Our children bring so much love, so much joy, so much fun to our lives: on some days, parenting is good.
Other days, no amount of love feels like enough to get you through, and the fun and laughter feel impossible to find.
What I am learning, slowly, painfully, is that the difference between the days of lightness and laughter, and the days of drudgery or frustration or anger, lie not in the children, or in the things they are doing. The difference is in me. It's how resourced I am in terms of both inner (sense of peace) and outer (getting the help I need) resources. The difference stems not from the circumstances in which I find myself, rather it is in how I feel about what is happening around me.
A bad day looks like my kids fighting.
A bad day looks like one of our beloved children struggling to engage with their peers.
A bad day looks like taking half an hour (and some!) to get out of the house.
A bad day looks like an astronomical amount of mess. Everywhere.
A bad day looks like being shouted at for moving the milk an inch to one side on the table at breakfast.
A bad day looks like not getting to finish a single sentence with my other half.
A bad day looks like us not actually making it out of the house at all.
But - a good day looks like this too.
Yes, I find it tough when my kids fight, or when there's a ginormous mess that no one wants to clear up, or when I can't think of a thing to cook for our tea. But!! Some days I can handle it without getting ruffled. I can notice the little inner sigh, and say 'I hear you. This feels hard. Take a moment.' And then 'You've got this'.
Speaking to ourselves kindly when things feel hard is such a small step on paper, but such a big leap for most of us in real terms. It takes time, but it can be learnt. Listening Partnerships, where we can offload our hurts, mindfulness practice, where we can learn to be present in the moment and go with the flow more easily, and support of others around us working through some of the same things, are just some things that can help us. But, oh! There is no magic wand, no quick fix, here!
We can start by being proactive, by trying to notice patterns of when things are particularly hard for us. For me, I have noticed that on the hard days, my feelings about whatever is going on usually stem from me being particularly tired or run down, (and/)or it being just before my period starts - and then any extra pressures will easily tip me over. Planning to do too much - especially if I'm very invested in those plans - is another trigger for me, especially if my other half is away. And specifically it's the first day or two that he goes away, which feels like a much harder space for me to occupy peacefully, than do the later stages of his trips.
When we know the trigger times - those times where we are much more likely to lose our temper, withdraw, or try to distract ourselves (Facebook anyone?!), we can try our best to put some small resources in place to get ourselves through it. Maybe we can use Facebook more intentionally - rather than browsing, we might reach out to others and share that we are struggling, and let them hear our pain. We might work to find some acceptance around the fact that our parenting looks a lot less than perfect on those days. Perhaps we give up on the tea we were planning to cook, and give our kids soup and bread for one night. Maybe a friend coming over, or perhaps instead getting out of the house, is your way forward when you feel yourself sinking into the doldrums. Whatever it is, whilst we're working in the long term on our inner resources, we can make life easier for ourselves in the short term, by putting small practical changes in place.
Because every little change we make, every tiny time where we manage to take the high road, instead of getting dragged down to get stuck on the low road, helps our families, and helps us - as we slowly rewire our brains to find new paths to deal with the challenges parenting throws at us. So that we can find more days of joy and laughter - which is all we really want.
Where are things hard for you? What changes can you make to give yourself the support you deserve? Love to you all, hardworking parents xx
**With thanks to Helen Jackson at Imperfectly Natural Mama for her amazing artwork**