I know I am stating the obvious. Parenting has exhilarating highs and bone crushing lows. And just when you think you might have a clue as to what you are doing; reality takes one look at you and gives a nice, big, bellowing laugh.
I am a morning person. I wake up most mornings around 5:30 am feeling energized and excited about the day. I happily make my way down the stairs and start to make my obligatory cup of hot green tea. I envision how the day is going to play out as I gather the food for breakfast. I think to myself, “today is going to be the day I nail this parenting thing!” I start to heat the oven and prepare my favorite meal of the day. I can’t wait to eat! “Really, today is going to be awesome,” I am telling myself. And then my children wake up.
Suddenly, the eggs I lovingly cooked are “too runny.” They are whining because “I won’t turn on the television like a regular mom;” and asking them to brush their own hair and get dressed is apparently too much for their little nervous system to handle because I find one of my children wailing on the ground as if she is in utter despair. What kind of lunatic parent actually asks their child to get dressed in the morning? I breathe through my frustration and try to take one for the team. Guess what? That isn’t working.
Suddenly, I am yelling at my children to get it together. I walk to the bathroom to take some space; look in the mirror and think aloud, “what the hell just happened?” Am I nuts or wasn’t I just in a blissful mood 15 minutes ago? I just finished re-reading Peaceful Parent by Dr. Laura Markham for the second time this week. According to page 27, this is not how I should be responding. While I try to gather myself and walk out of the bathroom; I take one more glance in the mirror and I am relieved to find I no longer resemble Linda Blair. The anger has dissipated. However, I am now steeping in guilt. I am not living up to Dr. Markham’s peaceful parenting pledge. Now I swear by Dr. Markham but I am a little more successful carrying out her philosophy when I am on my A Game. Leaving my small children behind to figure out the rest of their morning with my confused husband, I drive to Bradley Fair in tears. “Great,” I growl. It is 7:00 a.m. and nothing is open! What do I do now?
I call a girlfriend and I begin to vent. We share stories and I laugh. Yes! This is just what I needed. I know that I have to meet my emotional needs first. I can’t adequately parent without filling my own cup. As parents, we struggle so often with guilt. We think we should put our children before us; our spouse before us; the tasks before us. But how can we give in an emotional battle when there is nothing left? Everyone’s needs are different. Some need more and some need less. What I need is my friends who are willing to be honest with their parenting struggles so I feel like a normal human being. I need a nice cup of green tea. I need exercise. I need dates with my husband. I need a little space to peruse the aisles of Barnes N’ Noble and, occasionally (ok, frequently) I need a nice helping of chocolate. We all have to build an emotional armor. And this is the way I create mine. So I get back in my car and drive home. Before I open the door; I suit up and it fits me just fine.