Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Upside-Down Parenting

I had an interesting experience the other day. I was having a conversation with one of the children in my life, and the child was hurling what they perceived to be damaging and intensely hurtful insults my direction "YOU think that YOU are God's gift to this family. YOU think that YOU are more important than anyone else. YOU think that somehow what YOU need is more important than what anyone else needs. It doesn't matter what I want if it doesn't agree with what YOU want. It doesn't matter what I want to wear if it doesn't agree with what YOU think is okay. YOU are a FAILURE of a mother."

A short year ago, these statements would have sent me into emotional turmoil. I would have been sobbing hysterically by the time we reached home. But on this day, you know what I sad? "You are absolutely right. All except the last part. I'm not a failure. I'm a great mom." And I believed every word.

Does that sit okay with you? Do you understand why it is right that a mother's needs should come first? That my dress standards supersede the children's fashion whims? That we have salad for dinner and not pizza every night? It's because I AM God's gift to the family, and it is my divine calling to make decisions that will be for the best and highest good of every member of it. I am not advocating greed and selfishness. I am advocating that the proper order of family life be restored. But I didn't start out this way. I grew into it. Let's go back in time about fifteen years....

I was part of the attachment parenting movement that was really flourishing in the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid 1990's. The phrase "attachment parenting" was coined by Dr William Sears, who advocated wearing babies in a sling, as close to the body as possible, to promote closeness and connection in infancy. He taught that everything a baby really needs comes from his mother. Milk from mother's breast, warmth in her arms, and love from her heart. I loved wearing and nursing my babies. Dr Sears was an amazing and well balanced advocate for families. 

From this beginning, however, came an outgrowth of more extreme views, which went from respecting and loving the child to an almost worship of the child. Instead of promoting a healthy, mutually beneficial relationship, there came a demand for Mother and Father to sacrifice all privacy, intimacy, routine, boundaries, preferences, and pre-conceived ideals in order to accommodate the uniqueness (whims) of the child.  Refraining from physical punishment wasn't enough-a child could be equally damaged by a  time out or even a strong "NO." Parents needed to respect the actions and words of the child as an expression of their individuality. Don't stifle creativity for cleanliness. Just let them flourish. This created an upside down world where the child became the leader of the house, and Mother and Father assumed the responsibility of creating an environment that "fit" the personality of the individual child. This worked okay until child #2 came along. Then #3 and #4,  and with four small people under the age of 6 running the house 24/7,  all hell broke loose. 

I had four beautiful, free spirited, happy children, but I was depressed, full of anxiety, overwhelmed, and overweight. I was doing all the right things according to all of those books- we were building forts, and reading books, and taking walks, and baking cookies, and playing in the sprinklers,  but I was not okay. I was taking numerous prescription drugs in an attempt to lift the dark cloud of depression and anxiety, but I was still a mess. I was staying up late to get a few hours of "me"time after the kids went to bed and self-medicating my feelings of emptiness with sugar cookies and Haagen Dazs Ice cream. I swear I had an honorary Phd in Child development from all of the books I had read in an effort to create the perfect childhood for my kids, but I myself was a mess. So what was was the solution? I had to decide that it was okay for me to focus a little time on myself. Okay to put the kids to bed early so I could spend time alone. Okay to take the kids to day care at the gym so I could exercise for an hour every morning. Okay to feed them broccoli when they demanded Macaroni and Cheese. Okay to put me first.

If you are struggling right now in the same place I found myself and wondering how to climb out of the pit of overwhelm and depression, I am so glad you are here. I hope you will find tools and knowledge that will allow you to take control of your own destiny and claim health and happiness for yourself, and consequently for those you love.

Here are a few recommendations for those suffering from depression who need help now:

If you are local, Click on my "classes" page and find a time that works for you. All of my classes this month focus on some aspect of emotional healing for moms.

If you are not local, or cannot make a class, message me. I would love to connect with you and help you find a natural solution that will work for you.

Jeneen

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