Parenthood is part amazing adventure, part prison sentence! If you can grasp that simple truth, then you will survive and maybe even thrive through this stage of life. If you only believe in either half of the statement, you are in for a world of pain.
To be a successful parent you really do have to understand that the beautiful comes with the horrendous; that kisses, love and professions that you are the most amazing mother can be followed in a heart beat with blood curdling screams, obstinate defiance of even the most basic requests, and yelled assurances that you are the. worst. parent. EVER!!
Parenthood (and motherhood in this case) is such a mixed bag of emotions that you can love and like your children one instant, but in the next feel trapped into caring for little monsters that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Parenthood is a bipolar experience.
The Day My Kids Broke Me:
I love being a mom, I don’t always love being a parent.
No year was that statement more true for me than last year; 2015 was the year that being a parent stopped being mostly fun. Torn between what I wanted do, and what I had signed-up to be when I became a parent, I found myself feeling really trapped and resentful as a mother.
I could enjoy my children when things went well, but the second I had to be a parent – the second I had to put my foot down, raise my voice, argue, fight, and discipline them – I felt trapped.
The worst day of all was Mother’s Day 2015. What started as an apparently typical Mother’s Day – an extra hour of “sleep” as the kids played loudly downstairs, followed by delicious breakfast, handcrafted gifts and assurances that I was in fact “the most amazing mother on Earth” – was quickly followed by a typical day in our household. There were disagreements over turning off the tv, getting dressed, cleaning their room, the lunch menu, what finally broke me was a walk with the kids during which my youngest spent the last half mile crying, throwing himself off his bike and assuring me I was the most hated mother on Earth.
I remember walking back looking at him thinking : “What did I do? I am saddled with this for another 14.5 years!!!! What did I ….do?” That was the day I swore off Mother’s Day. WE WILL NOT BE CELEBRATING MOTHER’S DAY in my house until they can grasp what being a mother means. So basically, we won’t be celebrating Mother’s Day until they become parents themselves.
Making a Comeback:
I am in a better place this year. I still know that parenthood is a mixed bag of love and hate…
Only this morning I had to deal with a 30-minute tantrum over a bowl of Paleo cereal. My kid’s screams were so loud and angry that his brother said it sounded like he was being tortured. I am pretty sure the neighbors thought so too; I am expecting Child Protective Services any day now. The tantrum ended with said kid in my lap hugging me, while I rocked back and forth and sang to him to calm him down – that was actually pretty nice.
… but I’ve started to do better at taking care of myself.
Becoming a successful parent is not about being the most patient, loving, or happy parent out there. It’s about being realistic and forgiving yourself for being human. It requires understanding that you did make a choice to give up parts of your freedom, but that what you get in exchange ain’t half way bad. Being a successful mother means learning how to appreciate the good and not take the bad so personally. For me and for countless others, it forces us to consciously consider what we need, who we are and how we can balance that person with our responsibilities towards the little humans we chose to bring to this planet.
Who Am I?
As far as I am concerned, the secret to being a mostly successful parent is finding yourself.
It’s too easy and painful to look at this new life through the lens of the unencumbered, free, financially upwardly-mobile non-parent you used to be. If that is the perspective through which you choose to examine parenthood, you’ll feel like you are hostage to your kids.
It’s more work to STOP and take the time to discover who you are right now, but doing so allows you to make choices that will have you thriving, instead of writhing in existential angst.
If you can define what your needs and dreams are, and how you fit into all you roles – parent, partner, friend, INDIVIDUAL – then you can figure out how to prioritize those different aspects of yourself. You won’t feel trapped by parenthood because you won’t be omitting to feed your individual soul. You won’t come out of having loved being a parent (because there are many people who embrace all aspects of this time without the turmoil I go through), only to feel lost when you need to re-become and individual.
You won’t lose sight of who you are and what you need, and that will make all the difference.
Knowing who you are allows you to make choice that right for you. It means that you can prioritize yourself as a parent without feeling guilty. It enables you to balance your time between meeting the needs of others and taking care of yourself.
How do I find Myself?
If you are reading this and it feels familiar, or you know someone whose story of parenthood sounds pretty much like mine there are things you can do. Do a search on this blog for “parenthood/parenting” and you should find tons of advice.
Learn to take five minutes everyday just for yourself. Don’t do chores or go online during that time.
Cultivate silence. One of the biggest complaints most parents have is that past a certain age being around children means you are constantly assaulted by noise (some sweet, some obnoxious). Try creating pockets of silence – driving without radio, taking a minute or two in the morning to sit quietly (even if it has to be in your car at work). My kids have actually learned to give me a minute of silence when I take my first sip of coffee (if I ask them to).
Defend your space: hugs and kisses are wonderful, but the bathroom should be all yours when you need to go.
Stop and ask yourself what you need, often.
And if you want more structure than that feel free to take a look at the Thriving Parent package. It’s a bundle of tools and some articles to help parents figure out who they are and create those priorities in their life. Although I won’t be celebrating Mother’s Day this year, if you do, it makes for an excellent gift, and will be far more appreciated than a bouquet of flowers – believe me.