(School hols again – this week and next are old favourites.)
I think parents are awesome. I truly do. I stand in awe at what parents around me do – and how little they seem to get out of what they are doing – and what they put up with from their kids and bosses and society and schools. They’re totally and admirably mad.
Oprah keeps telling us that being a parent is the toughest job in the world. If you actually think about it as a job for a moment you’d see that no-one in their right mind would sign on for parenting with the kind of salary and benefits it seems to offer – at first glance anyway. And I’m sorry if I’m being depressing by focusing on this but did you know that if you Google “I hate being a parent” you’ll find a whole lot of parents shouting out how they miss their own lives, long for even a little bit of time alone, don’t have anything for themselves anymore… I must admit there are days I know just how they feel. So do others, it seems because there are LOTS of comments on blogs, articles and confessions that talk about finding parenting difficult. What’s up with that?
But then there’s also the other side, the cool stuff about parenting; Parents get to watch little people grow and discover the world, they feel silky skin and hair against their cheek as a little child cuddles close, they get to smell that special smell of child, they feel their hearts open wide with love, feel a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives… It’s really precious that stuff. A serious enhancement of one’s quality of life – if you can pause long enough in the mad rush to savour it.
Here’s the thing: We can love our kids to the stars and back and still dislike parenting – because it’s not the same thing. And we can love being with our children and still long to do things on our own or with our own adult friends – because that’s normal. Not that we get much reassurance about that, do we. Society tells us parents that the kids come first and if you want something for yourself that’s seen as selfish – but hang on just a minute! You don’t stop being a person when you become a parent – do you?
The truth we all know is that even with the intense love we feel for our glorious children, the daily grind of parenting can be demanding, maddening and wearying. What seems crazy to me is that despite all this, we flock to be parents – and voluntarily too. Even if you ignore for a moment how society trains and expects us to mate and breed, many of us actually really want to do it. So there must be more to this experience than meets the fraught, twitching eye. It can’t just be a biological urge to procreate. I mean we manage to repress all sorts of other biological urges daily, don’t we?
As I keep, and will keep on, saying, I think there is something more to it, something that’s not about the children at all. Parenting is just as much about the parents’ overall self-development as about the child’s – maybe even more so. In other words, it’s awesome for you. Yes, seriously.
Here’s why. All of us are carrying some hurt or another from our life, right? Most of us need to heal somewhat (or a whole lot) so as to fulfill our potential – as people and as parents. So here’s the fun part: You know those times your child does something and it just gets to you? Well those charged moments, our big reactions, are actually keys to the doors of our individually tailored healing. And if we follow the clues offered by those many, many moments our kids drive us nuts, we can become less burdened, more enlightened, and happier people and parents. Imagine that.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of big reactions to the things my children do and what they demand of me – and how, and when… Sometimes I manage to control myself well and sometimes I don’t. After all, I’m human. I’m also a psychologist and a parent so I’ve talked to a lot of other parents and I’ve read parenting blogs and forums. I see the tightened jaws and weary looks of the parents around me in the parks and shopping malls. I know I’m not alone in having big reactions to my children. Nothing gets you in the tender bits quite like your child.
So why on earth do I think this helpful to me as a person? Well, if my reactions to challenges can teach me about myself and guide me to heal old hurts, what could be better than parenting for finding myself some nice juicy challenges? It sure does offer plenty of material to work with – and a healed and conscious parent is the kind of parent we all wish we had isn’t it? Oh dear Lord, yes!
Isn’t it time parents got something just for themselves out of this parenting effort – even if that something is only opportunities for emotional and psychological liberation, enlightenment and reaching our full potential?
This blog is all about how to see and work with the material that comes from being freaked out by your kids. Keep reading and commenting. I’m hoping it will help you feel more normal and get some reassurance and tips for how to learn to feel good about the challenges.
In the meanwhile, what do you think of this idea? How are you finding parenting?