As parents we are under-supported. No matter what wonderful systems you might have going we still don’t have enough financial support, physical support, mental and emotional support, etc. We could all do with a lot more help and the most important thing to realise and accept right now is that IT IS OK TO FEEL THAT WAY!
We were meant to be raising children in villages, not in this fast-paced modern world (whilst trying to keep up with the Joneses).
The cornerstone of good support may be the subject of an eye-roll from my regular readers… it is (you guessed it) Listening Time! Listening Time is when you exchange unadulterated, one-on-one, interruption-free, non-judgmental advice with no referring back and for a set period of time each. There are myriad uses for Listening Time but today I will talk about using it to get you better supported.
First thing is how to find a Listening Partner. You can go to the Hand In Hand Parenting Support page and post your timezone and availability or you can reach out among friends, family and your community. It’s important that both parties are fully familiar with the guidelines prior to commencing Listening Time.
One of the first things I would get Listening on is accepting that you need help as a parent, accepting you don’t have to “soldier on” or that just because your parents coped or their parents coped doesn’t mean it’s not hard and that (with all we know today) most of us are working harder and have bigger goals than society may have previously allowed parents to have. By this I mean our children’s emotional well-being is something we have learned more about and focus more strongly on rather than subscribing to the “I turned out OK…” school of thought, I am not talking about putting undue academic or other pressures on ourselves and our children.
Once you’ve done some work around that, take some time for fantasy. What would life look like if you were perfectly supported? How would you and those around you be different?
Then spend some time thinking about what you can do long-term and what you can do right now to better support yourself. Some suggestions I would make would be to reach out to me, Aunty Ask and/or Hand In Hand Parenting. Sign up to the HiH newsletter with loads of free advice, articles and audios or better yet, The Parent Club which currently has a 30 day free trial and loads of regular and specific support.
Self-care is also integral to parenting but without support, we can’t get self-care, right? Yes and no… I think it’s always better to take one steps towards the greater goal so self-care can be as simple as having a 10 minute cup of tea somewhere in your day where you can do anything you like such as reading, watching something, listening to something and give yourself permission to indulge for that period. I started there and now I have go dancing once a week, have regular dinner dates and even go on the occasional trip away.
The hardest issue in getting support, particularly when it comes to self-care, is when there is literally no support available. My heart and awe goes out to you sole parents, especially those without family, friends and community to step in. I think you need to find that space for Listening (even if it may not always look perfect) and in between sessions you can have a text vent agreement. Also, reach out online at the HiH page or any others with similar values to yours and see if there’s groups that meet offline. Try and find playgroups in your area and build offline support that leads to supporting each other in getting a break. Even if it’s gathering in one house and one or more parents play with the group of kids whilst another parent takes their child one-by-one for Special Time. Tweaks like that can be trans-formative!
For those who have support and aren’t utilising it, it comes back to shedding that shame and doing some work on why and where that comes from so you can “just say yes!”. The thing that saddens me is those that should have better support but the other parties involved are unwilling. In a parenting partnership, I think this is unacceptable. Parenting is a shared responsibility and that works better overall for everyone involved. Please do some Listening around the right approach to get your partner more involved if this is your situation.
But another common scenario is if you are just starting on this more empathic path or have been on it for a long time but your partner is unable to shift their thinking or style and I suggest a “tag out” system for that. When both of you are calm and emotionally relaxed, have a chat about the fact that you see the benefits of this approach so much so that you are willing to do most of the grunt work, at least until the benefits become clear to both of you, so when your partner is feeling triggered or struggling you’ll simply tap them on the shoulder and they can go elsewhere to re-calibrate. Hopefully, they would be willing to sit in and do as you usually do in those moments that you may need the same. I’ve found many people say the hardest thing is when their partner comes in with a completely different approach and that they’d rather go it all alone than have to deal with that, most have found this system to be helpful. It also works if both parents ARE on board with this style of parenting but are feeling triggered in the moment.
As you’ve probably gathered, it’s very much about getting Listening Time but it’s also about building your village. You cannot do this alone and that is OK! You hear me?! There is no shame in admitting that and it makes you a wonderful, wonderful parent to be able to drop that façade and accept the reality that it is intensive, hard, relentless work at times but it’s also the most rewarding and important job you will ever do. So please reach out to me and let’s see how we can get you supported!