“Mother is a verb. It’s something you do. Not just who you are.”
― Cheryl Lacey Donovan, The Ministry of Motherhood
It’s a common theme right now – I see it over and over again on cheesy social media posts – how rewarding parenting is, how ‘special’ and ‘wise’ children are, how exceptional and precious the bonds are between parent and child.
And then there are all the posts people encourage you to share about having an awesome father or a wonderful mother.
These days, more than ever, it’s expected that parents will be engaged with their children, that they’ll actively parent them and give them access to every opportunity and possibility so that they can grow up to be exceptional, after having had the best possible start in life.
I hear all sorts of things in my job as a psychic. But one of the most common confessions is from parents – admitting to me how hard they find their situation. There are some who even regret ever having had a family of their own. And there is terrible guilt with that. There is shame at the feelings of resentment or fatigue, there is despair that the parenting journey is less ‘special’ and more ‘hard work’…
The other thing I hear, more than you might imagine, is the pain adults feel (especially around Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day and other family centered holidays) when they do not have a good relationship with their own parents, either now, or because their childhood was difficult.
The media holds up all these examples of happy families, and that perfect extended circle of love.
But that’s not what families and parenting is all about…
Parents are people. The act of parenthood does not suddenly bestow upon you a saintly grace and the ability to park all your own hopes, dreams and needs so that you can put your children first in all things. Indefinitely.
Parenting is a role, a function, a work in progress, for some an act of love, for others an act of duty. Parenting is a huge responsibility and a lot of hard work. There is sacrifice. And there is pain. But there is hopefully also reward, joy and connection.
It is not a given that the relationship between children and parents will be smooth, loving or fulfilling. And the dynamic changes from day to day.
For those of you who have experienced difficult relationships with your own parents, I can say this:
You chose them. And for whatever reason, they have given you a lot of what you need to become the person that you are. When there is a lack, we learn to fulfill that for ourselves. We become stronger, or more independent. We learn to grow and overcome.
Let’s be clear – you are not responsible for the behaviour of your parents, and you did not cause them to treat you in a particular way. It’s not your fault. Parents are people, and people are flawed. As an adult you can choose to find other role models, support and mentors in your life to fill the place that’s left wanting from the lack in your own relationship with a parent.
Find a place of forgiveness in your heart, and let go of expectation. Sometimes, when we’ve cleared away the hurt and energetic debris, we find that we can begin again, in a new way of relating, and form a relationship that works better for us. And sometimes, we just need to let go and move on. Being born is not an automatic recipe for a sense of family, for love, nurture and ongoing supportive relationships. Not every story has a Disney ending.
For those of you who are parents:
It’s normal to get overwhelmed sometimes, with all that is expected of you as a parent. It’s normal to have days where you want to run away, where you resent your children and momentarily wish they’d never been born. Because the truth is EVERYONE feels like that sometimes. They just don’t admit it. I mean, who could, when we are surrounded by images and expectations that parenting is this joyous, wonderful and endlessly fulfilling journey?
In becoming a parent you often forget that you are still a person. You are the same person you were before you had children, except that you’re stretched now in different ways. You still have needs and wants. There are still dreams. This is normal and natural. You are not a bad person for wanting to have some space in life for YOU. You are here to walk your own path, and fulfill your own destiny, and (except for a handful of you) only part of that will involve the act of parenting.
It’s always going to be struggle to maintain your own relationships and interests when you have others who are dependent upon you.
And it’s going to be even harder when your children tell you that they don’t like you, or scream I HATE YOU. Of course you’re ruining their life.
The stakes are so high these days. So much is expected of parents. YOU expect so much of yourself…
So what can you do?
Love helps. Love helps us to find that space of being able to give when we honestly feel that we can’t. Love helps us to cope when no-one is grateful for our efforts or our sacrifice. Love – that honest love without conditions – grows us into better people; it matures us and helps us find those reserves deep within that let us achieve far more than we could have ever hoped.
You are a person, even when you are a parent. Make space for your own interests and relationships. Find a little time for yourself. To not honour your own needs is to create a recipe for resentment, and nothing good grows in that space!
Know that love is a deep-seated emotion. Even when kids are screaming at you, ignoring you or completely taking you for granted, there can be great love BENEATH what’s currently being acted out. Can’t you remember behaving like this when you were their age?
There are times in every family when a child does not like a parent or a parent does not like a child. It doesn’t mean there is no love there – it just means that right now you’re not gelling. Families have friction. Frictions causes growth. As a parent it is not your job to be liked – it is your job to parent!
Kids push our buttons. It often brings up our own deep-seated childhood insecurities. Funny, that!
Keep on loving, and do your best. Try to find some room for fun, and for relaxing.
If you don’t have kids, or they’re not your own biological children?
There’s always a role to play in supporting and guiding and loving others. You can be involved and you can make a difference. Sometimes, it’s the people outside our immediate family who become the most important people in our lives.
We’re all just people. And people need love, dreams of their own, and a sense of belonging.