Making Space for YOU in the parent/child relationship

by  Tania Johnson | July 5th 2024

As we gently rest in the long, hot lazy months of summer, take time to let your mind drift to your parenting journey. Where are you now on your journey? Who are you to yourself? So often, our focus is on who we are to our child- but we need to start with the self first.

If I had the beautiful opportunity to speak to your child and I was to ask: “who is mom? Who is dad?” What would they tell me? For most children from a developmental stance, their perception of mom and dad starts from a self-focused perspective – “mommy plays with me. Daddy takes me to school. My mommy likes dinosaurs, just like me.” From an evolutionary perspective, this makes complete sense- our adult is hopefully our safe person who opens up the world to us and so mom or dad’s being is  filtered through the child’s eyes in relation to their world and what’s going on in their world.

But gradually as the tapestry of a  child’s world becomes more intricate, so does their deep knowing of who mom is, who dad is, who grandma is. As a culture, the parenting role is often glorified as being one of self-sacrifice…but this is not what our children need.

They need parents who are messy, growing, reflective, reparative, and fully immersed in living. How do our children know how to move through the vastness of life if all they ever see is a parent whose entire focus is them? How will they know self-care if they don’t have parents who engage in self-care? In my clinical experience, I find that when a parent starts to run on empty because there been no space for their own self, that everything that they are trying to “be” for their kids falls apart quickly.

As a mom, I often feel yanked in several different directions and the truth of the matter is that unless I take time to pause and say no, the yanking continues. Why? Because when I say yes it serves everyone else’s needs, while turning a shoulder to my needs. Little by little the constant “yes” erodes my capacity to show up for myself…and, in turn, show up for my kids in a way that feels deeply authentic. 

When I was younger, I’d listen to people who were much wiser than me and they would say that the years go quickly.  To be honest, while juggling a toddler and a preschooler- that advice wasn’t always met with a welcome heart – but I’m starting to see it. Not in the sense of “make every minute count”, but rather in the sense of seeing how quickly my 20’s faded into my 30’s, which  faded into my 40’s. We really are here for such a short period of time, my life- my goals- my deep fulfillment can intertwine with the joy ( and exhaustion) of being a mom- one does not need to be put on the back burner for the other.

To anyone who needs to hear this today, who you are matters deeply. Make space for you.

If you don’t know where to start in prioritizing your own wellness, the Institute of Child Psychology, has a fantastic course on Parental Self-Care.

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