I don’t know about you but I have at times felt trapped by the demands of parenting. There is so much to do and just because you were woken up and called out of bed four times last night to tend to your child doesn’t mean you can end your busy day by flopping onto the couch with a glass of wine and your favourite TV show followed by an early night and full night’s rest. There is supper to be made, children to bath and take to bed, the nighttime routine of being called back to the room for “Just one more thing I want to tell you…”, preparations for the next day… and you haven’t even showered yet. Then there’s another interrupted night’s sleep potentially waiting for you before it all starts again. It is easy to feel ‘owned’ by it all. Even if you are one of the lucky ones who got to choose to be a parent, it can make you feel quite sorry for yourself. Maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about. For your sake I hope you don’t. But if you do then forge on fair reader, for there may be more empowered times ahead.
Here’s the empowering part. When you feel like a victim of something, as we tend to do at those moments, it means you are making the other person or situation bigger or more important than you. You are letting them supercede you. Even if you don’t know what I mean yet, just take careful note of the ‘you are making’ bit. That’s the empowering part. Its empowering because if you are making it, then you can unmake it too. Here’s an exercise to help explain:
When you find yourself feeling, “Oh poor me. I have to do all these things that I don’t feel like doing”, try saying to the situation or person instead, “I see your need and I have my need too. Let’s work this out.” Kim Payne calls it Your World, My World, Our World.
Yes, I know it might be a startling thought, and we are not often told this as parents, but you are allowed to have needs too. This exercise is something you can do even with your child.
Yes really, you are allowed to have needs even around your children. How can you not? You don’t have to do the exercise out loud, just in your head. At the very least acknowledge your need and give it importance because, if you have ‘poor me’ moments as many of us do, then it’s something you are probably not doing now.
You see the thing is that the ‘Poor Me’ experience is not often really about their need versus yours, even though it really, really feels that way in the moment. It usually boils down to a conflict between your own needs, in other words a decision you must make between two opposing desires you have.
On the one hand you desire to just rest and watch tv with a glass of wine because it’s been a hell of a day and you don’t feel like putting any more energy into anything. On the other hand you also desire to be a kind, caring parent who makes sure the children are cleaned and fed and feel safe in their beds.
Listen to both desires you have and then make your choice to satisfy one of your desires now. Maybe you will get to satisfy the other one later, maybe you won’t. But what has changed is that it has now become a choice. Your choice between two things you want. You are no longer in Poor Me mode. The important thing is that you don’t disrespect either desire by minimizing or ignoring it because that is what really creates that Poor Me feeling.
Acknowledging the other desire you have allows for conversation and compromise and real moments of feeling satisfied and cared for rather than the opposite of all that. All with yourself I mean.
“Oooooh I don’t want to get in the car and drive him to piano now and rush to do the shopping in one hour. I just want to read my book!” So there are the two desires. Look at them honestly and kindly and then make your choice, with a compromise if possible, “Ok then. We’ve already paid for the piano lesson and he loves it so I don’t feel good to just cancel it. Ok here’s what I’ll do. I’ll take him now but I am going to just sit in the car in a shady / warm spot and read my book for the hour and afterwards he and I will go shop together even if it puts a rush on supper. In fact I will make sure to get something for supper that’s very quick to make. That will feel better for me and then I will be nicer to everyone else this evening because I took the time for myself. Good, that’s decided. Oooh I’m excited to go read my book for an hour! Jaaaammes! Let’s go! We’re going to be laaaaate”.