By now, many people know about my meltdown. I was completely immersed in the cycle of anger, yelling, crying (me and the kids) and feeling like the worst parent in the world, which ultimately led me to my breakdown in order to get my break through.
It was ‘the knife incident’. The day I got so angry I slammed a knife on the bench so hard that it almost hit my (then) two year old. Then I proceeded to run to my room screaming how much I hated my life, all with my (then) 6 month old on my hip.
Was I okay?
No I wasn’t. But would anyone else but my husband, have known that? Absolutely not!
Because I was meant to be that perfect mum. I was meant to love being at home with my children, wasn’t I? I was meant to be the achiever who got life right. I was great at so many things before kids. Why was I struggling with this? As a woman, this was meant to be my forte. Didn’t having children mean that I automatically knew what I was doing and that it would come naturally?
What sort of mother throws knives at her child? What sort of mother gets this angry at her children, screams at them and completely loses it, scaring them and making them cry? The one person who is ‘supposed’ to be the one who makes her child feel safe and loved and nurtured. What sort of parent does that?
You are definitely NOT alone
Well, as it turns out, there are quite a few of us, as we continue to discover every couple of months when hundreds of parents join our online 28 Day Tame your Temper Parenting Challenge, which was born out of my own struggles with anger.
But sadly, as hard as we are trying to let people know about our programs, just like I was, too many parents are still sitting behind closed doors, hating themselves, trying to change and feeling like a failure because they can’t.
I have written this blog to let you know that I was at that point where I wasn’t okay. I wasn’t coping with being a mum and I was stuck in the mindset that it was just too confronting to let anyone else know this was how I was feeling. I honestly believed that I must have been the only parent out there who felt this way on a daily basis.
But the statistics are stating otherwise. Currently 14% of parents experience postnatal depression. Countless more deal with parental stress to varying degrees. We are on the front line of speaking to those very parents who are coming out in our groups to speak about the realities of parenting.
I cannot stress to you enough, how important it is to find your safe place to talk about what’s going on for you and to share with people who you can trust, what you are feeling (and sometimes that might be among strangers who are going through what you are).
We know from speaking with hundreds of parents every day, that what you are feeling and thinking is going through the minds of parents everywhere. You are nowhere near as alone as you think you are and you don’t need to travel this road alone either.
The lonely road of stress behind closed doors
How far down this road are you already?
Firstly, you experience the various challenges of being a parent and start thinking about how annoying, frustrating, or difficult this moment is. You start to think that because the moment is not the way you expected it to be, it’s stopping you from being able to do something else (achieve something, get things right, enjoy parenting, stopping you from having a bond with your child).
You start to look for why you are finding this so hard and you start to blame. You blame yourself for not doing something right. You blame your kids because they ‘should know better’, or your partner for not supporting you enough. Once the mind is on this bandwagon, you start to look for what it all means about you. I’m a bad parent. I’m hopeless. I’m never going to get this right. This is ruining my life. What’s wrong with me?!
But it doesn’t just stop there. The brain is geared to look for evidence of where you have your attention, so now you start looking for evidence outside of this moment to support the belief that things are going wrong. You start to compare how others seem to be getting it right or doing it better than you. Then you start to think about other areas of your life with this same viewpoint. You look for evidence to support the belief that ‘life is going wrong’ and how it’s stopping you from feeling happy about your life. You begin to see this viewpoint in other parts of the day with your kids, your work, your relationship, your friendships, your finances. With the evidence mounting you begin to draw conclusions about your life and settle on one major assumption that explains it all – EVERYTHING is GOING WRONG. I am such a failure!
Your brain is now starting to get used to this concept and you are now finding evidence everywhere, all the while making you feel worse and worse. Your self-perception continues to head south and life becomes more and more painful.
Now it’s time to react to your perception of life and how you feel about it. You get angry when you can’t control it. You cry because you feel so helpless, useless and can’t see a way out of it, and your enthusiasm to keep trying to change, is starting to diminish. “Why bother. Every time I try, I just keep getting it wrong.”
Because you believe it’s only you who has these disgraceful, embarrassing and unforgivable flaws, you try to hide how you’re feeling. “What would they think of me if they found out how bad I really am?” So you keep it quiet. Only the thinking/feeling loop and the evidence finding missions continue, and you sink lower and lower and lower.
But what you don’t know, is that you are certainly NOT the only person out there feeling challenged by parenting. You are not the only one who experiences stress, anger, sadness and loneliness, and those safe places to share your thoughts and feelings without judgement do exists. But knowing this is only the beginning. There’s more work that needs to be done to alleviate this level of stress altogether.
Making the important Shift towards Freedom from Parental Stress
It’s great to find like-minded parents – friends who keep it real and tell you honestly what’s going on for them, but here’s another problem I see parents running into. We do what I call ‘rolling in the mud’ and you don’t get clean from rolling in the mud.
Now that we’ve found that safe place to vent, what now? Has it changed how you feel? No. What often happens next, is we become friends with our stress. We subscribe to it being a natural part of our existence that we just have to put up with. We find security in the knowing that we are not alone. We continue to find evidence of our ‘sucky’ day so we can tell our friends, our partners, our loved ones, and we can feel momentarily better because we are sharing our experiences with someone who understands and it temporarily lifts us from its emotional grasp.
But behind closed doors, you’re still thinking with the same mindset! The same feelings are still bubbling within, bringing us down and making us miserable, regardless of finding our new allies. It’s still effecting your relationship with your kids, your partner, yourself and how you feel about your life. The only thing that’s changed, is that now you don’t feel so alone.
There’s another step you need to take – Changing your mindset.
We need to find a balance of finding a group of parents who do keep it real, but who are also working towards changing that mindset and working on themselves to create a different way of thinking and feeling about parenthood and building connections with their children.
After that defining moment of my meltdown, it occurred to me that no one else was going to change how I felt about my life. No one else was going to suddenly wave their magic wand and miraculously change my day to day responsibilities. I knew that it wasn’t the kids, or life that was causing my stress, it was how I was perceiving that life.
As parents, we are often making our children a priority. We put them before ourselves in a pursuit to be ‘a good parent’. But what parents don’t often realise, is that the more you make yourself a priority, particularly in terms of your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, the closer you actually get to that ‘good parent’ goal you are seeking to obtain.
We need to make a shift in the parenting community because right now we are seeing quite a significant shift between parental stress being ‘taboo’ to parental stress being celebrated, accepted and embraced, like a badge of honour we wear having to experience the woes of parenting. We are starting to adopt perceptions of parenthood where we expect that it will be hard. We expect that we will feel stressed and the only way to deal with that stress is to laugh about it or complain about it with those who ‘know what it’s like’.
But remember, the brain looks for evidence of what you have your attention on. If you continue to see parenting in this way, you will continue to experience parenting this way.
What if you can change how you feel about the challenges of parenting?
But what if you could train yourself to become like that ‘born to be parent’ you see at school or at daycare. You know the one that does it all with ease and genuinely loves it. That could be you. That parent is not better or worse than you. She just thinks differently. She perceives what she’s doing with a different mindset.
What if we go beyond the struggle, beyond the stress and beyond sharing our parenting woes, and what if we turned that struggle into CHANGE?
What if you could learn a way of dealing with life’s challenges with a mindset that could draw the value and the learning from these experiences instead of seeing them as wrong. What if you could teach yourself to be present, stop personalising your unwanted events, find your sense of self-worth, learn to be solution focussed and NOT get bogged down with life?
What sort of flow on effect do you think this would have on your relationships with your children and the type of adults they turn into. Do you think that would be moving towards your ideal of a good parent or away from it? It doesn’t seem like such a selfish endeavour to prioritise yourself now does it?
The pathway to change
We started this story with struggles, painful emotions, being bogged down with the challenges of parenting and connecting you to the emotions we all feel to varying levels, behind closed doors. We started with a mindset that argued with our reality and blamed events, ourselves and others for our ‘wrong life’.
We then elevated those emotions with a sense of connection, togetherness and being part of a sameness, rather than isolation. We showed you how to make friends with your stress, laugh at it even and accept it as part of you life.
But what if we took another step? What if we used this connection with other parents, banded together and helped each other to learn and continue to CHANGE the way we perceive life as a parent, and thus how we feel about it.
THIS is the mission of the Parental Stress Centre of Australia. This is why we exist. When you join our programs you become part of a group of parents on this exact mission too.
No longer are parents happy to just feel like ‘every other parent’ and make friends with their stress. they are committed to eliminating it and they are all working together (even after the programs are finished, via our past participants group), to help each other to keep it real, but elevate their emotions to align with a new way of thinking. They want what the ‘born mother’ has and they have realised that it all starts with changing their mindset, not rolling in the mud.
Are you ready to challenge your mindset and lift your parenting approach to a whole new experience?