To be a parent in the society we live in now. What does that mean? What does that look like? How do I know I am ready to be a parent? What if I do it wrong? What if my child needs more than I can provide? These are some of the many questions that enter one’s mind. We have this deep-rooted desire to become the perfect parent and to have the perfect child, but what does that look like? What does that even mean? To have the perfect child or to be the perfect parent? In my experience, this desire comes from a few areas of our lives. The major ones are old beliefs, society, family, and self-criticism (needing to be perfect).
As parents, we lose ourselves in raising kids. We stop taking care of our own needs and wants and shift the focus to our children. In my experience as a mother, the second I would take a moment to address my needs, I would be considered selfish. People would tell me that my kids should always come first. They’d say that I had my whole past to live freely and to do what I want, and now that I have kids I need to direct all my attention towards them and just become a selfless mother. The idea of living that way and not even being allowed to feel overwhelmed by motherhood was the world I lived in for the longest time. For a little over ten years my life revolved around my three children. My needs as a woman and human didn’t exist. I had no hobbies and no time for myself. Self love went out the window for me. Witnessing that type of behavior by my own mother only indicated to me that it must be the right way to be a parent. My mother isn’t to blame for this, because that is the cycle that was never broken till now.
      I had no one to articulate to me how that lifestyle wasn’t only wrong, but it was also the reason for my unhappiness. It played a factor in the messages my body was sending me to show me that I needed to shift my way of doing things: I felt tired from not knowing when to rest, I had headaches from overthinking, I had heart palpitations from feeling overwhelmed, and I had eczema from not wanting to be in my own skin. That was just the tip of the iceberg. For so long, I would push down my emotions of sadness, depression, frustration, anger, and overwhelm.
I thought it would make me a bad parent. Don’t even get me started with the guilt I felt if I would speak up and say I needed a minute to myself, a minute to reconnect with myself and to see what it was that I wanted. A minute to be, to be me. For a while, I forgot what that felt like. I forgot what I felt like. I forgot what it meant to love myself.
I grew up in a society where having beautiful, healthy children is “all I needed and I should be grateful.” It didn’t give me the right to feel overwhelmed or tired. That’s what it means to be a parent. Thinking that was the only choice I had led me to having suicidal thoughts. After being a mom for four years and being critical towards myself for not being the perfect parent my children needed, I felt like I was failing and that my two children were better off without me. I didn’t realize at the time the value of having someone tell me that parenting doesn’t have a perfect mold. We aren’t meant to be perfect at it. Feeling overwhelmed is okay, and feeling sad, tired, angry, and frustrated is a part of the journey. It is okay to show that. Our children don’t need us to be perfect. They need us to just show up. That may come in different shapes and forms. They aren’t expecting us to be perfect, we are putting that pressure on ourselves as parents.
       Thinking we need to be perfect and always showing up at 100% is a destructive behavior in the long run. When we see someone as perfect and always having their shit together, we start to put that person on a pedestal. At one point or another, that person will do something to bring themselves down off the pedestal. They won’t seem perfect anymore, and they won’t have it all together. The illusion we created of them gets destroyed and we don’t see that person the same way. Well, as parents, if we allow our children to put us on a pedestal, that perfect world they lived in gets destroyed one day. The world we helped them color becomes destroyed and that will create a false pretense to how things truly are, to how the real world really works. We leave them needing to figure it out all over again. But this time, it will create a lack of trust on both sides.
Society has led us to feel incompetent as parents if our childrend aren’t disciplined the right way. But who’s to say what society deems right is the right way? We have to remind ourselves that there is no one person alike. We are all different and unique in our own ways, and not allowing that to shine and to let each child follow their own path that their soul needs them to take is detrimental in so many ways. As an adult and a parent I see in my own life how that has dramatically affected who I had the potential of becoming. At the age of thirty five I am having to learn how to trust myself all over again, or even to just allow my true colors to shine and not be afraid that I am not perfect enough. Becoming a mother allowed me to realize something about parenting: what worked for one family will not work for myself and my children. Even between my three children, I couldn’t use the same tools on all of them because each one of my children has a different essence and soul. I had to learn a new way and to create new tools that worked for the four of us.
   That is when I began to let go of how society has programmed me to think and believe I should be as a parent. Being a parent is hard enough. It comes with its own pressures. And being alone as a single mother to three children at the age of twenty six–now that just takes it to a whole other level. I needed to accept and make peace that it is okay for me to not always have it figured out. It’s ok to even ask for help from my own kids. The biggest one for me was allowing myself to break down and to have my kids witness that. Being okay with not having the answer and allowing my children to help me find it didn’t only take tremendous pressure off of me but it also created a bond between the four of us. I learned how to take a minute or two to take care of myself without feeling guilty or thinking I am a bad mom for not always being present for my children. How can one always be present with others if one isn’t present with oneself?
I became more conscious of the triggers my kids would bring out in me, and took that as a sign of looking deep into my subconscious mind to see what it was from my past that I needed to heal. I also had to change my perspective on the way my kids would act out. I needed to change seeing them as misbehaving by asking the question, “what is it they are truly telling me they need from me, what are they lacking? Is it affection, love, time, space, or is it an old wound they need to heal?” Just being more conscious and aware has created a stronger bond for us, and we aren’t afraid of failing or even just asking each other for help. That alone was a huge shift for us in our dynamic of being a family.
My biggest release came when I let go of what society needed me to be and just allowed myself to be who I am at my core, allowing myself to do what I believed would work for myself and my children. The tools I found that worked for my family may or may not work for your family. I only ask that you search within yourself. That’s what will work for you and your family. Allow yourself to let go of what we were told to be, and just find your path in this lifetime. It is a beautiful place to be, to not depend on anyone’s opinion or to need validation from anyone but yourself. It creates a feeling of freedom within you and allows you to trust that you are perfect with all your imperfections. To be loved is to love oneself!