The past few months, I’ve felt myself emerging from the early years of parenting. Like REALLY felt it. I’ve just bought the LAST box of nappies, after which I’m going to toilet train the boy and be nappy free for the first time in eight years (I am. I am. I am). The other day I took all three to London Zoo on the train and the tube on my own with NO BUGGY. Ok, the lack of buggy was a little bit stupid BUT we managed it. And I felt a huge sense of achievement as a result. It’s only going to get easier from here, I told myself. *Parents with teenage kids everywhere fall about laughing at this clearly delusional woman.* But, despite this, I will NEVER forget how tough the early years are. How tough a journey parenthood can be, in general. BUT, I also feel slightly differently about it these days. I wish I had back then. I’m not sure I’m ‘surviving’ motherhood anymore. I feel like I’m doing a bit better than that (I think we all are). Has my parenting changed or improved? No, not particularly. But my attitude to it definitely has. So I thought I’d share some things that have really helped shift my perspective. In case they help you too. (If I sound like a mad woman, it’s not my fault. The kids made me this way.)
- Accept that parenting will sometimes be hard, but don’t expect it to be and don’t resist it, when it is. There’s no getting away from it, some days are hard. No matter what you do. When you haven’t slept or one or all of the kids is sick or, worse, you’re sick but have to carry on regardless, you’re going to want to a) cry b) rant a lot and c) wish the day away. That’s normal and perfectly ok. But when we’re in these moments, we add further unnecessary suffering to our pain. Because we don’t just accept the feeling. We resist it. We feel bad about it. And we beat ourselves up. We let our minds generate tons of guilty and unpleasant thoughts. Whereas, if we just say to ourselves, ‘OK, this right now is rubbish but it’s no more than that,’ we can let it wash over us, we can even let the car crash and then we can dust ourselves off and carry on.
- Right this minute, YOU are the ultimate parent. This alone has changed the way I see everything. I wasn’t very kind to myself a lot of the time. I berated myself for things I didn’t like about myself (I can still do this when I’m not aware). I would think about the things I’ve done in the past that I wish I hadn’t. Like, I wish I hadn’t shouted at the kids. Blah blah blah. Then, I would try and make it up to myself by promising that I was going to be a better – a perfect – parent in the future. I wouldn’t shout at the kids ever again. I would be calm and collected. (Then I’d pick them up from school, and that was shot to s***). Any stuff you ever read about living in the now – one of the most effective CBT techniques I’ve learned – will tell you NOT to exist in the past or the future. Because you can’t. Physically, it’s impossible. Only your mind wants to maroon you in these places with regret or false hope. Accept yourself as you are RIGHT NOW. Because RIGHT NOW you are complete and don’t need to be anything else. Isn’t that liberating?
- Don’t let your thoughts convince you you’re something you’re not. The mind is a tool and it’s supposed to be used like a muscle in a leg. When it is needed and only then. But what ends up happening – and it’s so common we don’t even realise it’s not meant to be like this – is the mind works ALL of the time. Generating those incessant and mostly unconstructive thoughts that dominate our every waking moment. Or the ones where we’re trying to get to sleep. ‘The kids are driving me nuts, what if they’re psychopaths?’ or ‘She’s never going to sleep, ever, ever, ever,‘ or ‘Why did so and so do that?’ It’s incredibly difficult to stop the mind ticking over but once you’re aware of the thoughts it becomes possible to start letting them pass. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class you’ll have heard the teacher tell you to ‘notice the thoughts, but not judge them.‘ This is the ultimate power of living in the now – releasing you from that prison of whirring noise. YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS. And most of your thoughts will NEVER EVER happen. Phew to that.
- Choose to see a situation differently. Your child is having a meltdown because you won’t let them wear one red shoe and one blue shoe. You’re late, again. And you can feel the stress levels rising. ‘WHY WON’T SHE JUST PUT HER SHOES ON?’ I have had this internal debate TOO MANY TIMES. Then I had a third child and suddenly it didn’t matter so much anymore. Choose to ignore the frustrating illogic of a toddler and let them wear their different coloured shoes. Then laugh about it. Anyone who sees me on the school run will know I practice what I preach. Often. Ahem.
- Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going To The Moon! You know that feeling? When you’re exhausted. The kids are pivoting around you. It’s dinnertime and you just can’t be bothered to cook or even heat up a beige banquet of oven snacks? Or you’ve got to get up in the morning but you’re just so darn tired. I can be an AMAZING procrastinator. The best. Then, the other day, someone introduced me to the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique. Where you basically count down and then do the thing you need to do. Maybe, I’ve spent too much time singing Zoom Zoom Zoom, We’re Going To The Moon but it really blooming works. And has revolutionised my lazy a***. Every single time.
- Let your inner being be the parent. Each and every one of us has an inner being. Not a Sigourney Weaver alien type being. I hope. More of a virtual one that’s fiercely linked to our instincts. Those strong instincts we have as parents. There’s a thought process that when we feel pain at the actions of someone else, we are not actually feeling pain because of what they’ve done, we’re feeling pain because it takes us so out of alignment with WHO WE ARE. It causes us to react in a way that doesn’t sit comfortably with us. So when our kids kick off, more often than not, an hour later we’re feeling bad and guilty. Ugh. Not because they refused to get dressed, didn’t eat their dinner or messed about at bedtime, but because we lost our s*** when they did this and we wanted to be able to react differently. Next time, we might. The time after that, we might not. Remember, never resist the moment. It is what it is.
- Be aware of the energy you’re giving to your kids. Energy never disappears, it gets transferred from one thing to another. The vibrational energy we give off determines what we get back. Your good mood? Will rub off on everyone you’ll meet. Your bad mood will do the same. If you’ve ever met someone and had that feeling of ‘hitting it off’ it’s because you’re feeding off one another’s light and energy. It’s the same when you meet someone and you don’t – perhaps your energy was a bit dismissive, lethargic or closed. Or theirs was. It’s the same with our kids. If I get up in a good mood and my kids are in a foul one, I instantly feel myself reacting negatively. Because they’re ruining my good mood and that’s just an annoying start to the day. Likewise, if the situation is reversed. But if I can continue, despite theirs, and be calm and empathetic and even try and make them laugh, we all fall into (happy) alignment with one another. This vibrational energy applies to every relationship in your life. So next time someone is antagonistic, sarcastic or dismissive of you, just have a little look inwards and see what vibe you were giving off too.
- Opt for LOVING your kids every time. It’s a given that we love our kids WHATEVER. Of course we do. But sometimes, we might, in the moment, forget to show this. Sometimes, I’m so p***ed off that they’ve smashed a glass (again) and busy ranting on about all the mess, that I don’t see that actually they didn’t mean it and they’re feeling a bit crushed too. There is no person in the world that can’t do with being shown unconditional love. It’s how people who have terrible wrongdoings done to them manage to forgive. We were all four years old and vulnerable once, right?
- Opt for LOVING yourself every time. Because there is no person in the world that can’t do with being shown unconditional love. Not even you. And who better to give it to you, than YOU?