I heard a thud from the backseat of the car while I was driving, followed by a scream, followed by another thud, followed by more screaming times two.
My body tensed with irritation and frustration. My boys were in the backseat of the car, clearly too close to one another, and it was making my life difficult and the opposite of peaceful. Why was it so hard to just get a moment of peace?
I can’t tell you how old they were when this happened. This situation repeated itself ad nauseam for longer than I’d like to admit. I didn’t really know what to do about it, but I knew that I was seething sometimes because it did keep happening. And it felt a bit like Harry Potter’s dementors, sucking the life out of me each time it did. Maybe the language is a little extreme, but I suspect you will understand from your own parenting experiences what I’m talking about here.
Stuff like this happens every day in the world of parents. There’s always some variation of a theme that replays itself day after day. The kid who can never seem to find his socks or shoes. The kid who struggles to leave the house every. single. time. The baby who is fussy and doesn’t sleep well. All this stuff wears on us and makes it difficult for us to be the parents we want to be.
What kind of parent do you want to be?
And yet things get in the way.
The constant nature of parenting small people (or bigger people).
Parenting a child with special needs with the added layers of stress created by our culture.
Our own “stuff” from our previous experiences and our own story about what’s happening.
“The way your mind looks at what’s happening,” as Kahlil Gibran reminds us.
But how can we possibly change the way our mind is looking at things when it’s a near-constant stream of things happening? We need some downtime or at least enough space for us to shift what’s happening and see it from a new perspective.
You need time for yourself, whatever that looks like for you.
I was talking to a mom with a 10 month-old (and 3 older kiddos) yesterday and she was talking about how she doesn’t need time by herself right now. She WANTS to be with her baby and being apart would be stressful for both of them. But she is an introvert and does best when she can take her sleeping baby and go walk in the woods near her house. That recharges her so she can be the best mom she can for her baby.
Another mom I talked to yesterday was looking forward to spending her 15th Anniversary weekend with her husband while her kids spent the weekend with grandma. She could hardly contain her excitement at having the choice about what to do with her time and the prospect of being able to sleep in on Sunday morning until she woke up. That’s what self-care looks for her right now.
As Dyan Zuber shared with us this week on the blog, Convincing Myself of Self-Care, self-care is really about self-preservation and is actually a radical act, not some fluffy thing we do with our “free time.” And when we can actually create the space for this self-preservation through self-care, we are much closer to being the parent we want to be. We have the emotional space to create a new story, to understand our child’s experience from their perspective and not just our story about what’s happening. It creates the space for the important shifts that need to happen in our lives and in our families.
And it starts with YOU.
It starts with you finding the ways to take care of you that actually work in your life. And I suspect, like me, you need some support of others who are on a similar journey. How about a non-judgmental group of parents from around the world who will share with you and inspire you to find YOUR path? (We have some rules to help us create that safe space for each person to really be seen, heard, and felt.)