I Can't Be Fully Present With My Kids and It's OK
The pressure is on. The stress is high. Yet, completely disregarding the parent's experience, child experts are telling us we need to be more present than ever. We need to be 100% attuned to our children. We should make this experience a good one. Well I think this pressure is oppressive and it is completely unrealistic.
I am not just talking about pandemic parenting (is that a thing?) but even just parenting after a new baby, or parenting during any stress from domestic violence to a postpartum mood disorder. We cannot be fully present with our children when we are experiencing intense and unbearable suffering inside. Regardless of the situation, parents experience a lot of stress in life, and first and foremost we deserve our own presence.
What is more, in the dominant culture here in Canada, the natural ways of moving through pain and expressing our shadows are considered to be completely outrageous. Dancing, moaning, roaring, screaming, shaking, hiding, wailing...all these wonderful and instinctual tools for letting things out are seen as insane. So how do we expect a person who is experiencing deep depression, fear or anxiety to be present to others when they cannot even allow themselves to feel themselves through and out of their pain?
It is impossible. If we make ourselves present to our children, we will inevitably be present to our suffering. So we distract, we push away and we keep busy as best we can. Yes, of course children thrive when they have our presence some of the time, but sometimes that is even too much to ask. Thinking of our children without tending to ourselves first is like trying to pluck tomatoes from a garden when your tomato plants are still tiny seedlings. It is violent, painful and fruitless (Like my pun?)!
However, the wonderful thing is, if we focus on being present to self, even a tiny second a day, that will be enough to start shifting things around and it will translate to our parenting. I like to do this by doing a bodily check-in once in a while by tuning in and noticing what is in there. Ususally when I do that, I get hit with some very uncomfortable sensations, and then I get an exhale. If doing this is too hard, I highly recommend getting support. We all need it sometimes. Often, our sensations are too painful to feel without being held: a loyal friend, a snuggly pet, or a healer of your choice can help.
Lastly, we must be patient and flexible with ourselves. I remember when I tried self-care for the first time after my 2nd was born... I told my therapist it wasn't working because I came home after my treatment and snapped at my child. She laughed and said that the results are not immediate! It is a practice, just like going ot the gym or learning to paint. And know that while you are practicing, if your child doesn't have much of your presence for a few months or a few years, that is better than not having your presence for his or her entire life.
With love and light,