The 8 Seasons Of Parenthood: How The Stages Of Parenting Constantly Reshape Our Adult Identities

The 8 Seasons Of Parenthood: How The Stages Of Parenting Constantly Reshape Our Adult Identities

by Barbara C. Unell, Jerry Wyckoff
Every parent knows that the experience of raising children changes us profoundly, in ways often unforeseen. And yet never before has a book examined how and why the stages of our children's development affect us so deeply, altering not only our jobs, our lifestyles, and our relationships with our spouses and parents, but the very essence of how we think of ourselves


Every parent knows that the experience of raising children changes us profoundly, in ways often unforeseen. And yet never before has a book examined how and why the stages of our children's development affect us so deeply, altering not only our jobs, our lifestyles, and our relationships with our spouses and parents, but the very essence of how we think of ourselves as individuals and adults.

For the first time, parenting experts Barbara Unell and Jerry Wyckoff offer a new vision of the family journey — what it means for us as parents and individuals as we evolve in tandem with every new change brought about by our children's growth. Like Passages, Gail Sheehy's groundbreaking study of the stages of adult maturity, this book defines for readers the eight clear stages of an adult parent's life, illuminating the defining moments, key conflicts, important lessons and signposts of each stage of his or her evolution, from early parenthood to old age.

The eight seasons of parenthood are:

  • Celebrity: The self-absorption of impending parenthood
  • Sponge: Surrendering your former identity to the essentials of caring for a baby
  • Family Manager: Organizing and juggling the business of life with toddlers and preschoolers
  • Travel Agent: Stepping back — and stepping up your role of activities manager — as your children go through school
  • Volcano Dweller: Exercising damage control in your own life with teenagers
  • Family Remodeler: Reevaluating life as a parent of new adults
  • Plateau Parent: Reliving childhood through grandchildren
  • Rebounder: Accepting and embracing the parent/childrole reversal

These eight stages are fixed at the birth of every child. Try as we might to fight this law of human nature, we all follow the same predictable, inevitable, universal, and eternal journey of parenthood with each child. Once your baby is born, there's no turning back.

Based on interviews with hundreds of parents from their twenties to their nineties and Dr. Wyckoff's practice as a family psychologist, The Eight Seasons of Parenthood is a compassionate guide and road map to one of life's most profound and never ending experiences . . . essential reading for any parent who has ever wondered, "What's happening to the me I used to know?"

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Parenthood is truly not about how we raise our kids. Quite the opposite: Parenthood... is about the impact that our children make on us, an impact that gives definition and meaning to our entire adult life cycle." With this original argument as their foundation, writer and activist Unell and child psychologist Wyckoff offer fulsome definitions of the eight season of parental life based on children's ages, from "Celebrity" (pregnancy) through "Volcano Dweller" (adolescence), "Plateau Parent" to "Rebounder." The authors' spirited introduction explains the book's thesis so crisply and comprehensively that there hardly seems to be a reason to read the ensuing chapters. Sure, there are some nuggets of good advice, case histories of struggling parents and piquant quotes from notables ranging from Bill Cosby to Kierkegaard; however, the text is so laden with cliches and belabored metaphors--"the sentimental journey of this season [Celebrity] takes on the rhythm of someone fitting a big Tupperware container into an already crowded fridge"--as to frequently render the authors' message unintelligible (and make the reader wonder what happened to the editor). Best to skip ahead to the book's last section, which provides information on starting a "Circles" group of same-season parents, copious notes and a helpful bibliography. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal - Library Journal
Unell, a parent educator, and Wyckoff, a family therapist, give a broad view of parenting from pregnancy until death. The authors believe that children transform their parents' lives from conception, and they identify eight stages through which most parent-child relationships pass: celebrity (pregnancy), sponge (infancy), family manager (preschool), travel agent (elementary school), volcano dweller (teenage years), remodeler (transition to adult relationships), plateau parent (adult children and grandchildren), and rebounder (child becomes parent). These stages develop into three circles of parenthood: young children, adult children, and parents as children. The authors' lifetime approach will help parents come to terms with each stage, see it in a meaningful context, and reflect on their parenthood (or childhood). Examples and observations come mostly from parent discussion groups. By no means a how-to book, this has something to offer readers of nearly all ages. Highly recommended for all libraries.--Kay L. Brodie, Chesapeake Coll., Wye Mills., MD Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\

Product Details

Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
6.43(w) x 9.57(h) x 1.23(d)

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Ce·leb·ri·ty n. 1. Someone who is admired and emulated by others. 2. Someone who has achieved a sense of notoriety by virtue of his or her accomplishment: becoming pregnant and preparing to enter the world of par-enthood.3. The center of attention, with family and friends who dote on her every whim "for the baby's sake." 4. A self-absorbed, privileged sense of being special. 5. A sense of notoriety, easily recognized, stands out in a crowd. 6. Shift from common status to being identified as part of a select group. 7. Someone who is expected by others to perform in a certain way (in this case, produce a baby or babies). 8. Someone in a state of feeling ambivalent about life: being exhausted and worried about one's personal well-being, yet being exuberant about one's newfound fame. 9. A state characterized by a lack of privacy as the public takes an interest in one's every move.

Sponge n. 1. Porous plastics, rubber, cellulose, or other material (in this case, a human being) similar in absorbency to sea sponges and used for bathing, cleaning, and other purposes (in this case, bonding between parent and child). 2. One who habitually depends on others for one's own nurturing and maintenance (in this case, depending on babies for identity, continuation of celebrity status, and loving responses). 3. A state of being in which a parent feels expected to be responsible for absorbing the baby's essence or being. 4. A sense of being wrung out and frequently emptied of absorbed contents by constantly needing to forgo personal needs in order to meet baby's essentialneeds.

Fam·i·ly Man·ag·er n. 1. One who handles, controls, or directs, especially: a. One who directs a business or other enterprise. b. One who controls human resources and expenditures, as of a household. 2. One who is in charge of the affairs of children in the family. 3. One who is in charge of the training and performance of children within the family. 4. A state of being in which a parent feels expected to be in charge or in control of young family members' behavior, diet, intellectual stimulation, safety, shelter, social development, physical health, and well-being. 5. An emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual state of being responsible for the welfare of children. 6. The person others turn to for information, guidance, leadership, and decision making concerning matters of the family.

Trav·el A·gent n. 1. One who acts or has the power or authority to act on behalf of his or her children's social and academic schedule. 2. One em-powered to act for or represent another in home, school, and community who is seen as the family liaison in academic and social settings. 3. One who plans, organizes, and directs the adventures of children with or without their consent or approval. 4. A representative or official of the family in the affairs of children in school, home, and community. 5. The guide and companion on children's journeys through the middle years. 6. One who is responsible for the successful planning and execution of children's itineraries, resulting in their safe and productive travels through the middle years.

Vol·ca·no Dwell´er n. 1. One who exists in the precarious place or state of being in which adolescent volcanic eruptions (mood swings, rantings, demands, and hormonal surges) are imminent and may occur with little or no warning. 2. One who fears that adolescent volcanic eruptions will ruin the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual health of parents. 3. One who lives in a state of being in constant worry, fear, and dread of the potential for teenage volcanic eruptions. 4. One responsible for the care and maintenance of the adolescent and protection of the community from the teenage volcanic eruptions.

Fam·i·ly Re·mod´el·er n. 1. One who undertakes the making over, restyling, and reconstruction of a family into a downsized group of individuals in a family. 2. One responsible for making changes in the family structure as dictated by the new adult children's decisions, life changes, and level of independence. 3. One who lives in the upheaval and chaos of reconstruction of the family structure. 4. One who needs to adjust to the loss of parenting a child and being apprehensive about the unknown outcome of the remodeling job on the new family structure: parenting an adult. 5. One who must face the expectations by others of the form and direction of the remodeled family (judgment of college selection, job choice, level of independence). 6. One who bears the physical strain of remodeling the family based on the adult child's decisions and level of independence.

Pla·teau Par·ent n. 1. One who has reached the level ground between having raised children to adulthood and having to parent his or her own parents. 2. One who lives in an emotional and physical state of being that allows a panoramic view and new perspective of the first six seasons of parenthood and a first glimpse of the future season as aged parents live through it. 3. One who harbors the expectation of others that life on the plateau is now level, calm, and serene. 4. One who has arrived at a sense of having accomplished a steep climb and is able to enjoy the view, given the independence of the adult children. 5. Through grandparenthood, one who is one step physically and emotionally removed from the responsibilities of raising a new generation as adult children begin their first seasons of parenthood.

Re·bound´er n. 1. Someone who springs or bounces back after hitting or colliding with something (in this case, the last stage of life's health problems, struggle to remain independent, and adjustment to the need for care). 2. One who must recover on a repeated basis from depression, health problems, or disappointment. 3. Athlete who retrieves and gains possession of the "ball" as it bounces off the backboard or rim (in this case, one who fights for position to get attention and recognition from adult children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren). 4. One who holds the position of waiting for family members to make the caregiving play as part of the family team. 5. One who expects to be cared for by his or her adult children. 6. One who lives with the public expectation that one's adult children will make caregiving plays. 7. Rebounders fall into three categories: Proud Independents, who struggle to maintain their initial family position and seek to prove their original playing capabilities; Humble Sub-missives, who take a passive role in which they expect to be included in the family game but don't demand to be on the roster; and Aged Sages, who strive to maintain their independent position but ask for help when needed and are grateful for the assist.

Meet the Author

Barbara C. Unell and Jerry Wyckoff, Ph.d., are the authors of the bestselling Discipline Without Shouting or Spanking, 20 Teachable Virtues, and How to Discipline Your 6-to-12-Year-Old Without Losing Your Mind. Unell, a parent educator, journalist, and former columnist for The Kansas City Star, is a founder of Twins Magazine and the school-based character-education program, "Kindness Is Contagious . . . Catch It." She and her husband, Robert, are Family Remodelers.

Dr. Wyckoff is a family psychologist who, along with his wife, Millie, is a Plateau Parent.

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