Does Parenting Require Us To Give Up Ourselves?
“Oh no, I don’t want to be awake yet” was my first thought this morning – followed shortly after by, “Just leave me alone!”
Well I don’t need to tell you that it didn’t feel good and I am learning to be more and more aware when things don’t feel good. That’s because when something doesn’t feel good it means a deep and important part of myself is telling me I’m off-track somehow. So my inner ears pricked up on hearing these thoughts and I noticed the yukky feelings that followed close on their heels.
“What’s up?” I asked myself.
“Ugh I have to be of service to everyone today. What about me?” my inner voice responded.
So I thought about my day ahead.
It’s Sunday. I’m taking the kids to a community carnival in the morning, a birthday party in the afternoon and helping out a family member later. ‘Day of Rest’ my foot!
Now each of these things – on their own – is lovely. I want to do them. I’ve chosen all of them – but do they have to gallop one after the other like that? What about me? Time, you know? In between, to breathe…
But what’s this ‘of service’ thing and this ‘what about me?’ Why do I think my day excludes me somehow?
Because that’s what we are mostly taught. Being of service means giving up yourself. We get told, “Stop complaining, don’t be selfish, grow up and just get on with it”. Taking the kids to carnivals and school, making breakfast, lunch and supper for them, following up on homework, driving them to activities and extra lessons… that’s all part of the parenting job description. Things just need to be done. Life must be lived and parties etc are part of life. The kids don’t deserve to be blamed or grumped at because they have lives that you need to co-ordinate. And yet… I didn’t really mean to sign up as someone’s servant. Did you?
So here is the big question. Does being of service require us to give up ourselves? Do you lose the right to self when you become a parent? Does looking after yourself mean dropping the kids’ needs?
Somehow, somehow we need to figure out how to stay with ourselves while doing what needs to be done for others. It can’t be a them-or-me situation. It just can’t. Putting them first and forgetting about you is what brings about the resentment, anger, depression or brainless TV watching and shovelling down junk-food after the kids are in bed.
So how do we keep us AND them? How will I do it today?
Well if I was so kind as to finally listen to the part of myself that poked me so unpleasantly this morning, perhaps I can make the effort today to listen to her before she has to get so stroppy with me? Here is my plan: during every part of today, I will check in with myself. How am I feeling right now? Is it pleasant or not? What do I need right now? It will be my guide.
Let me start. How do I feel? What do I need right now? Well I need to feel there is space in my day for me – even though I’ll be doing kiddy things all day. Ok then. Let me step in and own this day as mine, a day in my life. Well, it suddenly already feels lighter and freer. I am present in what I am doing and that immediately makes it mine.
And I needed to write this down – so I’ve made the time to do so. Hooray!
I feel better.
I hereby commit to myself – again, again and again.
This is my life. How do I want to live in it?
My children don’t get to decide that. Nobody does.
When I am fully in my life, in my moment, living and joyful, I don’t have to pretend I’m happy with my kids, I really just am happy – because I am present in that moment, in MY moment. If I choose to give up my Self, in order to cater to others, then I’m vacant – and unhappy – and they can feel that.
It’s unsettling to be around someone who is vacant isn’t it? Not to mention the resentment that hits all round later…
So who are you serving if you don’t honour yourself?