Welcome to my blog, Philosophy for Parents. I have an MPhil and PhD in Intellectual History and Political Thought from the University of Cambridge (Cambridge, England), as well as a BA from Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA). I am currently have a position at the Philosophy Department at the University of San Diego, where I teach a variety of philosophy classes ranging from introductory classes to upper-division courses on moral and political philosophy, philosophy of religion and medieval philosophy. I am also a mother to six wonderful, imperfect, energetic, demanding, unique children, who now range from ages 22 to 11.
I have started Philosophy for Parents for two reasons. The first is that I have a passion for parenting. I believe that parenting is the most important job anyone can do. I also see parenting as the hardest job anyone can do (I speak as a former Wall Street banker, and a college teacher of philosophy). Yet, it seems that as a society, despite all our advances, we still don’t really value parenting. The things we really value in our society, like power, fame, wealth, professional status, and freedom, having nothing to do with parenting, and in fact usually are much harder to achieve if you take your parenting responsibilities seriously.
Because of this, I want to voice my support for parents in any way that I can. I know about the frustrations, the worries, the relentlessness of caring for children, the emotional and physical exhaustion, the tediousness, the unmet expectations, the injustice of being undervalued, the ‘how do I deal with this challenge?’ moments. If you are a parent, I am your friend.
This brings me to the second reason I have started Philosophy for Parents: I believe that philosophy can provide an important support for parents. It does this by engaging us in a conversation about what is really valuable in life. Along with parenting, I also have a passion for ideas. I think that exposure to ideas – even if we don’t agree with them – has the power to change how we view things, which changes how we feel and how we act. And by ideas, I do not mean ‘ideas about how to power nap’ or ‘ideas about how to get your child to do the dishes’. Our world is full of super-practical ideas for parents. Yet, the parenting soul needs to be fed on more than a diet of practicalities. On those days when your teenager screams swear words at you or your son has a three hour tantrum because you turned off his X-box, you’ll need to do some serious pondering to restore yourself, not just take a power nap. I believe that philosophy actually can help us as parents with our everyday challenges, by enabling us to think more deeply about the purpose of our families, and what we are trying to achieve in raising our children.
Now, philosophy and parenting may seem to be two subjects which have very little to do with one another. Philosophy is one of the most theoretical disciplines, and parenting is the ultimate practical discipline. Sometimes philosophers are accused of ‘navel gazing’, which I assume is the practice of thinking too much about things that really are of no consequence. Parents have no such luxury: our limited time has to be used to think with a goal to action. Indeed, the only navels I have had time to inspect since becoming a parent are the navels of my newborn babies as I waited for the cord to fall off.
However, consider this: philosophy is about making sense of the human condition. It tries to do this by exploring concepts and phenomena that we encounter as part of our human experience, such as truth, knowledge, reality, goodness, beauty, right and wrong, reason, emotion, the soul, free will, determinism, choice, action, virtue, and so on.
Parenting, too, is about making sense of the human condition. As parents we have to teach our children how to make sense of the world, of the concepts of right and wrong, of what is good and what is beautiful. We help them to make sense of themselves – their thoughts and feelings, their choices, their actions, their relationships with others, etc.
So, parenting has the potential to be a very important philosophical activity. Yet, it is safe to say that philosophers do not generally engage directly with parents. No, those engaging directly with parents tend to be psychologists, counselors, educators, doctors, sometimes management consultants and other parents. The advice and help that these people offer for family challenges is, for the most part, fantastic, and often, vital. But philosophy can give us a perspective on our children that is different from the perspective of child experts. And it can give us different tools for solving the problems we have with them.
The fact that philosophers rarely talk to parents, then, is a problem that needs to be addressed. That’s what I want to do with this blog.
I want to talk to parents about philosophy, in a way that makes philosophy seem accessible and useful to them. I want to show how philosophy gets us to think about our job as parents by challenging our assumptions about what sort of life we want our children to lead. I want to show how philosophy can be practical, because it can be used to shed light on the various problems we may have with our children.
Thanks very much for visiting Philosophy for Parents. Please feel free to leave any comments and join in the discussion. You can also follow me on Instagram at drholly_hb, or Twitter on @holly_hambleak.