In the journey to becoming a more conscious parent, I know I have A LOT to learn and uncover, discover and decipher, acknowledge and acquiesce. I am not by nature a patient person. I only just recently learned this about myself, even though it is now so obvious looking back at the whole of my adult life. Couldn’t wait to finish school. Couldn’t wait to get engaged. Couldn’t wait to get married. Couldn’t wait to buy a house and adopt a dog. Couldn’t wait to start a family. Each milestone thought to be the one that would finally make me happy…make me whole.
I used to believe my job as a mom was to sacrifice all else and myself in service to my children. I believed that I needed to give all of myself to them in order to be the best mom I could be. So for a time that’s what I did. I poured all my energy into my kids, and into the career that in my mind was supporting the greater good of providing and saving money for the kids’ futures. And in the process, I totally lost myself. I became a nervous wreck, barely sleeping, becoming frighteningly thin, and resenting everyone around me for the time I didn’t have to spend with my family or myself. I was a mess. I turned to coaching, and through the work and daily practices I’ve incorporated into my life, I have entirely shifted my energy.
Don’t get me wrong. There are times when they are screaming and fighting their way through bath-time and despite my 18 increasingly urgent requests for someone to “Please just listen to Mommy and rinse because it’s now time to get out!” they continue to ignore me and send my teeth to gritting. There are times that I want to pull all my hair out or run screaming from the room. I lose my temper. I raise my voice. I used to feel terrible and berate myself for being a terrible mother and then try to overcompensate with my affection and attention to make up for a “bad” parenting moment. Now, I try to instead to cut myself a little slack – be ok with imperfection and stop to observe and simply look at why. (1) I opted to plow through email rather than shutting down and taking a bath or doing yoga to unwind the night before. (2) I was preoccupied in preparing for an upcoming presentation at work. (3) I subsequently tossed and turned all night and didn’t get nearly enough restful sleep. So rather than being in the bathroom just enjoying splash-time with my precious babes, I’m sleep-deprived, stressed out, and grumpy. So it’s a reminder to squeeze in a little “me” time. It may mean different things on different occasions, but this is what I’m becoming more aware to recognize when I’ve been neglecting myself and need to restore. Before, this always seemed counter-productive to my long list of to-dos, but I have now realized that unless I take care and love myself more, then I am and forever will be less than abundant for all others, especially those I hold most dear.
I now believe we have a responsibility to show our children how to love themselves above all else. If you are kind to yourself first, you create the space to then be kind and generous to others. I now believe this is my role as a mom: to learn these life lessons and model them for my children. While it’s also important to learn to decipher right from wrong, how to revel in play and appreciate what others bring you, my primary goal is now to allow them each to show up authentically in who they are and just love them. Discipline in a way that sets boundaries but never creates doubts of worthiness or love. I believe my job as a mom is not to mold them and impose on them some predestined version of who I think they should be, but to provide them with opportunities to learn, to love and walk beside them as they grow into themselves, and to pay attention and accept what their little spirited selves are teaching me about myself.
I consider myself a reformed perfectionist. By acknowledging my hang-ups, patterns and triggers, I am allowing myself to release them one by one and just be. Be present. Be kind: first to myself and then to others. Be imperfect. As the weight and pressure lifts, the more aware and conscious I become. The more awareness I gain, the more grateful I am. The more gratitude I express, the more joyful I am. My children have taught me that each individual spirit is on this earth to connect and learn from one another. I get it now. The more space and freedom I give myself, the more I have to give to others.
By being ok with being imperfect, I can model for them that life is about ongoing discovery of self: the work is never done and although at times painful, forward progress is always worth it. I can simply pay attention to these precious daily lessons held by these little ones holding up mirrors for me to see and observe my own actions and behaviors. Wow. Not bad for a 5 and 2 ½ year old.