By Cherie Pasion
Coming into the job, we all knew parenting didn’t have an instruction manual. (And yet we still did it anyway – does that make us crazy or amazing!?)
Each step of the way we’ve played the trial and error game. We’ve learnt what works through the mistakes we’ve made. And just when we are feeling comfortable, our child develops and grows, and the status quo is swept out from under our feet. Again. And again.
Throughout this constant change our emotions can take a battering. Parenting is truly an emotional journey – full of ups and downs, confidence and uncertainty. We hold on tightly to a lot of the joy and the pain and the mistakes and the realities of parenting. But, here’s the thing. You don’t need to. There are some things you can let go of.
5 things you can let go of in parenting
I know you want to be the parent and person you are meant to be. I know you want to keep your sanity as best intact as you can. So I want to run through a few things you can let go of. Let’s face it, you are carrying around enough burden, it’s time to lighten up and release some of the things that aren’t serving you.
Here are a few things you can let go. Now.
1.Let go of needing to know all the answers
Sometimes all the things you need to know is overwhelming. Why is my baby crying? What are good, nutritious food options? How do I deal with my child’s tantrums (without losing my own sanity?) How do I stop my child from bed wetting? And the list goes on and on and on.
And the truth is that it’s not possible to know all the answers. So, please, for the sake of your sanity, give yourself permission to remove that pressure.
Some things you will innately know. Other things you will figure out by listening to your intuition and being guided by your core values. Other things you simply won’t know. You probably will need some help figuring it out. And that’s OK.
And it’s OK to not even know where to get the answers. There is a lot of noise out there, it’s OK if it takes a while to sift through it all and work out the information sources and people you trust to help you.
So let go of needing to know all of the answers. And have trust that the information and answers you need are there and you will find them.
Which leads us onto the next thing to let go of…
2. Let go of the idea that you should be going it alone.
This is a biggie. Especially for those of us who are used to being independent and self-sufficient. It’s OK if you need to ask for some help. This isn’t a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s a sign of strength and health.
There is a saying that goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” It’s important that you take care of yourself as well as your family. And being able to ask for help – whether this is from a family member, a friend, a professional or an online group – will free up space and worry so you can refill your cup.
It might feel strange at first to ask for help. But you will quickly find that there are a lot of people out there who will feel honored to be asked, or who are extremely passionate about the thing you need help with. You may even form some rich connections and friendships.
3. Let go of the need to be in control
Possibly the biggest adjustment we need to make as parents is the loss of control. Before having children, no doubt we had some semblance of control over our lives. For the most part we experienced a fair amount of freedom in our personal lives, career aspirations and our comings and goings.
Then when we have children, especially in the baby phase, we realise we’re no longer as in control of our lives anymore. Suddenly we’re at the whim of our dependent children. When we used to be able to walk out of the door with ease, suddenly we’re planning the nappy bag, snacks, hats, pram and all the paraphernalia small children need.
There are a couple of choices. Either you can hold on to wanting to be in control, which feels like you’re rowing a boat upstream against the current, or you can let go of the oars and flow with the current. Trust me, the latter is the easier option.
There are some things you can be in control of. And that is your thoughts and how you deal with the challenges that arise and how you respond to those challenges.
But there is a lot you can’t control – so stop trying. Let it go. Breathe and surrender.
4. Let go of guilt
Parenting and guilt. They seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. (And, in my household, guilt definitely comes with feeding my son a sugar-laden peanut butter and jelly sandwich!)
Many of our decisions and actions are tinged with guilt – particularly those that try to round out who we are as people with parenting. Goodness, it took me weeks to get over the guilt I felt about taking a night out a week to attend a meditation class and have dinner all by myself. Here are some other examples of parenting guilt:
- Going to back work and being away from your children.
- Relief the school holidays are over.
- A much needed dinner out with friends.
- Taking time out for you to do absolutely nothing.
- Taking time out to exercise or a self-development class.
- Having a lower libido after childbirth.
- Losing your temper.
- Food and nutrition choices.
- Not giving your children as much as other children have.
There are many different reasons behind why you experience this guilt. It may boil down to expectations, or your core values, or comparing yourself to other parents or the childhood you experienced.
Research does suggest that guilt is a positive aspect of parenting, as it may inhibit aggression, impulsive actions and neglect in parenting and promote increased maternal investment. In other words, the guilt guides us to be better parents, as it highlights to us what we don’t like and what doesn’t feel good and we can make changes.
But oftentimes we judge ourselves too harshly.
Remember that taking time out for you – and to do the things that make you a better and more fulfilled person – is important for your own emotional and physical health. And remember that it helps you be a better parent and a great role model for your children.
If you feel that some of the guilt you carry could be eased through getting help, then remember it’s not a weakness to ask for a helping hand.
5. Let go of expectations
Often we hold expectations as to how life should be. This could be around the birth of our child, how we will be as parents, how our children should be or act, or even what we should be aspiring for, how our careers should progress or what we can feasibly get done in a day.
The trouble with expectations is that when our reality doesn’t live up to our expectations, we can feel disappointment. We might even feel like we’ve failed. Only we haven’t. Our expectations were never real in the first place.
I’d like to share with you a mantra I developed especially letting go of expectations and I include in my book, It’s Your Birth… Right? A guide for professional women to calmly transition to motherhood:
‘It will be what it will be and I’ll meet it from a place of love.’
Being open to parenting experiences and lovingly allowing whatever happens to flow will be of immense value to you in your journey. It will allow you to have some semblance of control when you deal with change, as you can be open to possibilities without the disappointment.
If you actively try to let go of these 5 things, you will soon start feeling better and keep your sanity intact. But remember, these feelings and emotions crop up over and over again. It’s not a one-time magic button.
So it’s important to be aware of your feelings and consciously release those that aren’t serving you in the moment, or use them as a guidance system to ask for the help that will benefit you and your family.
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