I don’t know about you but I have at times felt trapped by the demands of parenting. There is so much to do and just because you were woken up and called out of bed four times last night to tend to your child doesn’t mean you can end your busy day by flopping onto the couch with a glass of wine and your favourite TV show followed by an early night and full night’s rest. There is supper to be made, children to bath and take to bed, the nighttime routine of being called back to the room for “Just one more thing I want to tell you…”, preparations for the next day… and you haven’t even showered yet. Then there’s another interrupted night’s sleep potentially waiting for you before it all starts again. It is easy to feel ‘owned’ by it all. Even if you are one of the lucky ones who got to choose to be a parent, it can make you feel quite sorry for yourself. Maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about. For your sake I hope you don’t. But if you do then forge on fair reader, for there may be more empowered times ahead.
Here’s the empowering part. When you feel like a victim of something, as we tend to do at those moments, it means you are making the other person or situation bigger or more important than you. You are letting them supercede you. Even if you don’t know what I mean yet, just take careful note of the ‘you are making’ bit. That’s the empowering part. Its empowering because if you are making it, then you can unmake it too. Here’s an exercise to help explain:
When you find yourself feeling, “Oh poor me. I have to do all these things that I don’t feel like doing”, try saying to the situation or person instead, “I see your need and I have my need too. Let’s work this out.” Kim Payne calls it Your World, My World, Our World.
Yes, I know it might be a startling thought, and we are not often told this as parents, but you are allowed to have needs too. This exercise is something you can do even with your child.
Yes really, you are allowed to have needs even around your children. How can you not? You don’t have to do the exercise out loud, just in your head. At the very least acknowledge your need and give it importance because, if you have ‘poor me’ moments as many of us do, then it’s something you are probably not doing now.
You see the thing is that the ‘Poor Me’ experience is not often really about their need versus yours, even though it really, really feels that way in the moment. It usually boils down to a conflict between your own needs, in other words a decision you must make between two opposing desires you have.
On the one hand you desire to just rest and watch tv with a glass of wine because it’s been a hell of a day and you don’t feel like putting any more energy into anything. On the other hand you also desire to be a kind, caring parent who makes sure the children are cleaned and fed and feel safe in their beds.
Listen to both desires you have and then make your choice to satisfy one of your desires now. Maybe you will get to satisfy the other one later, maybe you won’t. But what has changed is that it has now become a choice. Your choice between two things you want. You are no longer in Poor Me mode. The important thing is that you don’t disrespect either desire by minimizing or ignoring it because that is what really creates that Poor Me feeling.
Acknowledging the other desire you have allows for conversation and compromise and real moments of feeling satisfied and cared for rather than the opposite of all that. All with yourself I mean.
“Oooooh I don’t want to get in the car and drive him to piano now and rush to do the shopping in one hour. I just want to read my book!” So there are the two desires. Look at them honestly and kindly and then make your choice, with a compromise if possible, “Ok then. We’ve already paid for the piano lesson and he loves it so I don’t feel good to just cancel it. Ok here’s what I’ll do. I’ll take him now but I am going to just sit in the car in a shady / warm spot and read my book for the hour and afterwards he and I will go shop together even if it puts a rush on supper. In fact I will make sure to get something for supper that’s very quick to make. That will feel better for me and then I will be nicer to everyone else this evening because I took the time for myself. Good, that’s decided. Oooh I’m excited to go read my book for an hour! Jaaaammes! Let’s go! We’re going to be laaaaate”.
Have you ever heard of a sport called Curling? In it one player throws a heavy, polished granite stone along ice towards a goal and two others skate alongside the moving stone to help it get as close to the goal as possible.
The Wikepedia, or as my colleague likes to call it, Ask-Your-Auntie, has this to say, “…The path of the rock may be further influenced by two sweepers with brooms who accompany it as it slides down the sheet, using the brooms to alter the state of the ice in front of the stone. A great deal of strategy and teamwork goes into choosing the ideal path and placement for each situation, and the skills of the curlers determine how close to the desired result the stone will achieve”.
I feel my job as a parent is that of a sweeper. The universe consented to release these beings through me. I need to travel alongside them as best I can and smooth or guide their paths as much as possible so that they can go as far as they are able in their lives, as close as possible to the goal of their becoming the best possible version of themselves.
Their path is their own though.
Yes, even if we don’t like that idea, it’s the truth. We all know that no matter how much pressure and guidance and effort parents put in, a child will eventually make her own choices whether their parent likes it or not. As parents we can’t protect children from their choices or from their life traumas. So in reality I know I have little or no say on where my child’s life path goes or how it looks. Just like my parents – despite their attempts to influence it – had no real say over mine.
The real impact I can have is by clearing their path as they travel their journey. In my opinion, the best way to clear children’s paths and help them along is by being self-aware as a parent. If I take r
Is there ever really a right and a wrong way to do a thing? I mean, at the end of the day, doesn’t it just land up being about consequences to our actions? If I choose to do this then that will happen but if I choose the other thing something else will follow. And I will learn something either way.
Yesterday I found myself in a new level of something I’ve been learning. So I was excited… for about ten seconds! Then I witnessed myself automatically switching to
Isn’t it just astounding how sometimes something ‘small’, like your partner’s comment or your child’s behaviour or having a deadline at work, can unleash a torrent of emotions and thoughts and confusions such as would flatten a small village?
I think that parenting consciously comes down to not abandoning the journey to self on entering parenthood.
Society seems to encourage us to let go of ourselves when we become a parent. You know, put the kids first sort of thing. But how can you be attuned to your child in a healthy way if you are not first attuned to yourself?
A while ago I attended an adult’s party where a whole lot of moms were present. I became acutely aware of what the ‘mommy talk’ can actually do in interpersonal situations. There we were having a long chat which revolved around ‘the kids’ and the talk was lively but at the end of a whole conversation I walked away with very little sense of each woman there. We were hiding behind ‘mommy-ness’.
When you become a parent you have a ready-made identity which society allows, even applauds, you to exchange for your individual identity. That daunting question, “Who are you?” can be answered proudly by
Parenting is so daily, full-on that it can be easy to fall back into the default functioning of believing, “It is my child that makes me angry”.
It isn’t. It is the pain of bumping into an area in which you don’t love yourself that makes you angry or frustrated or hurt – or whatever your wound of preference is.
I know you already know this if you have been reading my blog but really, the traditional way of seeing parenting is so ingrained in us, we need regular reminders of this other way of seeing things.
I know I do.
Parenting is an area in which the places you don’t love yourself rear up and tantrum at you. They throw up on you, keep you awake, drive you to distraction, whine at you, elicit waves of sudden uncontrollable rage, make you crumple to the floor in a sobbing heap… in other words, you see them through your reactions to your children.
If you can remember that any reaction you have to your child is simply a reflection of how well you are loving yourself in that moment, you will feel a lot less overwhelmed in those overwhelming moments that seem to string together to make up the experience of parenting.
It can also help you lean more openly and frequently into those wonderful chest-swelling moments in which you feel love chiming through your whole being.
I find it remarkably reassuring to look at my feelings and reactions as simply reflections of my inner state. If I look at my child as something I am supposed to control, manage or make behave in certain ways, then I feel overwhelmed immediately. Why? Because we CAN’T control anything outside of ourselves – more particularly, we can’t control other people. Definitely not their behaviours or their intentions or motivations or feelings.
But oh how we would love to be able to…
So when I feel irritated or angry at my child, it’s not really about him. It is something about his behaviour – or the situation I find myself in – that is touching on a previous experience I’ve had which somehow was one of the causes of why I don’t love myself wholly in my life. Our anger or pain or hurt (to anything) is just an indicator, a symptom. In the same way as your body uses symptoms to indicate to you an area in which your self-love is not flowing freely, big negative reactions to your child’s (or anyone else’s) behaviour are symptoms of areas in which your self-love is not flowing freely.
What to do about it? The best technique I have found so far is to check in with myself regularly and especially in those stuck or overwhelmed moments to ask myself, “If I loved myself, what would I choose to do now?” Then listen to the Truth that arises within me, the Truth that soothes my being and try to follow that as best I can.
Like I believe about discipline with children, first love and connection, everything else second.
Love yourself parent. The rest will just flow so easily…
Please pass this on to any parent you can think of. We all need this reminder that we are not under assault by parenting – it is merely a long and detailed lesson in loving ourselves better and better. Remind your friends to love themselves.
Our children will thank us for it. So will our world.
Think of the places your own parents could not love themselves and how those impacted on you…
Now get to it! Start loving yourself more. Shine. You are already wonderful.
I always love to hear from you. What did this raise for you?
Here’s some science to explain how the link between our emotions and our physical state works. I hope by the end of this article you will throw yourself with abandon into laughing and enjoying life more often. And next time you see your child having fun, encourage them to do it even more instead of curbing their joy because you’re worried they’ll break or dirty something (yes I have been in your lounge…).
Our whole world will benefit if we all laugh more.
Check this out:
Our emotions (you know those things we try to avoid or ignore?), are actually vital for our survival because they play an important role in making sure our needs are met. If we ignore our feelings, our subconscious mind is designed to find another way to get its message across. By using symptoms, your body alerts you to the fact that your deeper needs are being ignored.
Did you know that all mammals show physical symptoms when they have an out-of-balance emotional state?
Every thought or feeling we have triggers the release of tiny chemical proteins called