We know….you love your children more than anything in this world. That fierce, protective, forever love where you would go to the ends of the Earth and back for them without hesitation. The kind of love that you didn’t know existed until you had your own children, and now don’t know what life would have been like without them.
We also know that you would go to the ends of the Earth to get away from having to take your child to one more school kid’s birthday party, or have to listen to another Wiggles song, or to do that 5th load of washing for the day, or just so you can get some sleep!
We bet that before your kids came along, you hoped that once you had them you would be blissfully happy and life would feel complete. But becoming a parent usually means having to put the needs of your children ahead of your own needs, and as a result, putting your own desires to the side.
Unfortunately, always putting your kids first can lead to you losing a part of yourself, as you are constantly in the role of being a parent (ie. only seeing yourself as a ‘mum’), which means that you are not living out other aspects of your life that make up the ‘whole’ you. There is more to you than just being a parent!
And when you have forgotten who you really are as a person a life of unhappiness can await, and being unhappy will affect your relationship with those closest to you, including your children.
Focus more on yourself and less on your children.
Parent who want the best for their children need to consider spending less time trying to be the perfect parent and spending more time striving to better themselves, better their relationships, and live a life they desire.
According to family therapist, David Code, author of To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First he states that “families centred on their children create anxious, exhausted parents and demanding, entitled children. We parents today are too quick to sacrifice our lives for our kids. Most of us have created child-centred families, where our children hold priority over our time, energy and attention.” Code adds “today’s number one myth about parenting is that the more attention we give our kids, the better they’ll turn out. But we parents have gone too far: our over-focus on our children is doing them more harm than good.”
Is this the case for you? Are you feeling exhausted due to always running around after your kids and focusing too much on their needs and not your own? We know that there will be times, of course, that you need to put your children first, but if you’re doing this every time, your self-fulfilment will likely go out the window, whilst your kids become more demanding and dissatisfied. Maybe it’s time to think about approaching this parenting thing in a different way…
The pressure of being a ‘perfect’ parent.
It can be hard to focus more on yourself when being a parent, as you feel you ‘should’ put your children first and your own needs last, and if you don’t then feelings of guilt can arise.
The reason for those guilty feelings is because we have a tendency to worry about what others think of us; feeling pressured to be the ‘perfect’ parent. Think of all the ‘perfect’ Instagram or Facebook posts you see of others in your feed and notice how you might think to yourself “Gee, those parents are always out and about doing wonderful things with their kids”, or “those kids always look so well dressed and well behaved”, “my kids are running around like terrors”, or “that mum always looks flawless”, “I still haven’t gotten out of my pyjamas yet and it’s midday!” Or you might see other parent’s always driving their kids around to extra-curricular activities, taking them to various sporting events or music lessons or dance classes or swimming, and you then start to think to yourself “maybe I should be doing those things too in order to be a good parent”.
How to be a ‘happier’ you.
But we need to turn this around if we are going to be able to live a more meaningful life, and as a result raise healthier children. But what is it that you need to focus on in order to do this? One thing you can do is identify what your values are and make sure that you are living in alignment with those values.
But you might be asking yourself, what are values, and how can I identify what my values are?
What are values and how can you identify them?
Values are your heart’s deepest desires, how you want to be, what you want to stand for as a person, and how you want to relate to the world around you. They are leading principles that can guide you and motivate you as you move through life.
Some common types of values include: compassion, courage, creativity, adventure, ambition, self-care and self-development. In order to connect with your values, you need to ask yourself these questions:
– Deep down inside, what is important to me?
– What do I want my life to be about?
– What sort of person do I want to be?
– What sort of relationships do I want to build?
– If I wasn’t struggling with my thoughts, what would I channel my time and energy into doing?
Spend some time thinking about the answer to these questions, and once you have some further clarity about what your values might be, you need to start living in alignment by taking action. For example, if a value of yours is ‘creativity’ then what small actions can you start to take in order to be more creative? It might be buying a canvas and some paints and start painting. If it is about ‘self-development’, start taking actions towards reading that book or attending that course. If a value of yours is ‘self-care’ what steps can you take to engage more in self-care activities?
And if you think about it, you can also involve your children in some of the actions you might be doing that relate to your values, such as, getting them to do creative projects alongside you, or going for a walk in nature as part of your self-care routine. Nothing is stopping you from still involving your children, and in fact, they will be learning some great lifelong lessons from you, as they will see that their mum or dad prioritises their time to do things that are in line with their values, and therefore, through your example, they will learn also that this is important.
Emotionally healthy parents, raise healthier children
As Daniel J. Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry and author of The Whole Brain Child stated “As parents become more aware and emotionally healthy, their children reap the rewards and move toward healthy as well. That means that integrating and cultivating your own brain is one of the most loving and generous gifts you can give your children.”
So, if you’re going about life doing what you think society expects of you, or doing things that don’t fit in with your values, then continuing on that path won’t lead to a meaningful life, instead it will lead to an unhappy existence and poor emotional health. Putting the spotlight on your values, and living life by what your heart desires, is one way to improve your emotional health, lead to being a better parent, and as a result, have healthier children.
And hopefully this means you won’t feel the need to run to the ends of the Earth to get away from it all, after all!