Being a parent is my biggest struggle in life. I’m generally a pretty confident human these days, but I truly lack self esteem when it comes to being responsible for my two little beings. Don’t get me wrong, I love them beyond all words, but on a daily basis I doubt my ability to cope. I’ve made no secret of it, I struggle to match their energy levels and I feel like I get the balance between discipline and nurture wrong all the time. Now I’m sure most parents reading this right now can resonate with some of this stuff too. Honestly, I’m probably doing an okay job from most people’s perspectives, but it doesn’t matter how many times I’m reassured, parenting just comes with this natural underlying level of guilt, and nobody’s words can stop the negative self talk some days.
There are so many amazing parenting books and resources out there, however, all the theory in the World can’t prepare you for being in the moment with your little ones. And you may also have noticed that there are far fewer books and resources for parenting self-care. It’s probably because as parents we believe that our children must be prioritised over ourselves at all times. As parents we must sacrifice ourselves for them under all circumstances. But what if I were to tell you that this wasn’t true?
When my husband and I were going through the adoption process, our social worker questioned us in length about how we planned on preserving our own wellbeing and our wellbeing as a couple. We were naive in telling her that we’d keep our unlimited cinema passes and ensure we went at least once a week, and that we’d have a willing network of volunteers who wanted to have our children regularly so that we could go away, even if just for one night. Of course, that stuff didn’t really materialise for us, especially since we adopted our second child. As a family of four, we’re more or less on our own in terms childcare, aside from the odd evening out every couple of months.
So how do we practice self-care? The truth is, we don’t. Like most parents, we’ve fallen into the trap of prioritising our kids over our selves. And subsequently, we’re pouring from empty cups. We are absolutely depleted, and therefore our children are not getting the best of us at all. They’re getting their basic needs met in terms of food, cleanliness, education, safety and love, but the rest of the time we’re barely managing to keep our heads above water. Can I remember the last time I spend quality time with my kids? Most of the time I just take them to the soft play and sit down with a hot chocolate and catch up on work while they run around together. This isn’t the kind of parent I hoped I would be.
This has led me to start considering ‘How can I change this?’ and ‘How can I do better?’
I truly think that the World is missing a safe space for parents to talk candidly about their experiences. As parents, I think a lot of the guilt, shame and pressure we feel about parenting is truly just within our own minds, rather than there being actual, valid reasons for these feelings. I believe that if we were all a little more open and a little more honest about our struggles, then the World would be a much more forgiving place, and ultimately our children would grow up with a far more realistic understanding of what it is to be a parent, and perhaps even a greater level of compassion and non-judgement for others in general.
I absolutely believe that the World could be healed through honesty. But sadly, it doesn’t work that way at the moment. There’s so much fear and so much judgement, and it keeps us in our shells and it eats us all alive. Then none of us can truly be our best. This means that our children never get the best of us, and never learn to be their best selves either.
So when it comes to how I can change things and how I can do better, rather than forcing myself to change my parenting habits when I’m already done in, for me the answer is different to this, and it’s staring me right in the face…
1. I need to bring more honesty to the World through leading by example. 2. I need to empower other parents to do the same by creating a safe space for them to do so. 3. I need to find a way to refill my own cup. 4. I need a frickin’ baby sitter!
Tomorrow I will delve a bit deeper and offer some options that I think could help us all as parents.