Justine and her boys burrow together on the sofa watching Pirates of the Caribbean. When she stands, Jacob whines and Justine feels a flash of annoyance. Immediately she sits down, telling herself a “good mother” stays with her children even when she doesn’t want to.
An hour later when it’s time for bed, the boys argue and complain (as usual) and Justine gets angry (as usual). A nice evening falls apart.
But really… where is Justine’s anger coming from?
We don’t always understand where our feelings come from, but they are there, a constant presence in us, too often upsetting the equilibrium of ordinary days. Who has time to make sense of them when every parent’s life is crammed with action? The morning routine is only the start of a long day of To Do’s. Parents become quite skilled at pushing their feelings away.
“Parenting is not about me. It’s about taking care of my kids. I don’t have time to figure out my feelings.”
The truth is – feelings are gold. Gold.
Every human being is given the opportunity to:
Know their value
As parents, we are overwhelmed by feeling. Being a parent is intensely emotional. The smallest parent-child interactions trigger feelings, making their presence both a conundrum and an opportunity.
Blocking, dismissing or ignoring feelings is throwing away crucial information about ourselves. The more we block a feeling, the stronger the feeling becomes. It’s why Justine snaps at her children. Instead of listening to her feeling when watching the movie, she sits back down “out of duty.”
Feelings don’t go away because we wish them away. They merely move in wait for the next best opportunity to be released. This is how we end up parenting from reactivity.
Wow, we think, where did that come from?
Feelings are gold because of what they have to tell us about ourselves. But we have to be willing to move towards them, not away.
Justine’s idea of good parenting excludes her own needs. Guilt prevents her from taking care of herself first. As a result, Justine will always feel like her children are taking advantage of her, especially when she solves the problem of guilt by sacrificing her own needs for her children.
How we answer this question, “What am I feeling and why do I feel this way?” determines the arc of who we become as parents and who we become as human beings.
It’s that powerful and that simple.