Few things attract more opinion and give rise to more debate than does parenthood and family life. With social media at our finger tips and expert advice, statistics and studies on ‘right parenting’ and the recipe for a good marriage filling every lifestyle magazine – it is perhaps little wonder that we often loose contact to that part of ourselves that actually knows what’s right for us. No wonder we often feel confused, inadequate and stressed out – trying to live up to these impossibly high standards – that often aren’t even our own.
Rather than looking in – we look out. Instead of feeling into our own sense of what’s good or bad for us – checking in with our body for what it needs, really SEEING the child in front of us instead of ‘the child’ as depicted in the statistics – we take direction from the outside world.
Here are some typical examples – perhaps you recognise some or one of them:
- Should I co-sleep with my child?
- How long is long enough to breastfeed?
- My child should be more independent by now.
- We should be having more sex
- A strong married couple doesn’t sleep in separate rooms
- Good mum’s don’t leave their children overnight unless it’s an emergency
When other’s opinions and norms that are left unquestioned come to govern how we live and what we expect from our marriage, our children and ourselves – we will often find that nothing is ever good enough. That what is – is wrong. That the way live – who we are both as a couple and as a parent – falls short of some ‘norm’ that we imagine others’ are able to honour perfectly.
Let me explain:
If, for example, the only way to function without feeling like a zombie is for you and your partner to sleep in separate rooms – and you do so but with the thought;
‘This is wrong. Good couples don’t do this’
Then you put an added strain on your relationship. You add a stress to your life that would only exists because you measure your own life up against an imagined norm and a reality that isn’t yours.
If it works for you – it is right for you. No matter what others may say.
Similarly, if breastfeeding for whatever good reason did not ever happen for you and your baby or did not last as long as you had hoped, notice how much of this disappointment is YOURS and how much of it is you feeling like you haven’t honoured someone else’s agenda; be it the midwife, sister, NCT friends or mum’s.
It may feel as if we have no choice in how we feel about these things – but the good news is that we do. If you routinely give away your power by be seeking all these answers outside of yourself – you are mostly ‘other directed‘.
It takes courage and awareness to begin to live your life from the inside out – and become more ‘inner directed‘. It’s a journey. And one that unfolds and empowers you every time you become aware and dare asking these 3 powerful questions:
1. What stresses me – and is what I believe true?
We cannot change what we are not aware of. And a way to become more clear on where you might not be standing in your own power is to look at where you feel the greatest dissatisfaction and doubt.
Does your job dictate that you leave town for periods of time or do you yearn to do more things for you – but feel like a ‘bad mum’ for leaving your children?
Ask yourself: Is that true? Is the definition of a ‘good mum’ so narrow that only someone who doesn’t leave her children’s side and only so if she doesn’t enjoy it can be called a ‘good mum’?
Next ask yourself:
2. Who do I become when I believe that thought?
How do I behave and how do I feel when I do the things I need to do or want to do but feel guilty and not a good enough mother?
This likely this leads you to overcompensate. You might feel the need to justify. Over explain. Buy gifts out of guilt. Allow your child things or behaviours that aren’t in line with what you believe.
When you allow yourself to stop doing things for yourself because it makes you that you fall short of the ‘good mother’ category – you might think that your level of self-sacrifice is synonymous with the amount of love you have for your child. Most likely it will also lead you to feel resentful at your partner for the freedom that he/she enjoys. Or feel taken for granted by your children because you feel you constantly give give give.
The thing is no one is going to give us the permission to take.
-Take a break. Take what we need. Only you know what you need – and only you can give it to yourself or ask for what you need.
Children are so attuned to our emotions that they sense when we aren’t owning our decisions. When doubt, martyrdom and guilt drive our relationship and how we parent. Until or unless you own you own your decision or need to do what you need to do, you will likely find that your child will trigger your insecurity, frustrations and feelings of guilt.
3. What would it give me to let go of this belief?
Imagine what would be possible for you if you let go of whatever ideal that stresses you and leaves you feeling anything less than okay.
How might you allow yourself to be more you – and happier and more fulfilled – if you
- Owned the decision that right now – sleeping in separate rooms is the best solution for you – and that sleeping with your child is right for this stage of your child’s life.
- Accepted that your sex drive fluctuates and doesn’t mean that something is necessarily wrong in your relationship
- And redefined your definition of a ‘good mum’ to sound something like this:
A good mum is a woman who follows her joy in life, models courage, self-compassion and self-forgiveness and who knows that her happiness and life satisfaction is one of the greatest gifts she can pass on to her children
This isn’t easy stuff. And is not a passive act. Awareness about where we are stuck in victim mode, martyrdom or shame and guilt is an unfolding journey that being a parent brings us in touch with like no other thing in the world.
Nothing can speed up our personal growth quite like being someone’s mum. If we dare question what we believe and allow ourselves to dance to the beat of our own drum.