If you are unhappy then it’s time for something to change. Physical pain exists to keep us safe. It says, “Stop running on your broken leg! Take care of that scrape right this minute!”
It’s how emotional pain works, too. Emotional pain reminds us to take care.
I guess it’s our cultural Protestant work ethic that makes us forget this. So many of us take pride in our suffering:
- I work 70 hours a week, never take a day off. It’s just what the job demands.
- I haven’t slept through the night since my oldest was born. It’s been twelve years now.
- No, no, I don’t mind. You go ahead and go to the movies while I stay home and clean up after the party.
It’s one thing if you’re truly happy — if you love your job, if you’re one of those rare people who only need a few hours of sleep, if you’d rather vacuum than go see the latest blockbuster. I mean, I’m not all that invested in telling people that there’s only one way to live a happy life. But so many of us are not happy with the way things are and we ignore it because we believe the lies of suffering.
You know, the lies that say:
- Your value is in your paycheck.
- Your kids are more important than you are.
- You don’t get to enjoy things until you’ve earned them with your blood, sweat and tears.
Suffering, sad to say, is inevitable so why are we so bent on creating even more of it for ourselves?
I see moms and dads who put their own needs aside for so long that they don’t know how to pick them back up again. I know how it is; our children’s abilities creep up on us so sometimes we’re making them breakfast long after they could learn to pour their own cereal.
And you know what? That’s fine if we don’t mind pouring cereal and if we find other ways for them to stretch themselves a little bit. Again, I’m not saying that there’s a cut off point that you have to meet or everyone’s done for. But if you’re resentful, if you’re unhappy, if you want to be able to drink a cup of coffee before you fry up an egg, then it might be time to figure out how you can do that.
Unhappiness is the key that something should change. That’s how you know.
Parenthood should not relegate your needs to the trash heap. Yes, you’ll need to make allowances but that doesn’t mean 18+ years of purgatory.
So how do you do it?
- Surround yourself with people who get you and your values and who aren’t going to try to talk you into doing things any particular way. Whether you’re going to breastfeed into the preschool years or wean them at a few months, you get to decide because you’re the boss. It’s ok either way.
- By the same token, protect yourself from people who don’t get you and your values and who are going to try to talk you into doing things a particular way. In other words, you do not need to confess your struggles to your judgmental neighbor just because she asked.
- Get some good, basic books on child development and understand what your child is capable of doing so you can make informed decisions. Understand, too, that your child is a unique being and you are a unique parent; those books are guides, not infallible tomes. Remember, you’re the boss.
- Remind yourself that growing kids is a process. You can try something and then change your mind if it’s not working so don’t be afraid to just try it. It really is all right to make mistakes. So you push them a little too early, well, then you can pull back. But you might find out that they’re ready for a push. So if you’re ready you can give it a try just in case.
- Remember that you are your child’s model for self-care and self-love. Do you want your child to neglect themselves for the sake of their families?
- Join the You Are Not Your Mother membership! This is what we do — hold each other up, help us make decisions that honor both our needs and the needs of our kids, jettison the guilt!!
Parenting is already plenty hard; there’s no need to make it harder.