Sitting at a party chatting to some moms about how we expect so much of ourselves. We were talking about how we want to start new projects, get them off the ground, be successful – but where do you find the time for it in between work, family and mommy-duties.
One mom said, “We don’t have to do it all in a great big chunk. It’s possible to do little bits here and there and before you know it, you’re on your way”. We all agreed heartily but I could feel some tension in the air about this expectation. I mean I know that even doing ‘just a little bit’ is too much on some days. We all live with so much pressure to ‘do’ and ‘be successful’ and ‘get it right’ – whatever the hell that means.
“We should really give ourselves a break,” I said rebelliously, “We are raising small children. That IS a project, and a big, time-consuming and important one at that! I think its ok for that to be our focus in this time of our lives. The other stuff can come later, when the kids are less dependent.”
“The thing is,” said another mom, “that some of my friends have done that and when it’s time to get back into the work stream they’ve lost their confidence. They don’t know if they can still do it.”
“But that can only happen if they’ve lost themselves!” I spluttered – and then kept quiet because I became aware that I feel VERY strongly about this and I didn’t want to preach.
This is what I would have liked to say then and what I wish all parents could hear:
Anything you do in your life is a part of your OWN adventure. Therefore, EVERYTHING you do is actually your own learning experience – even when you are doing something ‘for’ someone else. This also means that every experience you have in your life adds to your CV. As you look back on things you have experienced in your life – both big and small – you can appreciate which skills you have gained.
“What?! What could I possibly have gained from (insert painful challenging life experience of your choice – being abused as a child / having my marriage fall apart / being made redundant etc)”, you want to know. I’m not saying it’s always easy to see what we’ve gained – but gained something we have. And each experience and new knowledge shapes us and offers us greater fullness of Self.
Parenting, for example, isn’t easy by any stretch. It’s a constant onslaught of experiences – many of which we wouldn’t voluntarily choose. I mean really, which grown man wants to be head-butted in the testes by a small child? But in each experience there is the chance to practice a skill, deal with something we think we can’t deal with… heal parts of ourselves and bring them home to us.
After parenting for a few years, you could be much closer to your Self. Well-versed in holding emotions gently, dealing with pain and anger, multi-tasking, organising, negotiating, managing people and logistics, speaking out and holding your own in the face of adversity, keeping your head and focusing in crisis, in noise… I could go on and on. These are just some of the skills you get to practice as a parent. What boss wouldn’t want those skills in an employee? Each of these experiences gives you the chance to get to know yourself better – and potentially love yourself better.
Keep your focus in life on YOUR journey. Especially as a parent. It’s the only way you will get what you need (because you will learn to listen to yourself) and the only way you can give those around you what they need – your shining self.
Don’t lose your Self when you parent. Nobody wins when you make it about them.
Thanks for your comment Mignon. I’m so glad you love it 🙂
Struggling with this one. Having done full time motherhood, now I am trying to dance as a profession and practice yoga (oh the irony) but am often consumed with feelings of guilt and inadequacy. And frustration; it plagues me. When I’m with the kids trying to be present comparing myself unfavorably to my husband because I find it SO HARD to
just shut my head up and be with them. When I’m doing the housework feeling resentful for not being with the kids. When I’m away doing what I love but missing them. I really don’t have the answer right now, except that I recognize a long-held pattern if extreme frustration from childhood, that I have to somehow turn it all over to a power greater than me even though I don’t get it, get why I still feel this way with all the amendments to what I do, work in home/out of home/in and out…. ARGH!!! I have to turn those frustrated and inadequate feelings over somehow and trust, because in and of itself, changing what I do in the day is not making them go away. And practice more gratitude for all the gifts in my life; I guess deferring the present and focusing on the future is another old pattern.
Olivia I love your realness. You are SO not alone in the muddle of who do I please and how do I make it all fit together and be alright – oh yes, and feel good!
How about this: “You don’t have to ‘get it right'”?
This life is YOUR adventure. Follow what feels good and give yourself a break for being imperfect like everyone else.
You don’t have to get it ‘right’. You can’t get an adventure ‘wrong’. Go out there and explore. That’s all. Remember (I’m saying this to you, me and all of us), there is nothing wrong with you and you are already good enough.
Thanks Eilat. I feel a sob coming on! Yeah. Yup. Yup. Goddamnnotgoodenoughvoice. Could that really be true – that there is no such thing as getting it wrong? And that all that there is is exploration? Intriguing thought. On the one hand I try and ‘improve’ and let go of my ‘defects of character’, on the other hand, this idea is really quite inspiring…. today I am just going to say it is hard and I do not have the answer.
Let that sob out girl!
I really, REALLY believe there are just choices and consequences, different paths rather than ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. You can’t get an adventure wrong. This is your exploration. All information is welcome and useful – even if it’s that you NEVER want to do something again.
What if all you need to do is BE yourself? How would that change how you engage with your life, your work, your children, your parents…?
And read this one too