Hey, just checking in. I’m keen to hear about how you’re going with the dream of raising your family. Did you get what you signed up for? The kids, the family, the relationship, and all that goes along with it. You know those ideas that you had in mind when you were eagerly awaiting your little bundle of perfect? Has this parenting thing panned out the way you expected or did something turn up and take you by surprise?
- Why perfectionism is just too low a standard
- Goodbye surviving, hello thriving – the simple secrets I’m learning
- Why hanging out at home deserves way more credit
Chances are when you set sail on this parenting adventure you had some pretty awesome plans drawn up. I know I did. I was an ecstatic young mum and having kids was a signal to the world that I was all grown up and I knew what I was doing. How hard could it be, right?
Umm, yeah, sooo. 20 years down the track and in my experience, this parenting thing is way more of an off-road adventure than a walk in the park. Despite our best intentions and immaculate planning, we don’t always get what we hoped for. Ouch. Instead we get a heap of unexpected challenges that often push us to our limits and have us feeling like we’re spinning out of control. So when it doesn’t pan out the way we planned, how do we make peace with our disappointment?
Find the profound in the ordinary
If you believed the nappy ads, you might have the impression that this parenting business is all smiles, snuggles and giggles. It’s so easy to feel like we’re the only ones struggling under the strain of tantrums, learning difficulties, financial pressure and disappointment. But don’t buy the hype. The real truth of being a parent is walking the line between the profound and the very ordinary.
It’s a best kept secret that the very best parts of parenting are disguised in the everyday and very ordinary moments of life. Picking up the washing, packing the lunches, parking the car and playing Monopoly. When we learn to lean into the ordinary everydayness of doing life together and let go of the fantasy that things should go smoothly or be easy, we are released from the burden of perfect. And ironically, things really do become a whole lot more satisfying.
Let go of the fantasy
And say hello to reality. If our dreams for our family are so far removed from reality that they imprison us to our ideals and have us wrestling against what is right here and now, it’s time for a rethink.
A sign of good mental health is our ability to embrace the circumstances we find ourselves in and all the challenges that go along with them, and settle in a place of acceptance. Parenting from a place of healthy acceptance instead of turning ourselves inside-out trying to change the things that cannot be changed (like our child’s personality or a health problem) is indeed a place of great joy.
It’s the little things
You’ve heard it before. But let it sink in. It really is the little things. Very little. Tiny even. Despite what the ads tell you, being a fab parent is not about your latest purchase, your last holiday, the birthday party, or what you can or can’t afford compared to your kids’ friends.
Being a great parent is about turning up. Literally showing up. On the sideline, at assembly, at the park, on the couch, wherever the people you love are. Learning how to show up with care and compassion to yourself and to the people we love is hands down more satisfying than a lifetime of parties and purchases.
Say hello to compassion
Saying hello to care and compassion looks like words and time. Care and compassion looks like, “I get it” when your child feels rejected by a friend. It sounds like, “Let’s have a go together” when your child is struggling with their reading. It sounds like, “You’ve got this” or, “I believe in you” when your child is nervous about swimming sports. Saying hello to compassion looks like simply sitting at the end of the bed in a moment of silence. It says to your child, “I’m here for you.”
Share the load
It’s entirely possible that over time our hurt and disappointment about dreams lost can build up and tackle us to the ground like a great big burly All Black travelling at pace. When our own pain sends us tumbling, it’s pretty darn tough to simply ‘play on’ as if we’re not injured.
Parenting out of out of our pain and disappointment doesn’t work well for anyone. It has us feeling all bent out of shape and taken for granted and has our kids feeling all disconnected and confused that they can’t reach us. You were not designed to parent alone, so don’t. Find your tribe. Whether it’s a neighbour, a colleague, a family member of an old school friend – sidle alongside them and share the load.
So to finish where we started here, find a friend and start with four simple words, “How are you doing?”
If you need extra support, you’re not alone. Here are some ideas of who you could contact –
- 1737 – Call or text any time to talk to a trained counsellor 24 hours a day for free here.
- Lifeline – Call 0800 543 354 or 09 522 2999 or free text 4357 (HELP)
- Suicide Prevention Helpline – Call 0508 828 865(0508 TAUTOKO)
- Youthline – Call 0800 376 633 or free text 234
- Samaritans – Call 0800 726 666
- The Lowdown – Call 0800 111 757 or free text 5626
Book a session with a Family Coach
Sometimes family life is way more challenging than we had ever imagined. We would like it to be a lot more enjoyable, if only we knew how. Family coaching is designed to meet you where you are at, whatever stage you are at on your parenting and relationship journey. We want to be on the journey with you. To find out more and to book a session, click here.