“Don’t let yourself become so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have one.”~Glennon Melton
With a whirlwind summer finally winding down, and kids heading back to school in various forms, I wanted to share my thoughts on a topic that isn’t discussed much. While so many of us strive to be good parents, sometimes the pressure of being perfect can take the fun out of it. Too many times we as mothers don’t want to admit our struggles because we want to seem like to have it all together. Especially in our social media obsessed culture. In reality, if we shared the tough times, challenges, and issues, we’d realize it’s a continual learning process that no woman has down exactly.
Being an artist and writer, empathy and connection has always been important to me and helps me make sense of this crazy world we live in. Sometimes we can parent from a state of anxiety, fear, or have unrealistic expectations, myself included. When we are too hard on ourselves, we can also become too hard on our children, which is not honoring them or ourselves. Take time to stop and reflect on your child’s great qualities. Enjoy a fun afternoon with them being in the moment just letting them be who they are. If you have concerns, sometimes is easier to write them down, then share with them so emotions don’t take over. Psychotherapist Nicole McGuffin recently shared this great insight; to raise resilient children we need to connect with them, create emotional safety without judgment, allow them space to show emotions, don’t define their self-worth with performance and help them learn to problem solve.
During quarantine this winter, I was organizing old boxes in our basement and found a book a friend had given me from my baby shower over ten years ago. I remember at the time, I thought it was kind of an impractical gift, being I was a single mother with no job and wondered if she remembered how as a new mom you have no time to barely function, let alone read a book! Thankfully I decided to read it now, as I did have some extra time on my hands. Its called “Because I Said So” by Camile Peri and Kate Moses, and it ended up being one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. Mainly because its a collection of stories told by mothers who aren’t afraid to discuss deep topics, be vulnerable in sharing, and come to terms with the challenges that don’t always have an easy solution. I became obsessed over the years with parenting books, but what many are lacking is the truth of how hard it is to be a mother and there is no one size fits all. In the end, you have to do what’s best for you personally and your specific child, because at the end of the day you know you and your child best. I highly recommend all mom’s read books like this that are honest, real, fierce, and touching, and be quick to share their experiences as they navigate the hardest job in the world.
I wanted to share a few great thoughts I took away that I hope might help other mom’s raising children in a world that we ourselves have a hard time figuring out and handling, let alone raising a child in. One great point made by Karin L. Stanford is that we have an opportunity through our words and example to provide our children with courage and a candid understanding of the challenges we all face. Children respect honest conversations and truth when they ask questions. Give them that respect and validation to be open with them. I am continually surprised how perceptive and accurate my daughter’s thoughts are about situations, so have those hard discussions and gain their trust. Teach them independence and personal strength are to be commended when they are standing up for what they believe. A very accurate statement Karin makes is that when it comes to daughters, “teach her fairy-tales belong in books, but that heartfelt dreams, despite surprising twists and turns, are always worth reaching for.” Go against the cultural norms, don’t teach your daughter to look for happiness in prince charming, help her find her own purpose, and remind her what a strong line of women she comes from.
When it comes to loss and challenges, it can be hard to make sense of pain. As a parent, big feelings and negative emotions can be tough to work through. Imagine and remember how overwhelming it can be for a child. We have to help our child and sometimes reach out to therapists for help with emotional regulation. This is such an important part of a child establishing and maintaining healthy relationships. Remember to hold space for your child’s feelings, acknowledge that at that moment it’s hard, it might hurt, it’s a struggle, but make sure they’re feelings are validated.
Sadly in this life, many things are unfair and adults have a hard time understanding when bad things happen to good people. Marianne Pearl makes a bold statement I could not agree with more when her son was asking questions about his father’s suicide, she boldly stated “I have no choice but to tell him the truth because you cannot escape from your own story. With each mountain, you climb you reach a new summit within yourself. You have to have a sense of purpose that is stronger than whatever obstacles you find in your way. If you are to give birth, you must also give hope.” I aspire to do the same for my daughter when she asks questions about not having a father in her life or other challenges shes faced. While we must only share what their minds can handle at any given age, always be truthful and share your thoughts on why certain things happen. Children’s minds are more intelligent than we realize, so speak honestly and build a relationship with truthful conversations.
In closing, I want to remind all mothers that your time, love, energy, care, and teaching is not going to waste. While we can’t control the turmoil in the world or always change circumstances in our lives, we can continue to show up for our children and remember there is no perfect formula. You will make mistakes. You will have days that feel seventy-two hours long. You will have questions and situations that are complicated to explain. But, you have it in you to be strong, survive, and share your knowledge with your child. Don’t forget to make time for self-care, things that make you feel happy, taking care of your body and mind, and remember that to-do list will always be full, but our children won’t always be around. Take care of yourselves and each other. You’re doing great and so is your child. Day at a time mama, you got this.