Parenting is a bit like going on an aeroplane – there is always going to be turbulence, but you can make a choice – you can be a passenger, you can be the flight attendant or you can even be the pilot.
When I first became a mum, I was a passenger. I was the nervous first time flyer who sat down in my seat, attached to my first born child by a seat belt. I listened carefully to the flight attendants instructions. “If an oxygen mask drops down near you, make sure you put the mask on yourself before you fit it to your child.” I’m hearing the words but the flight attendant knows I’m not properly listening. I am like a deer in headlights. She comes up to all the parents after the safety talk and tells us each again to put fit the oxygen mask on ourselves before we fit them to our kids. She knows parents too well.
In life so many of us new mums are fitting that oxygen mask to our children first. We are putting their needs before our own because LOVE. We don’t even realise that the result is us passed out in a airplane seat – in life it means we not being able to function optimally as a mum, not being able to provide the best that we could. Our primitive brain has evolved in this way to help our species survive, to protect our infants, but we no longer need our primitive brain to protect us in the same way it used to. We have also evolved a prefrontal cortex so we can make rational decisions, including the benefit of treating ourselves with compassion, caring and love. Showing compassion, caring and love for ourselves does not mean we have to neglect or be less loving towards our kids. We can continue to parent in whatever way we want to and be fuelled by love, we just don’t forget how powerful our own self care is for us AND our kids.
When we are a flight attendant, we know that we need to fix the oxygen mask to ourselves first. We are who the passengers look to for confidence during times of turbulence. The flight attendants are experienced and knowledgeable. When the turbulence feels scary if we see that the flight attendant are calmly sitting in their seat reading a book, we feel calm and reassured. If we were ever to see a flight attendant freaking out, we sure as hell would start freaking out too. In that way we are the flight attendants for out kids, they look to us as a compass for how to navigate the world and being calm and reassuring during times of crisis can model this.
And finally when we are the pilot, we are confident because we know what we control. We already know we can’t control the weather, a bit like we can’t control our kids behaviour and we can’t control the way our kids feel, BUT we know that we can control the direction and altitude of the plane. In that same way if we don’t try and control the way our kids act, if we aim on what we can control – the way we act, the way we show up for our kids, then we can feel confident. Small consistent effort and action can have a big impact on what we want to deliver and provide for our kids. And if we identify our role as a parent, identify our desired destination (what we can provide for our children) then we can feel confident that we are doing the best job that we can.
If you are a parent looking for some more ideas on how you can feel better about the kind of parent you are, make sure you follow me on Instagram! I am NOT a perfect parent, far from it! But I’m learning how to improve and feel better on this crazy journey. I’d love you to join my online conversation.
Image by Daniel De Ciantis, Unsplash