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.