As mothers we often feel an enormous responsibility to “do it right”. I remember as a very young mother having a belief that there was a “right way” to parent; an expectation that if done “correctly” I would be rewarded with my desired outcome. But, when this “black and white” way of thinking fails us, and it will, it’s easy to assume we did something wrong or we are in some way “not enough”.
In effort to better understand “not enough” I looked up its synonym – inadequate. It means to be insufficient for a purpose. Feeling inadequate or not enough for my children terrifies me and I can’t parent “well” when I am terrified.
A few months ago I called my friend, Anna, to ask for help in walking me through a particular situation with my daughter that was continuing to leave me frustrated with my efforts and feeling as though I wasn’t enough. Anna is a TBRI practitioner, trauma trainer and someone I trust to help guide me in parenting. After a short conversation, Anna suggested that my daughter may struggle with certain behaviors well into adulthood and that regardless of how well intentioned, or trauma sensitive my approach, ultimately it will be up to my daughter to make the shift in her thinking, and that may take her many, many years.
When she said that, I felt a tremendous sense of relief and I knew that what she was saying was profound. But, it has taken me until now to really understand and be able to articulate what it means for me and my relationship with my children.
Here’s the lightbulb for me…I am not responsible for another person’s healing or well-being. Just to emphasize that point …The “ ‘s ” shows possession in the English language …meaning it belongs to another…it is not mine.
It’s not my job to take away another’s pain and suffering, even the pain and suffering of my children. And that doesn’t not make me inadequate as a mother. It makes me human. (I will also add, that suffering is universal. We will all experience it, and while we would all like to avoid it and definitely protect our children from it, it serves a powerful purpose… but we can save that discussion for another blog.)
It is my job, however, to protect them (especially when they are young) and to create safe boundaries for exploration and learning. It also my job to be educated on my child and their unique needs. And it is definitely my job to help create an atmosphere for healing and it is my believe that that healing atmosphere starts with me.
That means, first, recognizing that there is no “perfect parenting”, no “black and white answers”, or simple solutions for the many challenges we face. And that we will not always know “what to do” in every situation, no one does. It also means that we begin learning to take care of our own emotional, mental, and spiritual health. We practice self awareness and self compassion, less judgement and more curiosity. We learn to nurture ourselves so that we have more capacity to actually “be” with others, especially our children when they experience pain, suffering or disappointment. This creates the healing atmosphere we all need. It is not easy work, but that’s the case for most of the really good stuff, and this is the really good stuff.