“Pull yourself together, the kids will see you”
“Don’t cry in front of the children”
“Come on, you’re a parent - you’re supposed to be the strong one”.
Ever been told something like this? Ever told YOURSELF something like this? Well, I’m calling bullsh*t on every phrase with a similar sentiment. I say this because as a parent myself, those phrases plagued my internal dialogue for years. I felt the pressure to be 'okay' all the time. And because no-one can be okay all the time and I'm a wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve kind of gal, I’d inevitably explode/implode/melt into a puddle of hot mess when the going got tough. Post meltdown, convinced that I'd broken my kids, I'd torture myself for falling short of my own standards. I’d feel like the worst parent in the world, not worthy of the role I’d been blessed with that so many long for.
As parents it's our task to uphold the emotional and mental well-being of our children. We want them to flourish in a positive environment. We have a responsibility to protect them and we want to shield them from the not-so nice ‘stuff’ of the grownup world. For a long time I thought striving for the unreachable was doing this. But when I sat with a therapist one day last year, as I did every Friday for six months as I battled with PTSD, and told her that I’d categorically failed at parenthood because my girls knew ‘I wasn’t okay’, she said something that completely challenged and changed the way I perceived parenthood.
She looked me in the eyes and told me that I was trying to be the perfect parent, and perfection teaches children nothing. In fact it sets them up to fail. Mind blown.
So let’s just spin all of this on it’s head for a moment.
As they grow up, our children WILL face situations that knock them for six. They WILL make mistakes that leave them feeling completely lost. They WILL come head to head with people or circumstances that make them so angry they need to know how to handle that kind of rage.
They WILL have days when it feels like it’s all too much. How can I be so sure? Because everyone has those days. Everyone.
If our children never see adults navigating a tough day, or grow up thinking it’s wrong to feel angry or frustrated or even just really low, when they DO hit a snag in the road they’ll hit it hard. They’ll not know how to handle those feelings because they will have no point of reference.
Instead of striving to be perfect parents, let embrace the reality that we’re all gloriously flawed and winging it to within an inch of our lives. Let's show our children by example, that there is strength in asking for help when we need it. Let's adopt a culture within the home where we explore all the feelings; the good, the bad and the downright ugly. But above all, let's teach them that it’s completely okay to not be okay sometimes.
Because if our children can grow up making peace with THAT, we’re doing a pretty good job.
~~This post is in support of the ITSOK campaign with Mental Health charity MIND UK and the lush ladies at Smith Webb (who I'll be nudging my husband towards for a possibly belated mothers day treat!) ~~