Every so often, I get emails that break my heart. This has been one of those weeks. There are many mothers out there just hating what their mothering is, what they themselves are right now. And that breaks my heart.
Sometimes I don’t know all the details, all the circumstances. Is this a chronic feeling and struggle or is it something right here in the moment? Is it part of or tied to the July doldrums (if any of you have read this blog for awhile, you know how I feel about July here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/07/05/the-july-doldrums-again/ )
We ALL have moments we feel like this. We may even be having more than just moments, we may be having rough patches with our children where we honestly feel like this for an extended period of time. Some seasons of parenting are so difficult, so challenging. Some children have behavior that is challenging and it just challenges us.
And we don’t always handle it well. We don’t always handle it with grace. We don’t always handle it with love. Sometimes it is hard to see how to best react when it is your own child and we don’t have that outside view looking at someone else’s child doing the same behavior.
Sometimes we feel our children would be better off with anyone else but ourselves. I have been there too. I get to those points too, and all I can say is that for me, it is a sign that there is too much going on. Too much outside pressure, too harried to respond to things in an even-keeled way, too many things to tend to, and a clear sign my spiritual footing has been neglected, and most likely a sign that my physical body is not being taken care of.
I often think of the village raising a child – how different than all the shaping of a child being done by mainly one or two parents! Or I think of my own childhood – at school most of the day, coming home and going outside to play until dark, going to bed. I wasn’t always around a whole lot. No one had to “arrange” play dates and things to do back then, and the parents were not involved in every dramatic friendship disagreement or thing at school.
For better or for worse, things have changed on a societal level and we put an awful lot of pressure on ourselves. We talk about not wanting to push our children, but yet we push the hell out of ourselves. We talk about our children being wonderful, never taking credit for that at all, but when they don’t “act well”, then somehow it is all our fault.
Just musings….So, anyway, once you have a good cry, see if any of this resonates:
1. Is this lack of knowledge? In other words, would you like to be a gentle parent but just really don’t have the tools? There is a lot of information on this blog, if you go to the header that says “Discipline” and from the drop-down menu, hit “Tools”. For what it is worth, I have had mothers and families email me who are chronic spanking parents and don’t have other tools. There are other tools available. You can change the cycle and you can connect to your children. Start now, this minute, and don’t look back.
2. Is this what I call drowning in life? No support, no sleep, no time? So, for two weeks, can you call a truce with your life and stay home for two weeks – cut out whatever it is you are volunteering for, if you are working outside the home too can you take some vacation days?, if you have older children could they have their own vacation with a dear and trusted relative for part of the two weeks? If you have a spouse, an aunt , a grandparent – can anyone come and help or help with your oldest child or older children? Two weeks to get your life on track. Rest, or do what would help you the absolute MOST. Would it be getting a rhythm going? Getting a younger child potty trained? Throwing out half of your house? I don’t know what it is, but you probably do!
Women write to me all the time about “doing it all” and can I help them do it all. I want to homeschool, but I really want to have a career. I don’t have to have a career, but I want to. I want to be home, but I volunteered to be on five things because I really wanted to. And, when they hear my response, they want to shatter their computer screen because I tell them, no, you cannot do it all and to focus on your family for right now.
The overall season of mothering, whilst you are in it, seems like a never-ending lake that you cannot swim across and reach the other side. Whilst you are in it, the only thing you can do well is swim. However, it is short and the reality is that you only get one shot at raising your children, “mistakes” (are there mistakes? I don’t know. I think there is just a path and it is what it is) and all, and the other things can wait.
The early years are challenging and children take a lot of time. Parents of teenagers are telling me they have even less time than in the early years. Know this season is small but it is extended.
3. Is your body rebelling because you never take care of it and therefore you just feel consistently irritable, restless, upset? What would be most essential to making your body feel better? Sleep, the kind of food you eat, exercise? How could you make that happen? What appointments do you need to make? Do you need to shop?
Yes, I said shop. It is hard to feel put together and calm when we feel unhealthy, tired, exhausted, or frumpy (hence the shopping!) Sometimes we would like to pretend we have no needs, but we do have needs.
Who is your support? I think we were created to be in community. Who is your good friend you can lean on? Another mother is going to understand! Call her! Don’t isolate yourself in your house when things are not going well – reach out and get support!
4. Do you have things in place to support discipline in your house? Life with many small children under the age of 7 is just going to be chaotic in many instances I think. It just is what it is! Small children don’t control their impulses because they can’t! They don’t know right from wrong! They need strong boundaries and physical follow-through, endless amounts of pictorial imagery and re-direction…it can be a lot.
What are the parameters and boundaries in your home? At what age? Do you consistently follow through? Do you re-direct and fix things when they are small, or do you ignore or endure and then grit your teeth and then explode?
Set up what you can handle and be authentic. If you WANT to be the kind of parent whose children create messy art, but you cannot handle having mess everywhere, then come up with the parameters for messy art that you can tolerate or don’t do it! Don’t just grit your teeth through it and then explode because you hate mess. Be who you are in parenting and work with your own likes and dislikes. Every mother is not the same, and I thank God for that. It is what makes us each individuals.
5. Do you have a plan for in the moment? Where can you go with everyone that is SAFE but gives you some SPACE? Most small children will not let you leave the space so you can calm down, but many times if you can move everyone outside until you calm down and can regain control of yourself, then you can work to connect with your child and help that child to do what is right.
6. What is the plan around the major stress points – transitions, meals, bedtime? These are the times when things generally can go badly. Do you have thoughts about these times and how to make them easier?
7. How much movement and exercise and time outside are ALL of you getting? Movement and exercise and being outside helps everyone.
8. For those of you with children in the grades, what are you doing to help balance your child’s tendencies and to uplift your child to the next level? Not pushing, just helping them see the possibilities, the wonder.
We all, all go through these moments and even these seasons! Loving your family is simple but sometimes life is not…reach out, get support, love yourself for the precious person you are. We all deserve to be easy on each other and ourselves.