Parent guilt. It hurts. We have all felt it. I have always tried to do the best for my children. Always. When I discovered a different approach to parenting, one that I felt so much more aligned to and gave me much more joy with my children, it felt amazing and also painful. I felt grief for all the moments I could have done differently. I felt panic for the potential "damage" I may have done in moments I chose something I now know isn't ideal for a developing brain, or indeed for not treating my child as an equal and valid human being. I felt angry that no one told me the right things at the start, and I felt shame for not having looked harder myself. I could go on and on about the difficult feelings that have risen over the years and I could comfort you by saying that it is all ok and no damage is done. I would be lying.
You cannot take it back and your feelings, all of them - the joy, the grief, the pain, the regret and shame - they are all valid. You need to feel them to change and to do better. Because as parents we are always trying to do better even if in any given moment we do not succeed. So what comfort can I give, if it is not to tell you not to worry? Listen up...
I’ve brought my very nearly 4 year old daughter back into bed with me this week. She has been generally unsettled, waking frequently, having bad dreams, very emotional during the day. So I figured lets just have her back in bed with me again all night so I’m already there for all the bad dream moments.
She has been sleeping in a big bed with her brother for the past year now, so it’s prompting all sorts of old memories having her back in with us. Some lovely (oh delicious warm soft sweet baby smell). Some less lovely (foot up nose at 3am).
And today somebody asked me if I worried that because I’d done this, it would now be really hard to get her out of my bed again, and I’ve ‘given in’ and ‘gone backwards’.
The answer to which is of course I worry about that! Because I worry about everything! My subconscious is always busy with random irrational panics about what I’m doing wrong as a mother.
Such as the time I woke in the middle of the night when my daughter was 14 months old frantically worrying that maybe she hadn’t grown any teeth yet because I hadn’t fed her any meat…
My rational brain will sometimes come to my rescue though, and at the moment, this is what my rational brain (along with my not insignificant knowledge and experience of small children) is reminding my subconscious worries:
You don’t foster independence by pushing your child away from you into independence. You foster it by making them feel as loved and safe and secure as possible in their relationship with you. The child who knows their parent’s arms will always open ready for a hug when they ask, is the child who will be happiest to venture away from that parent to discover their own independence.
I’ve just seen this doing the rounds on Facebook, and I love it.
I love it for two reasons.
Firstly, because a time out is exactly what parents need sometimes. And a time out that feels like a treat, like something special, is just what our overwhelmed, stressed out selves need to regroup.
I’m not (necessarily) advocating getting drunk to cope with parenting. But I want to emphasise the concept that a time out for a parent should consist of something that that parent likes! And that helps that parent to feel restored and revitalised.
Time out should FEEL GOOD!
And the second reason I like this picture, is because the idea of time out being a chance for a treat, can be equally applied to children as it is to their parents.
Children (just like us adults) act out when they are overwhelmed.
Think about the moments that you snap at your partner? Are you tired? Hungry? Feeling unappreciated? Facing unrealistic expectations? Still processing a stressful day at work?
We act out when we are overloaded and overwhelmed, and our children are exactly the same. Every time there is some seemingly purposeful negative behaviour from our child, have a think as to what the underlying reason might be.
I have a list of five things that seem to be at the heart of every single problem behaviour I see in my kids:
I love the collaboration that the world cup brings, the random hugs from strangers, the joy of communal celebration. It's awesome.
The reality is that so many human beings have literally zero emotional outlet, emotional intelligence, emotional IQ (call it what you like) - and football and the widespread excitement gives an opportunity to project all emotion outward. This is fine if the emotion is happy and collaborative. It's not so much fun if it's anger, frustration or anxiety - often fuelled by a shit load of alcohol, drugs or both.
Which love language do you speak? And is it different to your child’s love language?
If one stops to think about this logically for a moment, her argument has some serious flaws unless of course she denies her children all the other trappings of material wealth such as living in a nice house (I presume they are not banished to a shed at the bottom of the garden, or perhaps something akin to student accommodation until they are earning their own money)?
My over-riding sensation was how very broken our culture must be for me to be seeing these headlines. What kind of culture do we live in where the RCM felt a need to tell midwives not to shame mothers? What kind of culture do we live in where the media are allowed to take one sentence from a large general document and turn it into a massive assault on both midwives and breastfeeding advocates, without any concern for them or the mothers who now feel pressured and didn't before?