Whilst we might have always wanted to become parents and it can be a wonderful experience there are times when you feel like it is a thankless job.
What if instead of parenting feeling like this it became an opportunity to live your life in radical amazement (at least some of the time)?
Where your child teaches you to smell every flower, pick up every stick, top to inspect every bug.
To extract every second of life from each and every moment and to connect to what matters most.
The road to burnout
When being a parent is like having a second job, rather than having the family you dreamed of, this is a sign that something needs to change in your parenting, and in your relationship with your kids.
When parenting feels this way, we start to feel resentful, frustrated, guilty, and we can easily burnout. This is bad for both us and our kids.
What was your pre-kids dream?
Can you remember what dreams and plans you had for your family before your kids arrived on the scene? How did you imagine you would spend your time together, and what kind of relationship did you hope to have with your children?
For me, my dream was a simple, outdoorsy, kid centred life, full of laughter and play, of connection and joy.
So what went wrong?
Not that long ago my reality was so far from this dream, it was making me miserable and stressed out. I felt trapped in the frustration and boredom of nappies, bedtimes, chaos and cleaning.
I loved my child so much, but I did not love my parenting and I certainly did not love being a parent.
Every morning began the same way…
Woken by a small child, far too early, and launched into a day of jobs, piles of laundry, dishes, cooking, toddler wrangling, nappy changes and requests to play, craft, and make snacks.
Every day ended the same way, waiting for my child’s bedtime and the subsequent 1-2 hours of peaceful quiet time for myself when I could zone out and be alone. I lived for that 1-2 hours.
I was in a trance.
One evening I was mindlessly scrolling through my phone, and it showed me something that broke me out of my trance. The trance of putting my life on hold, waiting for it to get ‘easier’ or for a phase to pass, waiting to get my life back.
My phone had curated a video of memories from the previous year. It was beautiful, a sequence of images of my smiling perfect child set to nostalgic music. He looked so different, so much chubbier, smaller, younger than the child that was now sleeping upstairs.
Where had that time gone, where had that baby gone?
And then came a moment of insight, and I woke up to the fact that life was short, and these early days weren’t just to be survived.
These moments that I was rushing through to get to the next task, they were my life, they were my child’s life. I was squandering them, these precious moments that I’ll never get to experience again.
This disconnect between how I imagined my life to be and the daily reality of how it was hit home really hard.
Is this familiar to you?
If you are feeling like you are on the road to burnout and are wondering whatever happened to that dream you had for your family and the relationship you wanted with your child here’s some ideas to help you to reconnect to that dream, to these moments right now (even the tough ones) and to your child.
I invite you to try them now before it’s too late.
1. Connect to your parenting values
Remember back to the time before you had children, what were your dreams for your family, how did you imagine it would be, and what kind of a parent did you plan to be?
If you notice a disconnect between the parent you planned to be and the parent you currently are, you are in good company.
I invite you to think of one small change that you could make now to get you closer to being that parent you planned to be.
2. Create meaningful rituals and family traditions, that you and your child can participate in together.
Rituals are opportunities for moments of connection, times to pause and join together on a task without being distracted by the outside world.
These may be bedtime stories, a lullaby, a family game, family dinner, a particular walk you both enjoy, brushing your child’s hair.
During this time unplug and stay present.
Schedule in daily and weekly rituals, that are predictable and consistent.
3. Practice mindful play
Enter into your child’s domain through play. Meet them there and appreciate their whole self.
Spend just 5 minutes fully immersed into their world, bring your whole self and allow them to show you their universe.
Say as little as possible, do as little as possible, just watch them and imitate what they do.
4. Zoom out
Remind yourself that life is short, that this moment is fleeting and someday you will look back and miss them, and these times.
Recognise that life is now, this moment, there isn’t anything else.
Try to find the good in it, or if that isn’t possible try to make room for it, until it passes.
5. Go outside
Go outside with no goal in mind, no agenda, and just allow your child to reintroduce you to the miracles of nature. Try to see the world through fresh eyes, through the eyes of a child, who is able to see the wonder in everything. Feel the sun, the wind or even the rain on your face and feel alive.
I rediscovered my dream
These practices have been helpful for me, I hope that at least one is helpful for you.
Of course I still do notice that sense of irritation sometimes when I hear my children shouting for me, usually when I’m absorbed in something or enjoying a coffee and a biscuit in bed.
It’s at these times I have to remind myself that these are my perfect children who I am blessed and lucky to have in my life, and then I budge up and share my biscuit with them.
Guest Blog Bio:
I am Dr Rachel, I’m a mum of two, a clinical psychologist and a massive believer in the psychological benefits of a good vegan cake.
I struggled as a mum in the early days and because of this I now help fellow mums who are struggling to be the parents they hoped they’d be.
I help them to shout less, have more patience and enjoy their children more without using threats, bribes or punishments.
I do this through my free facebook group and my Peaceful Parenting Program (The Path of the Peaceful Parent).
If you are a mum wanting to parent in a peaceful, mindful way you'd be very welcome to join my free community of supportive like minded mums here:
Find more details about Dr Rachel on her website: drracheldunn.co.uk