I Want to be a Better Parent
The Chaos of Parenting and how to build resilience.
Do you wish you had more resilience as a parent?
Do you find yourself feeling guilty for the way you acted or wanting more time for yourself?
Many of my clients are parents, and the topic of family life is a popular one. Modern-day parents strive to have a career, positively impact their kids, look after themselves, and get through the never-ending to-do list of family chores.
Although being a parent is a great joy in life, there's no hiding from the fact that it is the most challenging job we'll ever have. We can feel trapped by all the responsibilities, lonely because we hang out with kids all the time, frustrated because we don't have time for ourselves and downright depressed because it's hard work!
As a parent of 2 young kids (3 and 6 years), I find life a roller coaster. The highs are euphoric, filled with presence and laughter, and the lows are soul-crushing, filled with regret of how I acted or how I felt.
When the topic of parenting comes up with clients, it's apparent that we're all looking for that sweet spot where our needs are fulfilled so we can show up and be the best parent we can be.
Being a parent speeds life up exponentially. It feels like time is flying by, we have no control, and we have no time for ourselves. This slams our resilience through the floor, and when our resilience is low, our victim mindset will show up at home, work, in the car when that person cut in front of us... the world feels out to get us!
The sad fact is that life can become so overwhelming that families can sometimes separate. Parents can feel so trapped and unhappy that they turn on each other. Don't get me wrong; there are times when families should split. My point is that I've worked with clients on the verge of separation, and there are sometimes new perspectives to turn things around.
So what can we do to feel more resilient and in control of our lives?
Before we go on, I want to underline the fact that I don't proclaim to have parenting mastered...far from it. I'm standing shoulder to shoulder with you guys; I go up, I go down. However, the following steps help me, and my clients experience more of the highs in family life and become more resilient in challenging times.
1. Stop and Reflect - So many parents I talk to are in survival mode. They're sprinting through getting the kids ready, sorting breakfast, doing the school run, ploughing through work, doing the school run, sorting dinner, doing bedtime and then...Netflix? Beer? Passing out?
My point is that parents rarely ever stop and reflect about whether there is a different way to do something, and time is so precious that permitting ourselves to stop is uncomfortable. The first hurdle is simply acknowledging that you want things to be different and you're open-minded to try.
2. Look after No.1 - In a previous article we discussed the importance of figuring out what you need in your life to feel fulfilled. This could be taking up regular exercise again, meeting with friends or spending more time outdoors. Making time for the things that fulfil us will make us more resilient and help us be more present. As a parent, this can make us feel selfish. Again, check out my previous article to address this self-talk.
3. Teamwork - If you are parenting as a couple, it's essential to work together and understand what each of you needs to feel fulfilled. You then need to motivate and support each other to do it. If you are a single parent, it's about asking for help so that you have the time to do these fulfilment activities or create some space to breathe.
4. Permission, Play and Presence - Now that we're making time for you, you need to make time for your kids. A time where you're fully engaged and present. Not with your phone in your hand or thinking about the endless chores you need to tick off. Give yourself permission to drop tools, be in the moment and play. This is the most significant gift we can give our young kids. Their world is based on magic, not logic, so get involved, let them paint your face, get stuck into their role plays and be a kid. We can learn so much from them by being playful in life... although maybe don't walk into the board room with face paint on.
5. Be kind to yourself and them - Parenting is tough, there's no manual, and it's easy to chastise yourself for how you acted or felt. You're only human, you're doing your best, and you're willing to learn. Remember that they are kids, and they are also trying to figure it all out. If you continue to find yourself feeling low, revisit step 1. The more fulfilment we have in our life, the more resilient we become, which allows us to show up as the best version of ourselves.
In summary, being a better and more resilient parent starts with looking at what is missing from your life. This is not about adding more to your plate. It's about asking for support and permitting yourself to make time for yourself. We can then show up more authentically for our kids and positively impact their lives. The more kids that learn from their parents the importance of authenticity and presence, the better the world will become.
If there are any parents out there that are struggling with what I've talked about, I would love to help you find a better balance, more freedom and connection in your family. Please reach out to me by clicking this link.
Here's to your journey.