A subject that all parents can relate to, and one that seems to keep cropping up during early stages of The Thrive Programme, is how hard many mums and dads are on themselves when the kids are challenging and parenting is becoming a bit of a struggle.
And of those clients who are mums, it seems to be a common occurrence to carry at least one of these limiting beliefs:
‘I’m a crap parent’
‘The kids hate me’
‘I always make the wrong decision’
‘I’m never going to enjoy being a parent’
‘They prefer dad/mum’
It doesn’t take a genius to see that these are all unhelpful beliefs that are likely to keep us in a negative frame of mind. These beliefs are based upon and created by experiences that have been processed in a powerless, negative way and probably coupled with a low self-esteem and social confidence (none of which are fixed, we can improve both in just a few hours).
Let me break it down further. Our outlook – negative or positive – is all about how we process experiences, the language we use and the events we focus on. For example, if you were to ask me to give you an idea of how mornings are in my home I could respond in one of two ways:
I’m woken two to three times in the night by the baby and occasionally her older brother, we then get up for the day at 5am (we go to bed early to accommodate this so it’s not too much of an impact), generally there are tears and tantrums because both want a cuddle and both are still half asleep.
I try to manage this with distraction as best I can, their episodes don’t last long once they’re settled with some milk. I then crack on with breakfast, Frankie is getting good at feeding herself and exploring new foods, Freddie doesn’t seem too fussed about breakfast these days, maybe it’s his back teeth coming through or maybe it’s the hot weather.
We have recently moved and turned the room adjacent to the kitchen into a toy room. I love it. It allows me to interact with both children whilst getting on with the sterilising/cleaning/packing bags for the day. There is also a sofa in that room which is really helpful as I can sit there whilst I feed Frankie but can also interact with Freddie whilst he plays and keep him very much involved. We get dressed and head out after Frankie has finished her morning nap (between about 9 and 10am).
An average morning for me is being woken most of the night by the baby who doesn’t seem to want to sleep through. I just wish she’d sleep through or I could at least get a lie in. No one seems very happy in the morning and the kids generally ask for dad, probably because they love him more which just confirms I’m a crap mum.
Frankie eats breakfast but Freddie wont at the moment, I don’t understand why, I’m probably offering him all the wrong foods, he’d probably eat it if someone else made it. We gave the kids a toy room but after five minutes they’re already crying because they want attention from me, which is impossible to achieve because I’ve got so much to do just to get out of the house. It feels like I’m never going to enjoy this mum thing.
OK, so the latter may seem a tad extreme but both of these statements are detailing an average morning for me. Both events are EXACTLY the same. The only difference is my response and how I process the events.
Having children is by no means easy – it’s the toughest job I’ve ever done. But by keeping that self-worth high and therefore being kind to yourself and giving yourself credit where it’s due, it will be far easier to focus on what you’re doing to be a great mum than all the things you’re doing wrong or ‘failing’ at (if you want to be black & white about it).
We are not robots, there is no rule book on how to raise children and juggle their needs, however what we can (and what I’m trying to do) is learn from mistakes and process experiences without our paranoid, negative, learned helplessness and catastrophic thinking-style lenses on.
I’m sure most have heard of ‘confirmation bias’ (for those who haven’t, it’s the tendency to interpret evidence as confirmation of your already existing belief). On that subject, today is a working day for me so I’ve only spent two, maybe three hours with the kids this morning and I can categorically tell you that this is more than enough time for me to come to the conclusion that my kids hate me, I’m a crap mum and I’m never going to enjoy this mum thing…
This would be the case IF I was powerless in my thinking, IF I had low self-esteem and an innate ability to be hard on myself, IF I feared other people’s judgment on my parenting skills and IF I was carrying negative, black and white or brooding thinking styles, to name a few.
Instead, I have chosen helpful beliefs and therefore it’s mostly positive experiences which are confirming my beliefs. See how important our beliefs are? Remember beliefs are not fixed, they are simply a thought that we chose to keep thinking.
On a personal note, I’m working hard at keeping my self-esteem up and really trying to focus on what seems to be working for us as a family and what the children enjoy as well as their strengths, in order to keep us all in that Thriving mindset and attitude to life.
I could sit here all day and list the times that are tough, don’t work and why we were bonkers to have kids… but I’m not really sure how far that will get me or you as the reader, as it will only give airtime to the above beliefs, which are not helpful to carry. I’m far more inclined to focus on the great bits because there are LOTS of amazing experiences and moments that I could list about my daily life as a mum.
That list is endless, I still pinch myself that I have been given an opportunity to help guide these little people through their lives. Yes, there are and will be hurdles (small or big) but with persistent and continuous effort it is possible to approach them with a Thrive mind-set and therefore be able to cope with negative experiences and outcomes, tolerate them without too much impact on your family and focus on what you can do something about by maintaining perspective.
If you’re a parent reading this and you’re struggling with any sort of mental health issue, The Thrive Programme will help you and your family – just get in touch with your local Thrive Consultant and they’ll be happy to have a chat.
Amy (Thrive Consultant and mother)