Saying that the last year and a half has been challenging for parents would be a euphemism. With limited freedom and activities outside the house, children and parents found themselves in a strong case of cabin fever.
Some have leaned on screens too much, some have indulged their children too much (whatever for a moment of peace and quiet, I feel you), some have become more strict, some have gone from patient to banshee.
A survey from the American Psychological Association shows that 75% of the parents would have needed emotional support during the pandemic. You can only be spread that thin, and at some point, parenting might offer you more stress than joy.
Balancing Parenting And Life
Parenting takes a lot of energy and parents pour their emotional capital into it with little in return (like that gratitude we wish for but rarely get).
The problem with full-time motherhood (either because you have very young children, you’re homeschooling or the pandemic locked you home) is that you risk ending up calculating your life happiness based on your parenting happiness. After all, you don’t have much else than being a mother all day long.
You can look on the internet how to raise well-rounded children, how to manage tantrums, or how to stop yelling, but what about you? What about your happiness in motherhood?
One of the strongest negative feelings I hear moms talk to me about is their helplessness, that feeling that things got out of control and that they are merely living one day after the other without enjoying them.
Let me tell you straight away: when you don’t experience self-satisfaction, you cannot be happy.
Parenting, From Love To Frustration
I know you love your children dearly. But let’s be honest, it can be hard, being a parent. Surveys show that parents tend to focus on the happy parts of parenthood so they can get through it, that says it all!
If you’re not satisfied with your parenting, it creates a lot of stress, and we all know that stress is not healthy.
- You get more tired, more irritable (which makes things worse obviously: being patient is already challenging on a good day).
- You eat too much or not enough, or too fast, or not even sitting.
- You blame yourself and start to have crazy expectations to “make up for it”.
- You push yourself (no more time for a shower, for yoga practice, or for a hot coffee, let’s not even talk about meeting friends!)
And again, deeply, the ground feeling is that you have no power over it. But truth is, there are matters that you can take into your own hands, and it will make you feel so good!
Yale University psychologist Amy Wrzesniewski and University of Michigan professor of business administration and psychology Jane E. Dutton came up with a method called job crafting and it works wonders for parenting too. After all, if there is a full-time job out there, it is parenting!
Their work is based on three fundamental human needs that you might crave at the moment: our need for control, our need for a positive self-image, and our need for healthy relationships.
Step One, Get Back Control Of Your Parenting
Let’s declutter your parenting a bit and help you take back control over it. I want you to make 3 lists.
- The first list will be of all the things you like about your parenting, all the tasks that give you joy, may they be big or small.
- On the second list, I want you to write all the tasks that you don’t like, the things you do that you’d rather not do, or that you’d wish you would do differently.
- The third list will be your wish list. On this one, you can write what you would love to do but aren’t doing at the moment.
Now look at your list, how much of what you love are you actually doing in a day? And how much of what you don’t like? How can you create a more balanced life for your family, one that will be satisfactory for you?
Don’t forget to keep your lists updated as you can cross some things off your don’t like list, turn them into items on your love list, and circle the wishes you managed to achieve. Celebrate your victories small and big! And one last tip? Start with small things, get a victory today already.
Step Two, Change Your View On Your Children
Like a worker stuck in a company where they have to endure co-workers they didn’t choose, you are stuck with your children. And you cannot quit.
When we are expecting our children, we create a fantasy of how they will be, an ideal child, only to find out that they actually have their own identity and that we have little, if no, influence over it. When we try to turn our children into this ideal child (it might be unconscious, take a moment to think about it, are you doing it?) there can never be satisfaction, on either side.
It all depends on how we look at things, and not how they are in themselves. – Carl Jung
You cannot change your children, but there is something that you can do. You can change the way you see them.
Here are a few ideas to help you achieve that:
- Get to know your children better, ask about their opinions, about what they like or not,…
- Notice the positive things and express them (Tina made her bed, Louis laughed instead of crying, Amanda asked something without yelling,…)
- Take the time to watch your children playing, drawing, chatting with each other
- Practice taking a step back when your children pull one of your triggers
- Accept your children’s emotions and your own
- Try to find ways to say yes instead of no
- Remember the power of intention
Step Three, Grow Your Positive Self-Image
Meaningfulness is the key in this last step, you know, feeling self-satisfaction? Wouldn’t that be great? We mothers tend to have huge expectations for our motherhood and when they fail to happen, we feel discouraged or even guilty.
Growing your positive image isn’t about reducing expectations, it is about bringing meaningfulness to your motherhood. When you change your perception, you can attach more meaning to your parenting. Because let’s face it, after a whole day of running around, yelling, cooking lunch, cleaning children, making laundry, going to the grocery store, answering your mom’s messages, picking toys,… we feel more like Cinderella than Wonderwoman!
Have you ever been to this point in your parenting journey where you ask yourself?
- Why am I doing this? What is the purpose of my actions?
- Do I want to do this? Is it really what I was expecting?
- What do I want to do? If I’m not satisfied, what would I do instead?
When we lose the meaning, or when we can’t find one, it is impossible to experience satisfaction and grow our positive self-image. This last step is all about finding some joy in your parenting so read carefully and see what resonates with you.
No matter how much free time you have, you should always foster a passion. Passion is a powerful drive and is what makes you feel like your day wasn’t a waste when you go to bed. So tell me, what’s your passion? Maybe you’ve been so centered on your family for years that you forgot. Dig deep if you need to, write a list of the things you loved doing as a child, as a teenager, as a young adult, as a woman without children yet.
Now that you’ve got your passion you’d like to make time for, do it. Tell your family about your project and ask for their help. And try not to cut your passion from your parenting, but either to find ways to put more of your passion into your parenting. One of my passions is reading and books, so I took a habit of reading to m children every night. Another of my passions is communication, so I try what I learn on my family (my husband doesn’t really appreciate being a guinea pig but then, I do!)
Love Your Parenting Again In Three Steps
We all have up and downs. Motherhood can be highly rewarding and extremely dissatisfying. Often, it is a lonely job. Sometimes we are too tired or overwhelmed to find beauty in it. And it’s ok. Life is by nature like an ocean where you move between the top of the wave and the bottom of it.
Next time you feel down, remember those three steps and give yourself the time to make your parenting enjoyable again.
Don’t let the inspiration fade and take action right away
1 | Decide on one action you want to take and write it down
2 | Share this article with a friend who could benefit from it
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I wish you all the best with your kids, always remember that we all do the best we can at a given moment, so don’t judge yourself too harshly. Be confident and listen to your intuition. If what you do comes from a place of love, then you’re on the right path.
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