And didn’t this chapter just make you mad?
Mad that mothers and parents in general are so unsupported in our society;
Mad at things that make mothering and parenting a standard of perfection to be reached (which is really unattainable by anyone);
Mad that more resources are not available for mothers who are clearly on the edge and have no one to talk to in real life;
Mad that mental health benefits are so under-covered by insurance and that there is also such a stigma on admitting emotional challenges that need professional help in order to be whole parents;
Mad that there are so many parenting books and parenting advice that makes one feel there surely should be a “clear answer” for any challenge you are experiencing as a parent. And anyone who has been a parent KNOWS there often is NOT a clear-cut answer or path.
On page 152, the authors write, “…And that is a terrible feeling – the fear of losing control with the children we love and are obliged to protect.” They take up this theme through the whole chapter. On page 158: “But we wonder how different we really are, and we fear the dark urges that may lie dormant, waiting to explode within us.”
They also write about how parenting does NOT come naturally to so many women, and how this thought that we “should” be a natural parent is so anger-provoking for so many mothers. If only I knew how to be a natural parent, the mother reasons, things would be different in their households.
This idea of a natural parent, whatever that means, really is a difficult one. I think too, we are at a place in our society where many women do not live close to family for imitation of a mothering model, we have more and more women who are trying to recover from their own shattered childhoods where nothing was done that was warm or nurturing so they are trying to set a completely new mothering path, and we also live in a society where “experts” seem to know more than the parents. Sleeping problems? Call in an expert. Discipline problem? Call in Supernanny. But not everything in parenting is immediately fixable like the way a television show resolves all problems in a half-hour span. I am certainly not saying there is no place for an expert, children and families today are often coming with more and more complex challenges that do need a sounding board or an extra eye or different ideas, but I think we often fail as a society to acknowledge the tremendous work of the parent, the intuition of the parent. The parent is hopefully the one striving to be an expert and an advocate for his or her own family. Yes, we all need help along the way, but let us not diminish the role of the parent.
And let us have the courage to face the darker feelings of motherhood and parenting – the ones no one wants to talk about. Resentment. Anger. Exhaustion. Depression. There is a whole section in this chapter about “A Cry For Help” regarding crying babies, that talks about the overwhelming pressures of parenting. It is such a hard thing to read, but a subject that needs to be covered. An infant’s life may depend upon it. The other part of this in dealing with children toddler- aged and above is that: “One good reason to be concerned about intense anger toward someone we love is that, when we’re enraged, we want to inflict pain or punish.”
I really urge you to drop your end of the rope in those heated moments. Just drop it. If no one else is home to calmly step in and help you out and change the energy of the moment, then you have to become strong enough to change the energy yourself. Step outside. Just stand there and breathe if you cannot leave your child alone, even if your child is yelling or screaming. Call a friend, call a neighbor, call a child abuse prevention hotline. Do what you need to do, but do not engage your child when you are so angry. Nothing positive can come of that. Get counseling to heal your past. Go to bed early when your child falls asleep if you know they are likely to be up several hours during the night and you are sleep-deprived. The housework can wait. This is just a season. Stop putting pressure on yourself to do it all right now and do it all perfectly. Accept the help that family and friends offer.
Let us come together in person to share these dark feelings, but also let us come together in positive action to support one another to rise up, to nurture each other and to nurture our children. Let us use words that nourish our children, let us learn how to set limits and show our children what they can do, and let us learn how to do this calmly. Let us learn that hitting, spanking or verbally demeaning a child is NEVER the right answer. Let us learn that we can be good parents and not crush the spirit of our children.
There is a compelling and sobering part of this chapter regarding breaking the cycle of abuse, the cycle of not only physical abuse but of EMOTIONAL abuse that damages the human soul forever. “Not every parent is able to cope nonabusively with anger. Parents who were abused themselves as children may need to seek professional help in order to break the cycle.”
There is no shame in ever getting help to become a better parent. Such power in admitting that there is a need there, such courage to do this in action, and such powerful love to bring this striving into the home.
A powerful chapter. A sobering chapter.
What did you all think in reading this chapter?