Parenting is hard and I certainly don't find it a breeze. Sure, there are things that come easily, like cuddles, singing and reading time, but many other things that I find really hard, bits that make me want to implode with frustration and that blind me to the loveliness of the small human I care for. I hate that feeling – it hurts – so I think a lot about how I could make these parts of parenting less painful, just a little easier... I imagine you would also like parenting to feel easier too and to spend more time enjoying and connected to your child/ren? Read on, this might support you to do just that.
So here's the deal. I like to get shit done! I like to be 'efficient', to be 'productive', to have a clean house and to do what I want, when I want to do it. In fact, I love it! It makes me feel 'good enough', calm and in control.
Children, of course, do not give a rats about any of this. More than that, they have very strong feelings in the other direction. Loud feelings. Persistent feelings. So so many feelings.
My feelings about not things not being how I want all the time are sometimes incredibly loud and persistent.
They are not graceful, rational or frankly adult.
In fact, they are probably as loud and big as my three year old's feelings, but they are not shared like a three year old (how glorious it would be to be able to really melt down every so often!).
As I clear the decks with my limiting and painful thoughts and grow in my life, parenting still kicks my arse regularly in a way that nothing else does. So many blindspots! On the upside, the areas that are the hardest, that we are the most blind to, can be the most important and offer incredible rewards.
To consciously parent (when we can) can have a secondary bonus of healing us and helping us to be calmer and more present.
I often tell clients that the good work they do in any area of life will filter into their parenting, that is a wonderful bi-product of coaching. But working on parenting challenges directly is also incredibly powerful.
Saying out loud what you are hating or struggling with and voicing your thoughts is really powerful and a blessed relief. The thing is that it's often taboo with parenting, which is why people like Constance Hall are so loved!
I shared some of my frustrations this week - I've been thinking and journalling a lot about what I've been finding frustrating in parenting. I've also been getting coached about it. I just couldn't see my own blindspots, I had to talk about it in a supportive space and it really helped. (Do talk to others, just make sure that they are people that can hold your story and not judge, compete or dismiss it).
So what did I come up with?
Parenting provides endless f**king growth opportunities
This doesn't surprise any of you. Parenting is wonderful and hard. It is deep ongoing growth, if you let it be. My beautiful coach was sharing how at every age and stage her children's live show her forgotten pains and challenges that she had experienced.
We are always parenting our children and re-parenting ourselves.
That is where our healing lies and where the path for intergenerational growth lies. In parenting and reparenting through old wounds and limitations.
So in the interests of all our healing and growth, of more peaceful, happy lives (and of strong and resilient children), here some insights that might support your parenting...
1. When I'm angry with my daughter, it's almost always about me. No, I'm not a narcissist, it's that children (and partners) are mirrors for our own shite. She's showing what I don't accept about myself, what I hold true that isn't. An endless source of fodder for life work!
2. Time pressure erodes my ability to be present and the quality of our time together. I often find myself rushing my daughter for no particular reason except the belief what we are doing should be quick and easy or I want it over with. The belief that there's not enough time or that we can't 'waste' time creates tension that makes emotions blow up. The blow ups sure take up more time than being patient or getting going earlier, so you get the disconnect and the 'time wastage'! It also means that when there is a clear time frame (e.g. day care drop off, work etc) that she feels the difference and will go with it. If we are always rushing, they are always resisting. Children do not naturally feel time pressure of the world, just of their tummies or desire to play.
3. Time pressure couples with a desire to control. Can I get an amen!? Wanting control over situations and not having control is something that both my daughter and I are currently struggling with. But control is elusive and really an illusion, particularly control over time. Would it really help if you always had control? (Yes, I hear you say). What would you lose if you never gave up the illusion of control? What would your child lose from being submissive and having no opinions or desires? What could you gain from being less controlling?
4. When I'm frustrated and angry, I disconnect from everything. I get so up in my own head, in my 'lizard brain' ('I don't have enough time/patience/energy', 'I can't cope', 'this sucks', 'things will never change'), that I disconnect from my body, from my daughter and from the world around me. I also disconnect from my neocortex, that does all the rational, calm thinking... So I find that catching myself, letting the anger roll through me (sometimes it feels like a little shaking) and then breathing, noticing what's around me, the colours, smells, sounds, feel of my feet in my socks really helps.
The next thing I do is notice something I love about my daughter and how small she is and how new she is at life. It takes me back to the newer, jazzier part of my brain that is compassionate, wise and soft. When I'm disconnected, I lose compassion, presence, creativity, problem solving capacity and so on. The only thing I want to do is fight, flight or freeze, or numb out those feelings if fight, flight or freeze aren't an option.
5. My daughter's pace is an invitation to slow down, play and relax. Some days I can really go with this and other days it feels excruciating. My 'resting' state is busy as hell. It's my (dis)comfort zone but one that is so normalised and supported in our society that it can be really hard to catch myself on. The thing is, when I go with it, my happiness skyrockets, we connect so beautifully and life is so much smoother and more peaceful. Making sure that you have at least part of the day with your children without time pressure is such a relief. There's a reason why they are creating slow child care centres in Finland (yes, even freaken Finland is full of parents rushing). Going slow is good for us.
6. I can slow down, connect and enjoy parenting much more easily when I care for myself well. It's the old, 'why am I being so impatient?' 'oh because I am really tired/hungry/need me time' scenario. Parents often put themselves last and women in particular, connect self care with selfishness. This couldn't be further from the truth. When we meet our own needs we have so much love, patience, energy and creativity to help meet the needs of our children. Go to bed early, get that massage, find fresh air, meet your friends. Here's your permission slip ;)
7. You will never be a perfect parent, they will never be the perfect child. I still subconsciously cling to the idea that if I try hard enough I can handle any situation perfectly. Delusional! What is perfect, anyway? I might have thought it was great and it didn't work for my daughter. I'll find out when she's old enough for therapy ;)
Perfection is the enemy of all good things, of everything we really want for ourselves and want for our children. It's natural to want to prevent the pains that you've experienced but there will always be something.
Life is messy, unpredictable and always in flux.
We are all imperfect.
Let's love this reality and all exhale.
There is no end-game with parenting and it will always have challenges but the more we can notice our reactions, eavesdrop on our thinking and gain insight to why we find parenting hard, the more peaceful and smooth our lives will be.
Please let me know if you had any AHA! moments or if there is anything you are inspired to do differently (or validated to continue).
With love and grace,
P.S. There are so many awesome things to do in life, things that make our hearts sore and our minds explode with excitement BUT often fear and disconnect sabotage our efforts. Thankfully, there are ways to deal with limiting thoughts, clever, simple ways that I can share with you and you can use forever. Get free to live your ideal life through my workshops in Melbourne and Canberra. Places are capped and we expect them to sell out, so please book early!
Check out my very special short-course with Chafia Brooks – Revive: Mind and Body – (Three Sundays from 1-3pm, you can so make time to change your life!) and my power workshop in Canberra 'Unblocked' on the 15th October, also 1-3pm.
Hi, I'm Dr Lara Corr, life coach and researcher in work and wellbeing. I coach successful 30 and 40 somethings who want more fulfilling or bigger careers but doubt themselves and their options. I help them get out of their own way, find direction and go for what they really want.