I’ve been spending some time this week getting things set up for my new website and business. I’m supposed to be resting, but who can rest when there is so much to be done? I’m doing things quietly and purposefully and I don’t feel rushed. For the first time in such a long time, I don’t feel rushed.
As I set out the mission statement and business plan for Mumlyfe, my new parenting website, and Social Addict, my resurrected social media business, I had a Big Thought. I love it when a Big Thought happens because it gives me a Big Excuse to procrastinate for a while and write a blog post instead.
The Big Thought
It’s simply this: Why don’t we approach parenting in the same way we approach business?
I don’t mean setting KPIs and assessing ROI (although, if that’s your thing, do that), I mean creating and actioning a SWOT analysis. A SWOT is a framework for assessing the capabilities of your business at any given time. The idea is to identify your Strengths and Weaknesses (these are generally internal to you), Opportunities and Threats (these are generally external factors), so you can adequately allocate resources to focus on the positive and minimise the negative.
SWOT analysis for parents
This makes so much sense to me from a parenting perspective that I reckon it’s a game changer. See, as parents, we can’t be good at all the things. We are always going to have weaknesses and we are always going to face challenges that we don’t yet have the skills or resources to overcome. At the same time, we have areas of great personal strength that we can call on as we raise our kids while we look ahead to recognise future opportunities.
I think conducting a ‘SWOT analysis for parents’ from time to time might help a lot of mums who feel they are not ‘good enough’ or who feel they are ‘letting the kids down’ in some way by not being all the things. Let’s face it, we can’t ever be all the things, so when we focus on only half of our capabilities as a parent, we’re going to feel like we are letting ourselves or our kids down. Identifying our strengths helps us overcome many of our weaknesses, or at least helps us realise that they are not as important as we thought they were.
I’m a born optimist, so pulling out my strengths and creating opportunities feels natural to me. The thing is, while I know I can rely on my strengths and the opportunities ahead to pull me through the challenges, I’m such a Pollyanna that I tend to brush over my weaknesses and pretend threats don’t really exist. Not good.
You might be the opposite to me. I know many fellow mums struggle to find my kind of optimism and naturally tend to focus on weaknesses and sometimes stress so much about implied threats that they miss the opportunities. Also not good.
Maybe you are a little in-between these two extremes? Either way, all kinds of parents can benefit from doing a SWOT analysis.
How to do a SWOT analysis
The easiest way to do a SWOT analysis is to divide your page into four quadrants and label the top two squares as Strengths and Weaknesses and the bottom two squares Opportunities and Threats. Then you focus on yourself as a parent and fill in the squares. I’ve added a bunch of questions at the bottom of this post to help you work through the quadrants. Keep filling in the squares until you’ve exhausted your thoughts, or until you decide that you’ve got a pretty good overall picture. You may like to brainstorm some ideas with a friend or your partner, but that’s entirely up to you.
Once you’ve completed your SWOT, consider what each of the attributes and circumstances you’ve noted down actually mean. Do certain things cancel each other out? Are there some attributes that are more important to you than others (the ‘values’ question can help you answer that)? Does your co-parent or other support person help improve on your weaknesses and reduce your threats? What areas do you think you need to work on? Does seeing your strengths and opportunities written down like this help you feel better?
In the interest of sharing, here is the quick SWOT that I did for myself when I first had the Big Thought:
Doing this exercise helped me consolidate some things I already knew (I’m not a good ‘play’ mum and I take things too seriously and get bad tempered sometimes, often about not getting enough time to myself; but I’m mostly an easy-going, kind and creative mum who researches far and wide to work out how I want to parent. I can choose whether I’m going to beat myself up about not being the mum who is down on the floor make the train tracks, or I can decide that my kids are lucky to have a mum who encourages them to be creative and is generally pretty nice to be around.
It was the the opportunities and threats part of the analysis that I think will really benefit me. I chose to use these two areas to explore the ways opportunities can help me overcome my weaknesses (for example, Bart and the kids’ extended family love doing playful, kid-type things with them) and start to explore the things that are bringing stress on the family right now. It feels good to have written these things down, so I can keep matching up the opportunities with my weaknesses and so that I am acknowledging the stressors that I’m often in denial about.
I did this as a super-quick exercise that I will revisit when I have more time to spend on it. I urge you to do a quick ‘jot down’ SWOT right now, to get the ball rolling. Did you find any surprises there?
Some questions that might help your SWOT analysis
- What are you naturally good at and how do you bring that skill or attribute into parenting?
- What parenting skills have you worked to develop?
- What do your kids tell you they like or don’t like about your parenting style?
- What do other parents tell you about your parenting?
- What do you find easy to do?
- What makes you feel good about yourself?
- What do you struggle with the most about parenting?
- What do you wish you were better at?
- What don’t you do well?
- What do you avoid doing?
- In what areas do you think you ‘let your kids down’?
- What resources are available to you to enhance your strengths or overcome your weaknesses?
- What potential support are you not tapping into?
- What does the future look like?
- What changes are happening around you right now?
- What could you do more or less of?
- What changes are you facing right now that you are not ready for?
- Are your children moving into a different area of development or life?
- What obstacles are you in your way right now?
- What is making you feel bad about yourself or being a parent?
- What might cause problems in the future and how will it affect you or your family?
- How strong is your network of support?
- What are the values you bring to parenting?
This has all happened just this morning, of course, but I already feel like I’m more ‘in charge’ of my parenting because of this simple exercise. I feel better about myself as a ‘whole parent’, not just an ‘I wish I was more…’ parent. I am still going to work on my weaknesses, but I feel like they are more in perspective now. I like being able to see my whole parenting arsenal in the one place to remind me that for every perceived weakness, I’m bringing something good. I can see that my strengths more than make up for my weaknesses, and those that don’t I am confident that Bart and other people in the kids’ lives have covered. I’m pretty sure that will be true of any parent. If it’s not true for you, keep focusing on your strengths and adding to that list.
Care to share your SWOT analysis with us? What do you think your main S, W, O and Ts are? Was it as helpful to do the exercise for you as it was for me?