“I don’t want to be a parent right now. I don’t want to parent the child that I have been given.”
These were the thoughts I had as I lay in bed after another challenging day behavior-wise with my deeply feeling, highly reactive daughter. I felt so many emotions simultaneously - anger, shame, guilt, disappointment, despair, dread, confusion, and sadness. I was exhausted and drained.
As I reflected, I realized that these feelings were somewhat foreign to me, and that felt scary. I had gone many years denying myself the right to feel unpleasant emotions and had always chalked it up to the notion that things just didn’t bother me as much as they did other people. I see now that this was really a protective mechanism from my own youth.
What they don’t tell you about parenthood is that it is triggering. It will trigger parts of you that you didn’t even know could be triggered. Things that have been pushed down inside of you (consciously or subconsciously) will surface and leave you in the ultimate WTF moment!
My mind can process feeling this way towards other adults but how does someone feel this way towards a child who didn’t ask to be here and hasn’t been on this earth long enough to be fully aware of, let alone process, all that is going on? As I searched internally for answers, I allowed myself to feel all of my many feelings, and gave myself permission to cry. I didn’t try to hold it in. Instead, I harnessed my inner Elsa and “let it go!”
I took several minutes to pause and remind myself through mindful affirmations and mantras that my feelings toward my daughter were valid, and also temporary. I know that I can change my feelings with my thoughts, and the lens in which I view her strong-willed nature guide both.
With every slow inhale and exhale, I told myself what I needed to hear:
This too shall pass.
I can do hard things.
I am enough.
I am a good parent having a hard time.
This experience had me thinking at length about how hard parenting really is in this day and age. We often hear that being a kid is hard, and it is. They have so much more to contend with that many of us did not have growing up. The ability to have the world at your fingertips with the click of a button can be empowering yet also isolating.
But what about parents?
As a parent in this day and age, I feel the juxtaposition of being in between the “old school” and “new school” philosophy of parenting, and that is a hard place to be. We are in the era of information overload with opinions coming at us from all different angles. From unsolicited advice from grandparents to social media forums to parenting groups to strangers commenting on your family. And they all tell us something different …
- Bottle feed vs breast is best
- Cry it out vs comfort the child
- Spank and Time-Outs vs connection and Time-Ins
- Use behavior charts vs don’t use behavior charts
- Baby food vs baby-led weaning
- Hold a baby vs wear a baby
- Sleep in the crib vs co-sleeping
… it’s all so overwhelming!
On top of all this, I feel like modern-day parents are dealing with the impact of generational trauma in deep, soul-searching and, sometimes, soul-crushing ways. We are striving to be pivot points in our lineage because we know on some level that parenting starts with us - our thoughts, feelings, words, actions, and triggers. This work is the most riveting work, but also the most excruciating. It isn’t the easy path and yet we are here doing it, not only for the well-being of ourselves, but for our children.
Ultimately, I believe that we are all doing the best we can with the information and tools that we have, just as previous generations have done. Parenting, no matter when you are doing it, is relative to YOUR experience, YOUR present and past traumas, YOUR support system, YOUR capacity, YOUR life at any given moment. Nonetheless, we are all in the beautiful struggle of parenting together and I remind myself that I am not alone.
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