I’m a hypocrite and a fraud. That’s what my inside voice has been yelling this morning. It also tells me that I’m a failure. I am struggling to quiet this nasty dialogue.
I have dedicated my academic career to learning about resilience and emotional intelligence. I have promoted myself as someone who gives parenting advice on how to raise resilient kids. I write articles and books. I have a website and a Facebook following. I offer professional development to teachers. Yet, at home, with my own kids, I feel like I am failing. This parenting and educational “expert” curled up in the fetal position, pulled the covers over her head and bawled. Have you been there?
Let me tell you a secret. My motivation to teach is selfish. The reason I passionately learn about resilience is because I struggle with my own parenting. Most of the advice that I offer stems from some parenting mishap or failure I’ve experienced, which has prompted me to learn more. I figure that I may as well share the lessons that I’ve learned with others. Maybe I can prevent you from making the mistakes that I have.
September is tough for me, as a teacher and a mother. I become overwhelmed by the to-do list that is long enough to run off the counter and on to the floor. My brain is in a constant chaotic whirl of tasks, meetings, schedules, practices, homework etc. I don’t sleep well. To make matters worse, I often do not have time to engage in my usual anxiety calming strategies (yoga, running, and meditation.)
Reflecting upon this last weekend, I realized that I lived mostly in my head, consumed by my anxiety and I forgot to connect with my kids. I was distant. I lost my patience. I was not the mother that I wanted to be, nor the one that my kids deserve. Hence, the evil, guilt-inducing voice in my head.
Isn’t it funny how a parent’s guilt can be so profound? Logically, I know that my struggles are fairly small. If it were another parent in my shoes, I could calmly and confidently reassure them and offer some words of encouragement, or some strategies to try. However, when it comes to my own children, emotion becomes the goalie that is blocking all logic. It’s a virtual shut out. Emotion wins every time.
As I was stewing in my failure as a mother, the irony struck me like lightning: I am not using the strategies that I preach to everyone else. I should be forgiving myself with an attitude of self-compassion. I should be reaching out to my friends (aka free therapy!), seeking advice, understanding and reassurance. I should be engaging in my calming strategies. I should be recognizing the size of the problem and should be using this “failure” as a learning opportunity. I should be reflecting on how I can do better in the future. I should be practicing a resilient attitude.
Parenting is hard. It is the most important thing that many of us will ever do and we put an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves to be perfect. We all have bad days when we lose our patience, yell, ignore or placate. It’s normal. If you don’t have bad days, you must be a super human!
Parenting requires an incredible amount of resilience. We need to move past our mistakes instead of focusing on small failures. We need to look at the big picture. Perhaps today was not ideal, but tomorrow offers an opportunity to do better. Our children will not suffer because of one or two bad parenting days. Despite my lack of patience or attention in recent days, my children will continue to evolve into amazing people.
So, now, I choose to re-frame my thinking. I will silence that voice in my head. I am not a failure. I am an imperfect human being who is determined to move on with a positive attitude. I am a resilient mother.