WP, going to start a buddypress site soon for practitioners.

    Try the two weeks in the yellow book, see you do, let me know.


  6. Author
    Dave Seah 10 years ago

    John: It’s an interesting concept, and veiled chest-pounding aside, it looks like you’ve done quite a bit of work on it. Maybe the next 10 years will be more fruitful for you in your practice! I think the hard sell for Self-Parenting is that most of the time, adults don’t like to think of themselves as children. Perhaps if you picked another term and repackaged it as an extreme self-care program, it would hit a different audience. Just a comment.

    Good luck with the relaunch! If I get some time I’ll check it out.