5 August 2014 by thaliakr
This is part of a series aiming to help us all go easier on ourselves and make our parenting lives more enjoyable and satisfying. The whole series list is here.
Making Parenting Easier. If that title doesn’t get parents reading, nothing will.
But this week’s discussion on the importance (or not) of obedience – and the conversation in the comments thread is still going strong – has raised some questions that are fundamental to this Sacraparental community:
- How can I parent thoughtfully and sacramentally when I’m so exhausted?
- How can I feel like I’m doing a good job when my performance is so different from my ideals?
So here’s a new series, giving us space to share ideas for how to make things easier.
I’ve made a list of ideas that’s too long for one post, so how about I get the ball rolling, you chime in with your suggestions, and I incorporate them into further installments?
I’ve only been doing this for a year. Or, rather, I’ve been doing this for a whole year! I also spent quite a bit of time as a pastor having these kinds of conversations with people, so I’m drawing on that and this past year to offer some thoughts on how we can feel better about our parenting and enjoy it more, on the days (/weeks/years) where it feels overwhelming.
This isn’t about how to be a better parent, in the sense of raising our standards and learning new skills and tricks. It’s about how to be a healthier, happier person in the middle of the most challenging thing many of us will ever do.
It’s aimed at people who spend lots of hours and days with kids, and especially parents of young children, when life is particularly intense, or parents in difficult circumstances.
Some ideas will resonate with you, some will be from another planet. Try things that appeal and let us know what you find. Offer your own ideas: imagine you’re talking to a brand-new parent. Or imagine you’re talking to us.
One last caution: just pick one thing! This series is not a To Do list with fifteen more items to stare at you accusingly with their unticked boxes. It’s a set of pick-and-mix invitations that you have control of.
And there are lots of parenting-on-the-beach photos to help us feel like life’s a beach, ok? Send me yours if you like!
Be Kind to Yourself
Alex’s mother asked the right questions: Do you love your children? Do they know that? Do you spend time and energy caring for them?
Before you perfectionists start prevaricating, let me answer that for you. Of course you do. Of course they do. You’re reading a parenting blog :)
So I think we can all agree that you are brilliant and amazing and you need to cut yourself some slack. Celebrate the good stuff you are doing, and let the self-appreciation moments outnumber the self-flagellation ones.
If this is an unfamiliar landscape, here are some ideas for helping yourself to feel better about the great job you are doing with your kids. Remember, if any appeal, just pick one or two and test them out. It’s not a To Do list to make you feel like you’re behind. Let us know if any of it is helpful.
- Either as a blog comment for us, or just for yourself, write a Brilliant and Amazing list of at least five reasons you are fab. Full directions and space to write here. You are brilliant and amazing, so don’t forget it!
- Ask a friend, partner, your Mum or someone else who knows you well to write down five things they appreciate about your parenting. Stick the list to the bathroom mirror so you see it every day. Be encouraged.
- Look through your favourite photos of your kids. Remind yourself that they didn’t get that wonderful by accident. You are doing a great job.
- Read Psalm 139 for a poet’s perspective on your importance to the God of the universe (though I concede that a few verses near the end are a bit weird).
- Flick through the Sacraparental back-catalogue of posts on perfectionism and doing What We Can (rather than doing ‘our best’).
- Thank God for your imperfect parents and all the good things they poured into you.
Thank God for your opportunity to be an imperfect parent, doing what you can to love your kids.
Thank God for your imperfect kids who drive you up the wall and draw love out of you like water from a deep well.
- (Re)read Glennon Doyle Melton’s famous Momastery post, Don’t Carpe Diem, to snort, giggle and cry about the tensions of ‘enjoying’ parenting.
- Read some of Jim Wallis’ and Barack Obama’s reflections on fatherhood as the best job in the world here.
- At the end of the day, take a few minutes in bed to write down what you’ve achieved today. Parenting is a job that’s hard to quantify, but a list like this example is a solid achievement:
2 loads of laundry
made two meals
cleaned high chair 6 times
read Where is the Green Sheep? 13 times
said ‘I love you’ a few dozen times
answered 53 questions beginning with ‘Why?’
had a shower…
- If you’re finding it really hard to feel good about your parenting, or perhaps yourself in general, consider engaging with a counsellor or psychotherapist for a while.
It can make all the difference to have defined space and time to get your inside stuff into the open, get some light on it, sift through it and move on as a more whole person.
Parenting is pretty pressurised, which makes it a good time to talk about things – your stuff is nearer the surface and easier to grab hold of.
It can cost money and it’s a considerable emotional commitment, but you are worth looking after in this way, so do give it some serious thought.
- Think of a handful of little things that are treats for you, like: your favourite sweet treat; going for a walk somewhere nice; wearing your favourite perfume; listening to your very favourite music; going for a skate; curling up with a novel; going out for a coffee.
Talk with whoever you need to to build a few of these things into your week at a higher rate. It’s important for everyone in your household that you are well-nourished with things that perk you up.
- Check out this not-quite-my-style-but-still-worth-reading list from Oh Baby! magazine: 100 ways to take time for yourself (beginning with things that take 10 seconds).
You are doing what you can, and that will be enough. Be kind to yourself, please.
The last words go to Michael Leunig, from A Common Prayer:
God be with the mother. As she carried her child may she carry her soul. As her child was born, may she give birth and life and form to her own, higher truth. As she nourished and protected her child, may she nourish and protect her inner life and her independence. For her soul shall be her most painful birth, her most difficult child and the dearest sister to her other children.
Now it’s your turn:
- How else can we be kind to ourselves?
- What other things – anything at all – can make parenting easier? Let’s get a list going, and I’ll run with it for the rest of the series.
This is part of an ongoing series. You can see the list of all the posts here.
And you are warmly invited to join us at the Sacraparental Facebook page for daily links, encouragement and resources :)