It seems epidemic these days: an undercurrent of stress and anxiety thrums at the heart of parenting, even for the most “conscious” parents (and probably even more for the really conscious, attuned ones — ever more conscious and attuned to our shortcomings!)
How about you — do you feel this parenting stress? Do you perpetually feel like you’re a just a little behind the 8-ball, probably missing some crucial enrichment opportunity so now your child will be behind?
Yikes, we didn’t play Mozart through speakers on our pregnant belly… we didn’t use the latest pre-reading iPad app… we didn’t get in on that whiz-bang college-prep (or high-school prep, or for that matter, pre-school prep) program!
Or if it’s not FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that ails you, then maybe it’s the “life-as-a-series-of-tactical-maneuvers” form of parenting stress. White-knuckling it through your days?
I remember so much of the time feeling vaguely (or not so vaguely) uneasy and thrown back on my heels — just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for my son to start fussing, waiting for him to want something he couldn’t have. And so much of the time feeling like I wasn’t the mom I wanted him to have.
Stressed Parents and The “Child-Centered” Trap
We fall all over ourselves keeping them happy. Keeping them placated. Keeping them entertained. We cajole, we tap-dance, we take on the role that reminds me of the audience warm-up guy who makes every little development sound like the most exciting thing since Barnum & Bailey. Look at that, you drank your juice, WOW!!
We play five games of hide-and-seek when we had originally set the limit on two. We keep dinner warm twenty minutes past when it was ready. We buy the third American Girl doll even when the second one is still in the wrapper. We negotiate, explain, and justify. It’s. Exhausting.
And it doesn’t feel quite right. But getting clarity on what would feel right seems beyond reach when we’re in the thick flow of daily life.
If this rings a bell, I feel nothing but compassion for you. We’ve all been conditioned to jump (or get jumpy) when the endless smorgasbord of choices glistens before us, enticing us with that perfect something to fill in the gaps of our parental insufficiency.
I had the privilege of becoming friendly with the late Jean Liedloff (author of The Continuum Concept) in the months before her passing. One of my many ah-hah‘s over the years is something Jean wrote about quite a bit. Children should revolve around adults, not the other way around. In her time with the indigenous Yequana culture in South America, she noticed something missing from typical family life with children (something that has continued to get more extreme in the 20 years since her observations):
Where were the “terrible twos”? Where were the tantrums, the struggle to “get their own way,” the selfishness, the destructiveness and carelessness of their own safety that we call normal? Where was the nagging, the discipline, the “boundaries” needed to curb their contrariness? Where, indeed, was the adversarial relationship we take for granted between parent and child? Where was the blaming, the punishing, or for that matter, where was any sign of permissiveness?
Ditch Perfection, Embrace Striving
In my travels on the wings of my book Parenting for Peace, I’ve met many parents in many lands. The theme in my talks that has received the most enthusiastic embrace — sometimes even tearful relief! — is the idea that it isn’t our perfection that nourishes our children, but our striving.
And by striving I don’t mean it in that “pushing for perfection” sense… but in that sense of following the inner pull we all have toward our own most vibrant unfolding — like how a plant naturally turns toward the sun, if allowed to.
But here’s the thing: we have all these incoming voices and opinions (parents, in-laws, neighbors, even our peers) and we have powerful cultural norms surrounding us that can stand between us and our true sun. It isn’t always so easy to turn toward the sun of our own instinctive and intuitive knowing.
Let’s Figure This Out Together!
There is power in numbers. There is empowerment in community. If you’re overwhelmed or feeling less than adequate as a parent, please know that you are NOT alone…and it’s NOT your fault!
I’m reaching out to parents with a free webinar this week, teaching simple tools you can use to tame the stress and cultivate more harmony and connection with your child(ren).
One of the first things we’ll cover is why stressed-out is the new black: there are good reasons for it, and understanding those reasons will help you move past guilt and worry…and allow you to parent with more ease and joy — the way it’s meant to be. This webinar will empower you to engage some of the Yequana “magic” without leaving this civilization!
My book Parenting for Peace is based on 7 principles — Presence, Awareness, Rhythm, Example, Nurturance, Trust, and Simplicity. I’ve now developed and refined 5 user-friendly parenting tools that engage and harness all 7 principles — and you will learn about all 5 in the course of this 60-75 min. webinar.
The best antidote for anxiety is action — particularly action that cultivates mastery. Participants in this webinar will emerge with practical tools to immediately begin transforming stressed-out into sane & centered — to bring more ease, confidence and joy to day-to-day parenting.
And this in turn fosters your child’s most vibrant thriving. Hope to see you there!