[spreaker type=player resource="episode_id=13264296" theme="light" autoplay="false" playlist="false" width="100%" height="200px"]
Today I want to tackle a few parenting beliefs that increase stress and decrease performance.If you're a parent and especially if you're raising young kids right now, you'll likely find this very applicable to your life.
If, on the other hand, you are not actively raising a child at the moment, this can still be helpful because with just a little mental gymnastics, all of these beliefs like to surface in other areas of your life as well.
So I encourage you to notice the obvious way that it applies to you and also to go a bit deeper with it and think about how it might apply to you in something new you are learning – maybe it's a job or university or even in a significant relationship you are in. Anything that you are relatively new at; really care about; and tends to change or grow can be affected by what I am sharing.
Back to parenting…
Becoming a parent is one of the most life-altering experiences a person can make. One day you're responsible for only yourself and the next you're in charge of the very survival of another. The overwhelming emotions, the fear of making a mistake, and the incredible uncertainty can leave new parents quite breathless. With each successful moment you gain more confidence, only to take two giant steps back any time something goes wrong.
I believe all things considered, people are doing the best they can with what they know in any moment in time. You likely entered into the role of parenting wanting to be good at it and raise a well balanced child. It’s just once you are in it that things often go in a different direction. Maybe your child doesn't behave the way you expected them to; or maybe they hit a tough spot in life; or maybe your partner isn't as supportive as you originally thought he or she would be…
I’m not suggesting you are raising unbalanced children, or that you're not good at the task. I am suggesting this job could be a lot easier with more support, less judgment and increased understanding for yourself and from others. When you feel supported by the people around you, your confidence improves which allows you to access your creativity more easily, helps you to problem solve and keeps you more connected to your own resiliency.
When you don't pay attention to the things in your life that are guiding a lot of your behaviours, reactions and judgments, it makes life so much harder than it needs to be and by extension, decreases your personal vibrancy.
Let me illustrate with a story of my own… It's 24 years ago so I'm 27 years old…
I'm a brand new mom. My son, who was born 2 weeks early at 6 pounds, 6 ounces, is a week old. I'm sleep deprived and, although breast feeding is going okay, I'm so sore I'm not sure I'm doing it right and I'm a little anxious about my baby being jaundiced even though I've been assured this is totally normal.
The phone rings and it's the public health nurse wanting to come visit us at home just to make sure everything is going okay.
Yay! I would love the support!
She arrives that afternoon. She's kind, patient, knowledgeable and – most importantly supportive…just what I need. As our time together comes to an end she says, "You need to start giving him vitamin D. It's a liquid and most babies love it, so have your husband pick some up and just squirt about ½ a dose into his cheek. It's sweet, so he won't mind and once he's used to it he'll probably see it as a treat."
That sounds simple and healthy, I think, making a note so I don't forget to do it.
We're up early the next day – as we are every day – so I take out the vitamin bottle, read the package information and get the required dosage into the little plastic syringe.
"Here you go honey…a little treat for you that will help you grow big and strong."
I squirt a little bit into his cheek and he jerks his head away from the syringe as if I just assaulted him with a real needle. The sticky orange liquid oozes out of his mouth and down his chin.
Using my finger, I scoop up what he just pushed out and push it back in…"Don't be silly, the nurse says you'll love it once you get used to it."
He pushes it out again and opens his mouth to complain. I squirt a little bit more in his cheek. Now he's mad – he sucks in a deep breath to tell me how mad he is…only he doesn't get oxygen. Instead his lungs fill with sticky, orange liquid. His eyes bug out and his little body stiffens. He's making a coughing wheezing noise telling me he can't get air or even get a deep enough breath to cough it out.
I'm fighting a strong urge to panic and all I can think is…the nearest hospital is 15 minutes away, I can't drive and give CPR at the same time. OMG – I've killed my baby! Less than 10 seconds have passed since I injected the liquid. It feels like an hour!
"Get a grip Debbie! You're the mother – do something."
I flip my baby head down on my arm like they taught me in infant CPR and try to do something resembling a baby Heimlich. He's kicking and struggling…I'm wondering if you can pummel out syrup. He looks a little blue and tears are streaming out of his eyes and mine.
In desperation, I lift my shirt and put him on the breast. He latches on and I'm not even sure why it works, but it calms him and helps him cough. I'm shaking and my nose is running all over. I flop into my chair and cry.
Can you see how in that short time span I went from being a fairly confident mother of a newborn to a quivering, emotional wreck? I felt like such a failure, what kind of mom can't even give her baby some vitamin properly?
But here's where the story gets even more interesting.
It's a week later and the nurse is back at my house. I'm trying to tell her my story, but the terror of that day is welling up inside of me. My eyes are filling with tears and I can hear the quiver in my voice. I glance at the nurse and she has a big smile on her face! She shakes her head and laughs.
"I'm sorry for laughing," she says, "I'm sure it didn't feel at all funny to you. If it helps this is definitely not the first time I'm hearing a story like this. Vitamin D is very important – especially for breast fed babies. So, try again…he'll stop fighting you once he realizes you mean business.”
I want to argue with her. Something inside is telling me that my situation is different from others. Also…my baby wasn't fighting me – he was choking to death! PLUS I did try it one more time and while it wasn't as dramatic, it still did not go well. There has to be a different way…I've been reading, can't he get Vit D from the sun?
But I don't say any of this, because my tightening up into that very unflattering emotional overload grimace and the tears are flowing down my cheeks. If I open my mouth to tell her any of this, I can tell I'll fall into a mess of a puddle.
So, I nod my head, wipe my face with my sleeve, take a shaky breath and watch the nurse measure and weigh my baby.
Now, of course, back then I didn't know about personal power, intuition or the incredibly important need for every one of us to reclaim our voice. Reflecting on it now…I had two deep seated beliefs guiding my actions - #1 The doctors (and by extension the public health nurse) know best and if you love your baby you should listen to them. Reading What to Expect When You're Expecting cover to cover doesn't make me an expert. And #2 If you don't listen to the authorities they can see you unfit as a mother and maybe even take your baby away!
Isn't that amazing? Here I am a social worker by profession, a woman who has declared to anyone who will listen that I truly want to be the best mom I can possibly be and yet rather than feel supported and encouraged by this critical support system, I feel scared and unwilling to stand up for what I feel needs to be said.
The nurse leaves and I pick up the phone to call my friend before remembering that her son, who's 6 months older than mine, loves his Vitamin D and takes it easily (she told me that last week when I called!). My mom has already told me she agrees with the nurse and that I should just listen; and hubby, well he says I am a bit more emotional than usual and it's possible hormones are clouding my judgment.
In that moment I feel alone, embarrassed, scared and unsupported.
Now, I'm not sharing this with you to say, vitamins are bad or that you shouldn't listen to your medical team… not at all (and I'm happy to hear that they've come up with much better ways to get this particular vitamin into babies)! I'm hoping you'll see from it that parents – moms especially – are often told to ignore their inner wisdom; ignore their child’s protests; and just do as they have been told. Afraid of making a critical mistake many of us will obey even when it feels totally wrong.
Parenting, especially for mothers, is already so stressful…remove your connection to your intuition or inner wisdom and you become untethered… like a helium balloon floating through the sky at the whim of the wind.
Just so you know my son is now almost 24 and it turns out he didn't like taking any of those liquids as a babe (to settle his tummy, painkillers…) and if I got him to take them would typically throw them up. So I stopped giving him the Vitamin he hated (felt guilty and a little worried that I might be damaging him) – took him out in the sun a lot and am happy to report he still grew up big and strong.
Obviously, I can't eliminate all the situations you might experience that will make you feel shaky as a mom, but I can help you take back your power by pointing out some of the beliefs you might be buying into that are making your parenting experience harder than it needs to be.
Belief #1 – I am the only person who struggles with parenting
This is kind of a strange belief because if you watch any Reality TV or sitcoms like Modern Family, Fullhouse, etc or even listen to the media… you know plenty of others out there struggle as well. So, in theory you should be able to say – Nope, I'm not worried…lots of other parents struggle even worse than I do.
Yet, as is true with many really deep seated beliefs, this is rarely the case when you take a closer look. Notice your thoughts when you watch another parent skillfully divert a melt-down by their child. Notice how you feel when you listen to a mom share a story about something her child does easily, when yours fights it all the way.
The point is… any task looks easier from the outside where you can't hear the other person's inner dialogue, feel their uncertainty or witness their mistakes. A lot of parenting struggles happen behind closed doors which means you don't know about them unless you are in that room too.
The result is, parenting struggles aren't always obvious and because so many people believe they are a sign of weakness…they are not something they will easily share.
Remember in my story when I mentioned that my friend's son took his vitamin easily…that knowledge actually physically hurt when I heard it and made me feel flawed. This is not my friend's fault – but stems from my own faulty comparison.
When another friend asked if she could bathe her son at my house because it was a part of their bed time ritual her son loved and he'd be asleep by the time they got home…I felt a similar reaction. My son hated baths…in fact both of my kids did! What was I doing wrong?
The truth is everyone who cares about being a parent will struggle with some aspect of this task. This job is all about growth and growth always requires adjustment and learning. The majority of parents, in a safe environment, will admit that there are some pieces of parenting they just don’t know how to handle.
Not only that, but every one of us will make mistakes This is the norm…not the exception!
Being a parent means learning on the job. No matter how put together we might look on the outside, we all struggle at times and that's a fact.
(Which is why part of the focus in my Sisterhood of Vibrant, Powerful Moms, is on what we learn from our struggles, what we'd like to be more creative about and what we're doing well. We don't ignore the struggles, we just define them in a way that allows us to truly stand in our power.)
So, if you believe you are the only one that struggles, I'm here to tell you it's not true!
Belief #2 – Parenting is natural
Sounds simple enough – doesn't it? I mean people have been doing it for eons!
Although the act of making a baby is often – not always, but most often – nature at her finest… parenting is not. It is a skill that must be learned and adapted to fit you, your circumstances, your significant other and your child. The areas you need to grow in; the mirroring that will occur; the financial stressors that you face; the supports you have or don't have in your life… will be unique to you, resulting in everyone's experience being a little different from everyone else.
So - why is it a problem to believe parenting is natural?
When you believe something is natural, deep down inside you think it should be easy, obvious and that you should automatically know how to do it.
To take this a step further, when you think something is natural you don't give a lot of thought to how it might be done differently. In other words, you don't believe there are a lot of choices, which means you don't access your inner wisdom and use your creativity to develop new ways of being.
When something is natural we feel like there is no other choice but to do things the way we have seen them done in our own lives.
For example, if you were raised in a home where you were spanked or threatened to be spanked when you misbehaved, this form of punishment can feel natural to you. This is true even though spanking or threatening might not fit at all with the kind of person you are, never mind your conscious beliefs and perhaps even training around gaining compliance from others.
When we believe something is natural and it's not, we feel extremely limited in our choices and will rarely look beyond what we believe to be true. This limits us to the tools we have in our toolbox from our upbringing – they are not natural, but they are familiar.
When something is natural you will do it in a predictable way even if you are not encouraged or shown how to do it. For example, think about a baby learning to walk. Unless something is getting in the way of him physically being able to walk – he will quite naturally start pulling himself up on things, cruising around furniture and walking on his own. The amount of time he spends in each stage will be unique to him and the age he becomes mobile will vary, but the process itself will happen even if he is being raised in a family that does nothing to encourage him to try.
Can you see how different this natural process is from the learned role of being a parent?
Parenting is not natural – it is a unique process that can be done so many different ways it's quite mind-boggling. When you embrace this you free yourself up to ask questions, get creative, seek out support and perhaps most importantly… move beyond the idea that there is only one right way to do things.
Belief #3 – I should be able to do this without any help
Even though, consciously at this time in history, people are starting to recognize that asking for help is not, in fact, a sign of weakness, many people still struggle with the idea that they might need help with something that feels like such a natural part of life. Of course, now that you understand, parenting is not natural, this idea should be a lot easier to overcome.
Beliefs are like a tree – they are supported by roots – some of which stretch out really far and grow really thick, but in your subconscious mind – not your conscious one. This means simply becoming aware of a belief is not enough to take away its power over you. You'll have to do a bit of work to really chop it out at the roots.
For example, remember in my story about the public health nurse and my son… I mentioned there were two beliefs stopping me from really standing up for myself. The second belief was: If you don't listen to the authorities they can see you unfit as a mother and maybe even take your baby away. This belief runs very deep for many of us and can definitely interfere with any desire to ask for help. Our current system definitely does not bring out the best in parents…but that's a conversation for another time.
My first belief was also part of this root system. I can't ask for help because the doctor knows best and what I'm feeling at the moment is going against what the doctor (or in this case the nurse) is telling me. And here's the kicker…at the time I wasn't even conscious of these beliefs.
These are just two of the big roots you might have as well…yet there are probably plenty more holding up that tree. So I challenge you to start noticing how easy it is for you ask for help and what get's in the way or stops you from doing it more often.
Just a quick note… it's usually easier for us to ask for help with things we feel we are not expected to know. So sometimes it's helpful to look at your expectations for yourself and use those to guide you to help you uncover the underlying beliefs.
Situations like these are a big part of why I created the Sisterhood for Vibrant, Powerful Moms. We bring out the best in ourselves and others when we feel supported - like someone really 'gets us' - when we are allowed to openly discuss what's going on for us in a non-judgmental space, and when we feel comfortable using our creativity to come up with new and better ideas to suit our unique situation. If this sounds like something you'd like to explore further, please do!
. . . . .
In closing…Parenting is not about being perfect—it is about learning, growing and unconditionally loving, yourself and your child! When you are living with awareness you regain an important piece of your power – one that allows you to feel like you have a bit more control in your life (even though control itself is actually an illusion!). This makes it easier for you to stay tuned in to your intuition, access your inner wisdom and perhaps even speak up when someone tells you there's only one way to raise a healthy child.
If you enjoyed this podcast/article please like/rate/review and subscribe… that’s what keeps us going! Click here now to enjoy our other podcasts.
Interested in the names & products we talk about on the show? Check out our Vibrant Mentions Pinterest Board!