What parent DOESN'T struggle, at least at times! The truth is that most parents are juggling and struggling just to keep up, just to pull off meeting the basic needs, on a daily basis! There are just so. many. needs. to juggle on any one day and avoiding becoming overwhelmed by everything that's piling up that you haven't got to is a job in itself!!
Are you a parent who struggles to meet your needs? This can become a vicious cycle, but one that can be broken and needs to be broken for parents who want to authentically be present to their child's emotions.
As humans, we have so many emotional needs. We're wired to connect and feel connected to, which requires feeling seen, heard, understood and supported. It's so hard to keep our own needs even on the radar when parenting, and yes especially peaceful parenting! requires providing to our children superhuman level of open-minded, open-hearted emotional care.
The time management and stress management skills we need if we're to even attempt to be kind and patient with our crew is mind-boggling! Yet by the very nature and definition of parenting, all that (now woefully long lost) time and headspace that we had before parenting is gone. Now we don't have the time, but oh boy are we highly motivated to tame those triggers. We're in the conundrum of desperately needing to do the mega biggest and deepest personal development work ever. Yet every day seems to end with a feeling of disappointment that there just isn't enough hours in the day or enough hands on deck.
It can be very hard to meet our own needs when giving so much to our child and keeping the family, house, food, laundry, finances afloat. And we all know how endless that list is! We all need time alone, we all need to eat when we're hungry and get enough rest. Sleep deprivation makes it nearly impossible to feel bright and breezy about our world. We all need the opportunity to share with a close person who we feel safe with and be met with empathy rather than judgment. We all need time to think and to work things through. Most parents need more time than the hours of the day give them.
I think most parents (if not all) struggle to one extent or another with getting their own needs met, especially in the first five or six years, but really it’s an ongoing challenge. Yet the more we value the importance of gaining support, rest, fun, self-healing and times to de-stress, the more likely we are to put the work into getting these needs met. I often think that parents (adults in general) tend to value and prioritize the maintenance of their home, their land, their cars, their appliances, clothes, food and just about all the ongoing physical needs way more than they value the emotional needs. This, I believe, is symptomatic of an invalidation of emotional needs in our society in general, a society of individuals who mostly didn’t have their deeper emotional needs met sufficiently when they were young. Although many adults know that they were loved, they often didn’t gain satisfaction of their needs to feel truly listened to, to have their feelings tuned in to in a respectful way, to feel validated, to gain support and empathy at times of frustration, disappointment, nervousness and overwhelm, to name a few, their needs to give honest feedback and negotiate in matters that intimately affected them.
Breaking cycles is hard work. Bear with me because although there are no magic bullets, it really is possible to break out of the vicious cycles of intense stress and stress passing in the family. It really is possible to make the daily grind of parenting more healing and transformational than the best holistic retreats! It’s hard to be a generation whose turning the tide, giving so much of that which wasn’t received. We're the parents who are empathizing with the shadows of our parent's voice invalidated or mocking our feelings. We're the parents who are facilitating and requesting rather than controlling and demanding. We're creating the loving patient time and space to truly listen from our heart, while deep inside yearning that someone would do the same for us. We're the parents who are patiently validating their frustrations while managing the intense frustration of knowing that slowing down and giving this time is at the expense of lots of other stuff that feels equally essential to keeping the boat afloat! We're motivated to keep breaking the cycles because we know that this is what it takes to evolve and heal.
Meeting needs is a daily challenge, each of us is at a different point of satisfaction/frustration of needs met or not met on any one day/week/month. So I don’t see it so much that it’s only when someone has all their needs met can they meet their children’s needs. Most parents are meeting many needs for their child that aren’t being met for themselves, like listening to their upsets and complaints when there's nobody to listen to them. Yet it’s wise to recognize that it’s just not sustainable to keep giving that which we don’t receive on an ongoing basis. It’s stressful and resentments build up, it's unavoidable. So I guess we each do our best each day.
But I strongly believe in putting more energy into being more aware of, caring towards and validating of our own needs and this internal care tends to lead to different choices and actions that are more likely to meeting our needs than not.
Sharing struggles can lighten the load. The other day I bumped into a mum in the supermarket who came to me for parent coaching/counselling a few months ago. Just one appointment, but it was a deeply emotional and insightful session for her. She told me yesterday that after realizing how much she was holding inside all alone, she started to share more with her husband, which has led to receiving more support from him. She’s religious and said that she also began to “bring more to God” which has really helped. I think this little story, hopefully explains how receiving some emotional validation can lead to accessing more support.
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