Aug 032013
 

It is my belief that one of the biggest challenges in parenting is remembering that our child is an individual, separate and unique from us. They are on their own path and developing their own self that is outside of their relationship with us, their parent.  When we hold this truth, our interactions with our children change drastically. We can see their own struggles as steps to their own successes. We can see their own emotions as valid and important. And we can step out of the way so that we can support them in their growth, rather than getting entangled and stonewalling them based on our own struggles and emotions.

But, maybe the second biggest challenge, next to honoring our child’s separate identity, is honoring our own.

We have to ask ourselves, who am I as a mom? What does it mean to be a parent? Where did the person I was go and where will the person I turn into come from? Who am I? What drives me, defines me, what makes me have a good day versus a bad day?

Having kids changes everything. We are probably all in agreement with that. We are forced to rethink how we operate in the world, what our expectations are and how we thrive. For some people this seems to happen flawlessly. Some new parents seem to naturally embrace a whole new identity, and others seem to have some superhero ability to balance parts of their previous lives with their new worlds. For many of us, however, it isn’t so easy.

Why is it that some of us cling tightly to our old selves, even if they don’t seem to fit anymore? It’s like those old jeans in the back of the closet that remind of us the way life used to be. You know the ones. The ones that made you feel sexy and young and vibrant. Because you were sexy and young and vibrant. But they will never, and I mean never, fit right again. Not that we are not sexy and vibrant. And maybe we are still young. But we are different. Our bodies are different, our sleep schedules are different, our responsibilities are different, our finances are different. Everything is, well, different. And those jeans? Well… They. Just. Don’t. Fit.

Some of us hold tightly to the idea that those jeans, and all the things we used to hold to be true in the past, are the only things that define what it means to be vibrant. While some of us see a completely new world of vibrant. And herein lies the difference. When we try to hold on to our old ways, we are prone to feeling alone, resentful, hopeless. When we fail to fully embrace the current path we are on, the old path becomes more and more enticing. We stay acutely aware of the path we are NOT on, and, while our attention is locked in on what we are missing, we miss what we have in front of us. We become blind to the beauty of this path.

So, how do they do it? How do those parents who slip gracefully and fully into the role of parent actually do it? There are some common threads that help these parents hold their new lives to be as vibrant as their old lives. Here are four that I think are particularly important:

1)   These parents build a support group of other parents who are at the same stage as they are. This is not to say that they lose all connection with other friends and family. They may keep those too. But, almost across the board, those who are thriving in parenthood spend lots of time with other parents. Daddy groups, mama groups, play dates. It’s less for the kids and more for the parents. New parenthood is a tricky developmental stage for us and we need our peers to help us negotiate through it.

 

2)   If asked to list out who they are, these parents put “Parent” in the number one spot. However, it is not the only spot. Parent, wife/husband, professional, friend, rock climber, poet, shopper, runner, jokester, whatever, the list remains long. But parent comes first. These parents seem to be able to make time and space to support and embrace their passions and identities outside of their children, but don’t get burdened down with resentment when the kids have to come first. Which they do. A lot.

 

3)   These parents spend time talking about the good stuff that parenting brings. Venting, complaining and talking about the hard parts of parenting are tempting. But negative narrative begets negative feelings. The more we talk about how hard it is, the harder it feels. The truth is that no matter how hard things feel, there is always something good that we could be focusing on. Happy people tell happy stories. Sad people tell sad stories. Parents who embrace their lives as parents talk more about how great their kids are.

 

4)   These parents build new family rituals and traditions. Pre-kid life is full of rituals that parenthood interrupts. Whether it was Wednesday night wine with the girls or Sunday golf or morning coffee at the shop before work, these rituals often get interrupted, put on hold or just plain forgotten. But, just because kids change the structure of our lives, doesn’t mean that we can’t find new rhythms and create new rituals. Rather than pining away over interrupted routines, these parents find what works with the new family system, kids included.

 

So, what do these four things have in common? Identity. They all anchor our identity as a parent. I often read lists of things that parents should do to take care of themselves. Find time alone, get a hobby, take a bubble bath, get sleep, ask for help. Absolutely. We should be doing all these things no matter who we are. But if we want to really thrive in parenting, if we really want to LOVE parenting, we need to find out who we are as parents. We need to embrace our identity as parents just as much as we need to embrace our children’s identity as individuals. We may not be able to fit into our old jeans anymore, but we certainly can rock the new ones!

 Posted by at 9:17 pm

  10 Responses to “Rock the Mom Jeans”

  1. Excellent article and I could not have said it any better or agree more. My oldest son just got married and the last of all the kids went home yesterday. The highlight of this past week was not the actual wedding although it was beautiful. It was the camping / kayaking trip my youngest nephew (18) asked his uncle and I to take he and his cousins and friends on after all the adults went back home. What a delight to have these kids share with us and reminisce about all the trips and outings over the course of their life. It was surreal to have them set up camp and unload the boats and boards, and to see them do it exactly like my husband, and to see them teaching their friends with the same patience my husband taught them when they were all little. We were always the couple that always had all the kids, and while it was crazy at times there was nothing I enjoyed more because I loved being a parent, a mother, an aunt and one of these days god willing I will be a grandma and great aunt and so on….

  2. Another fantastic, positive, and inspiring article. I think it’s fun to remember the old-me, and hang on to those “jeans”, and even take them out for a spin now and then, but the reality is I wouldn’t trade places in a heartbeat. xo

    • Well said Candace! Thanks! (Although last time I tried to take my cool jeans out for a night on the town, I spent most of the time wondering how I ever stayed up voluntarily past 10 pm!)
      :) Darci

  3. I am having such a hard time with this right now. I was a single parent of two wonderful little boys until this past April. I married a wonderful man and am pregnant with my third. While I am, on one hand happy at the new addition, I am still pining back at how things could be or used to be. It’s like every time I get pregnant I have a life identity crisis! I’m also living in a new place, 5 hours from my old home, so am struggling to find friendship….not really sure how to get out of this slump! Thanks for the great article.

    • Darlene, thanks for your comment. I think you really hit the nail on the head with the idea that we often have very conflicting emotions at the same time. Adding a new family member or changing the structure of the family can be wonderful and hard at the same time. So many changes! You are on the right track, finding support and being gentle and patient with your own process. Good luck and thank you so much for sharing your story!

  4. I agree with everything! It is very important to respect children in their own skins, their own personalities. As for us parents, the sooner we realize what our new identity as a parent is (and how it fits in with our older one), the lesser chances of a breakdown later on.

  5. Very sage advice. Now that my children are grown and I’ve just become a “grammee” I remember doing by chance some of your suggestions and failing with some but somehow getting through with the whole experience with sweet memories.
    As a grandparent there are a whole new set of considerations. Although the primary responsibility is with the parents, there’s also a bit of a “learning curve” to this grandparenting business. Watching my son and his beautiful wife and how they are accepting (with struggle at times) parenting challenges and seeing their decisions in regard to their son gives my husband and I a feeling of satisfaction and of the natural fulfillment or completion of a circle.

    • The grandparent/child relationship is a wonderful one! It is so important (and complicated!) and can add such richness to a child’s life. Thanks for sharing your perspective and I am so glad to hear about “mindful grand-parenting!” 😉

  6. Yes: “Pre-kid life is full of rituals that parenthood interrupts.”

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