Between work, scraping dried Play-Doh out of the crevices of the kitchen table, and squeezing in a blog post before bed, I can honestly say I hadn’t given this concept much thought in the first couple years of becoming a parent. Sure, in my pre-parenting days and through my first pregnancy, I had a sense of purpose. I dreamed of the kind of parent I would be and what my child would be like. But once I had my daughter, and then later having my son and being spread thin between the two of them and everything else, my energies shifted to do, do, do.
Many of my thoughts most days were of a survival/grooming nature …
Did I remember to put on antiperspirant today? Did everyone brush their teeth? (Thank God for the woman – because I assume it was a mom – who invented dry shampoo!)
I also began to notice that some of my thoughts were downright mean and self-critical over all the things I hadn’t yet been able to, you guessed it, do.
Exploring with my coach what my parenting purpose was, opened up the space for me to create a tool that I use on a daily basis (and several times on stay-at-home-rainy-stuck-in-the-house-days). I made a vision board with magazine clippings and sat back to admire my work. Here’s the bullets of what my visual creation represented:
• Promote healthy sleeping & eating habits
• Provide shelter and clothing
• Shower with affection & affirmation
• Provide physical & energetic space for learning, exploration & discovery
• Create boundaries & balance for developing egos
• Expose to experiences
• Nurture spiritual growth & development
• Speak the truth and be real
• Build emotional intelligence
• Support social development
• Model respect for self and others
Seeing all this written out, I felt a swell of love and privilege and shortly thereafter…an overwhelming inadequacy to fit the bill. I mean, parenting is hard on even the most rested and
centered of days, and to think about my purpose being to guide them in their learning of mind,
body, and spirit when I’m still figuring out how life works myself?!
Then there’s knowing there are still a thousand unseen challenges ahead. How could I possibly stay anchored to intention with all this swimming around in my mind? The sheer magnitude of the responsibility and promise that comes with each child can be psychologically crippling!
But it doesn’t have to be. <Insert some deep breathing here.>
First off, I decided I would make myself a “cheat sheet” or a phrase I could boil it all down to so that in my least patient moments, I would have something easy to latch onto and center myself back into a sense of reality.
I summarized it all with one mission statement: I am a guide in their learning to be safe and healthy in mind, body and spirit. The mantra I use is “safe and healthy.”
When I’m overtired and cranky, and to keep myself from snapping, this phrase quickly grounds me and reminds me of the bigger picture, the why behind it all, and my intention -which is (underneath all of those bullets) to love.
At our house, my hubby and I call keeping them safe and healthy our job. Theirs is to play and learn about life. They know this. When we ask them “What’s my job?” or “What’s your job?” these are terms they understand. And they can usually deduce why we’re redirecting their behavior in the first place (sometimes I have to ask more than once but they eventually get it and help a mom out).
Later I hope it will help me with more mature conversations, but these days it helps me with deciding if it’s worth saying anything about walking across the back of the couch, licking the dog, or saying no to Cocoa Krispies for the second time in one day.
More than anything, this mantra helps calm me and remember to have fun, to be present, and enjoy these moments. It helps me connect to my purpose and to my heart. It even serves in those moments when I am not at my most centered and say something I wish that I could take back and try again. Rather than going down a shame hole, this phrase serves to remind me that in admitting my mistake to them, I am modeling healthy (human) behavior – which is also part of my purpose.
Let’s face it. When our children are grown, our goal should simply be for them to have to unlearn as least as possible. The key to this is transforming our triggers with intention and practice and compassionate connection.
In the moments when you feel overwhelmed, frustrated, confused, or anxious, or enter into a new phase of uncharted parenting territory, remind yourself that no one is better equipped to instill love and connection into a child’s heart than their own mom (and dad) a.k.a. YOU.
We can wear our parenting purpose on our sleeves as long as it gives us comfort and guidance into our own intuition and heart. And at the same time, let’s try to remember that all we need to do is love them unconditionally and be their mom (or dad).
So you can make a vision board and a list of bullets. You can craft a mission statement. You can gift yourself with mantras that help you center and have more fun. Or none of it. Because all you really need to do is love them. Be their Mom, with only the ways YOU know how. So go easy on yourself, ok? ♥