Wednesday, March 20, 2013

When you give your best and it's not enough

One of my clients recently was talking about the anguish she felt as her marriage was ending. She was working hard to speak kindly about her soon to be ex-husband in front of their children, remembering that this was a person in pain. But something she said really struck me. She said, "It is so hard when you give your best and it's not enough."

She was talking about her marriage, but this is also something that I've heard from so many of my parents who are struggling with their kids. They feel like they are trying so hard to be this parent who is loving and kind and patient and they feel they're constantly falling short. I liken it to an imaginary measuring stick and they just aren't measuring up.

We can be really hard on ourselves sometimes. (Christy Farr of Seeds and Weeds Coaching and I talked about this topic a couple of weeks ago on our new radio show, True North Parents. You can listen to that episode here.)

This isn't to say that we shouldn't strive to change. To grow. To be better people and better parents to our children.

On the contrary, I know that parenting has made me a much better person. Perfect? No way. Just ask my kids. They'll tell you.

But I learned a long time ago that I get nowhere when I handle something in a way I didn't intend to and then I spend the next 2 days beating myself up for it. When something happens and then I disappear into self-loathing, I've just left my kids without the benefit of a loving parent at just the moment when they need me to be there with them. It took me a long while, but I finally figured out that my kids don't need me to be perfect. They need me to be with them. To acknowledge when I mess up. To be real.

What if, when you have a "bad" (read "real" instead) parenting moment, you told yourself that you are doing the best you can in this moment? What if you treated yourself with the same compassion you want your children to feel when they make a mistake? What if, at the end of the day, instead of counting all the things you did "wrong" as a parent, you noted all those little things that you did well?

Thank you, Susan Graham for this illustration.
A long time ago, I read a book called Confessions of an Organized Homemaker. I've read this book no less than 25 times. I'm serious. I think I've got it somewhat down now. But one of the things the author, Deniece Schofield, says is to compare yourself only to yourself 6 months, a year, or five years ago, never to others. We always see the best of others from the outside and we always see our worst and compare that, so only look at your own progress. That helped me through many, many years of learning how to keep my house clean enough and organized enough that I could function, at minimum. When I look back at how far I've come, I know she'd be proud. (I should probably send her a thank you email...) But one of the tricks I learned is to observe what I'd still like to work on and feel gratitude for myself for the progress I was making.

Later today, I'll be going live on my Blogtalk Radio show, True North Parents, with Christy Farr and we're going to be talking about a related topic: Mommy Wars. It is really an extension of this topic because that same compassion we can extend to ourselves is what we can extend to others. Or not. When we have compassion for ourselves, our own story, and our own journey, we can do the same for others. Mommy Wars really come out of this place of not being able to give compassion to ourselves and our own choices and being disconnected from others. It is kind of the road rage of the parenting world. Road Rage happens when we dehumanize others, when we're disconnected. Please join us and let us know your thoughts. The shows are archived, so even if you missed it or can't join us live, you can still follow the same link and listen to the show.

I'd love to hear what your biggest stressors have been with other parents about parenting. How have you shifted your own understanding so you have more compassion for other parents? For yourself? Please post in the comments below!

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