Updated: Apr 9
Parenting feels like a really big deal. A huge responsibility that you have to perfect because in some ways our children are a reflection of ourselves. A reflection of our society and the ancestors that came before us.
But if that's the case, are they reflecting our own current rattled state? Are they reflecting our own anxieties, failures, and traumas? In my experience, children are extremely intuitive and absorb the slightest changes in their environment. Sometimes moments when they lack compassion, flare tempers, or neglect themselves could be coming from our own impatience, outbursts, self-neglect and daily triggers that bring us to the edge.
The moment I healed the past, strengthened my inner voice, and found peace in my soul was the day I became a better parent. I needed to invest in myself in order to model physical, socioemotional, and mental strength. The pain within would easily find a release valve with the smallest provocation and once I relieved the pressure, I wasn't releasing smoke anymore, I was instead inviting all of the small, tender moments and relishing in them.
After years of pushing myself at maximum as a working mom of two young boys, there came a point where I just crashed and burned. My boys were left with a ghost of a mom. I knew I had to let go of everything I knew to return to them fully. I dragged my feet in accepting that I needed to stop and rest. I'm a daughter of immigrants living in a society that values hard work. Growing up, quitting was not an option. Self-care was something to be mocked because only the weak and corrupt value themselves; the strong, honorable hero of most stories told are the first to sacrifice themselves for their community. To give myself permission to step off of the hamster wheel tore every value I learned inside out and the process was painful.
In the end, despite how scared I was, I'm glad I did. Giving myself permission to rest changed my life. In taking a moment to pause I returned to my childhood passions of reading, dancing, singing, writing, drawing, and gardening. I took on classes that interested me. I worked with a therapist to heal old traumas, read plenty of personal development books, and squeezed in daily meditations. I healed. I found a piece of myself that I had buried long ago and didn't realize I needed.
The calm that overcame me infected my family. I could see my children and their challenges with so much clarity. We were diffusing sibling arguments with words rather than wrestling matches. I had the patience to notice when a tantrum needed a hug rather than a firm boundary. We were able to discuss and plan out potential problems with ease rather than being surprised by a huge blowout.
With time, my children began to reflect my calming language and expressing their needs and wants more appropriately. It made my time with them much more satisfying, rather than a chore that would drain every ounce of my being. I'm still not perfect, never will be, and my children aren't either, but at least we have positive ways to support one another as a family unit through our mistakes and imperfections. We've created a family community that can hold each other up when one of us breaks, rather than everyone shattering all at once.
So if you are asking yourself how to become a better parent because your children are flying off the rails, take a moment to ask yourself if there's something within you that is easily triggered and could use some tender, loving, care. Sometimes it's a small focus inward that can change our environment towards something that is more nourishing. Sometimes, when you look at your child and their actions with more compassion and clarity, you realize that it wasn't a big deal in the first place.
Take some time today to give to yourself, it's an investment that always pays off.