What Happens When You Aren’t Present

By Eilat Aviram

(Sorry for the later than 8am post this Monday. I accidentally scheduled for the wrong date! 🙂 But here it is now…)


I lost it the other morning.

I woke up happy enough and started to prepare for the day. Engaging with the kids, making breakfast and school lunches all the while trying to get them to get dressed and brush their teeth… a usual morning – except that, on this morning, no-one was listening to me (which, I’m glad to say, is less usual).

It was like trying to herd honey. I’d push them one way and they oozed in from the other side. When I lifted my hand to push it back they followed my hand, made a new mess and oozed back where I’d pushed them away from before.

Undressed, unbrushed, out of control, unable to stop frantically running around and pushing, tickling and bothering each other. Of course this was interspersed with crying and complaints like “Mama he hit me!” I couldn’t get them to leave each other alone.

“Guys I’m sorting out lunch and breakfast. You know the story. Go get dressed and brush your teeth, then you can play.”

Three minutes later, “Hello? Didn’t I say something just now? Stop bugging your brother and go do what you need to do!”

Two minutes later, “Why aren’t you dressed yet? It’s not play time. Come on man! I don’t want to have to be your policeman.” (Which by the way got the retort, ‘You can’t be a policeman because you are a woman’ followed by shrieks of 5 and 8 year old laughter. Well at least they were listening…)

You’d think that by now I’d remember to notice things are getting out of hand and pause for a moment to take stock of what’s happening and gather myself to myself. After all, if no-one was listening to me and I was having no effect on my environment – almost like I was invisible – it might be reflecting something about my lack of presence…

But I wasn’t really present so I forgot all about checking in with myself.

It was a recipe for disaster. Not present to myself (ouch), not being listened to (ouch), feeling powerless to control the environment (ouch, ouch, OUCH!)… What was left for me to do? Yup, shift into Victim Mode and blame everyone else.

Aaaaand …POP!

“I can’t believe I have to do all this for you! Come on! You’re not babies anymore. You can dress yourselves. You! Sit over there, stop poking your brother. You! Face the wall until you are dressed. Jeez! Here are your clothes. Here are yours. Do you know I had to wash my hands and leave the food to come do this. I can’t believe I have to do this for you. I’m trying to organise food for you, I have to drive you to school and I still haven’t had a chance to get dressed myself!”

You may recognise the lyrics? It’s the popular hit song “Oh Woe Is Me”.

Blame is a slippery slope. As I lose my balance into helplessness and blame them to try to stabilise myself, they get dragged into the out-of-control mire and become louder and more frantic, which tips me over further…

Finally I shouted. Loudly.

I don’t even know what words I said but I’m sure it could translate as “Poor me. Poor me. I’m drowning and it’s all your fault.”

That shut them up.

It seems to be most effective when shouted loudly with a good dollop of pathos.

My little one looked at me with huge eyes filled with tears and a trembling bottom lip.

That shut me up.

Deep breath. “I’m ok” I told him quietly, “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.” We sat there together for a moment at the kitchen table looking at his toast.

“Mama” he said, “whenever somebody shouts I feel like crying.”

“Yes” I said and we were quiet a while.

Then this came out, “Maybe it’s because you can feel the person shouting really wants to cry. If someone is shouting it’s often because they feel like crying.”

He nodded thoughtfully and we sat there quietly, at peace, while he ate his breakfast.

Everyone finally heard, accounted for and fully present.


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  1. Bless you for sharing your moment of ‘shadow parenting’ and tender recovery. As I have my fair share of the former I feel reassured that I am not alone!!

    1. Eilat Aviram says:

      Ha Katy! Funny and real comment. I found it reassuring. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Aw, what a beautiful post, my friend! Resonated with every fibre of my being. Thank you! I will remember these words xxxxxxx

    1. Eilat Aviram says:

      Lovely to have you alongside on the journey friend. Thanks for your words.

    1. Eilat Aviram says:

      Hi Melanie. Thanks for that 🙂 Glad it resonated.

  3. Aurgh. Tooooo much my reality. Daily. Without the snapping out of it part. Sigh… poor me. Woe is me 😉

    1. Eilat Aviram says:

      Oh, I see you KNOW that song. 😀 Catchy isn’t it? Maybe follow Shaamiela’s advice and just cry more?
      But seriously, is that a reflection on not being present to yourself? Daily?
      Sending love. It ain’t easy but it’s MUCH easier when you are there for you. Maybe start even one small daily love for yourself thing? even lighting a candle each morning to acknowledge your intention to acknowledge yourself can be something.
      What do you think?
      What will life be like if you DON’T?

  4. Shaamiela says:

    I’ve always thought that..perhaps I need to cry more

    1. Eilat Aviram says:

      At first I felt gentle compassion when I read your comment Shaamiela and then I irreverently snorted with laughter as I realised what you were implying – I mean about shouting a lot. I do think most of us need to let ourselves cry more, although it really would worry the children if we kept weeping each time we felt overwhelmed by it all, don’t you think? Imagine it. In the movie Motherhood (which I found way too based in reality and therefore exhausting) there is this woman who believes in crying sympathetically with her child. She totally overdoes it and I cringed each time but there is something to it – when the kids are acting out its usually ‘cos they need to cry or are expressing distress – and the same is true for us – and then we reflect each other… oh it can be a big mess sometimes. Just sitting down and having a good cry is probably a fine idea! (What and Enid Blyton sentence that was :D)

  5. On being human…loved and loving through it all <3 🙂 Beautiful. Thank you

    1. Eilat Aviram says:

      Ah yes, being human… What a thing it is. Thanks Eva. Will keep remembering to love.

  6. The mornings are the hardest part of the day, in our family 🙂

    I’ve tried a few times the ‘no shouting diet’ and at the moment it’s going really well. In order to stay calm, though, I have to slow down sooo much: do less, sleep more, be aware of myself all the time (a bit of crying here and there).

    In one way I’m happy about it…. but it also feels WEIRD. Like I’m not myself, but some kind of peaceful and sensitive lady tiptoeing around the house….and a bit boring and bland.
    I mean, it’s not bad, but I miss a little the exciting positive stress, the silly me, the good crazy moments.

    I’m curious… is that only the begining of the change, and eventually I’ll be able to get back the excitement (without bad temper)?… or is it a matter of choice?

    Sorry I’m not sure it makes much sense 🙂

    1. Eilat Aviram says:

      GG you made me laugh out loud over here with your funny description “Like I’m not myself, but some kind of peaceful and sensitive lady tiptoeing around the house….and a bit boring and bland.”

      You sound like you are doing SO beautifully in listening to yourself if the drama has calmed down like that and you generally feel more happy. So now you are ready for the next part. I might be inspired to write a post on this; Drama can be good drama, not just bad and stressful and hair-tearing.
      Start to ask yourself “What makes me feel more excited, more happy, more alive?” and when you get your answers DO NOT poo-poo them. Make a plan to start doing more of that. My post last week is about The Purpose of Play. Please read it if you haven’t and get back to me! Let me know how the next phase is going for you? I’d love to hear.
      Thanks so much for writing.

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Eilat Aviram is a Daring-Decisions Teacher.

She's worked with people for 25 years as a clinical psychologist, hypnotherapist, best-selling author, speaker and energy-healing teacher and she is passionate about helping people dare to love themselves in their moments of decision and find the courage to live their truth.

Eilat Aviram