‘Take time OUT of your business to work ON your business’ is something I constantly hear as pivotal to success in entrepreneurville (which I entered in April this year when I left my 10 yr government-funded position as a Parenting Worker to launch Love Parenting).
Now, more than ever, I see why. For the 10 years I’ve worked with families, it has been the families that have tweaked this philosophy and taken time OUT of their family to work ON their family that I have watched in awe looking for clues to be able to use and help other families tap into some of their calm…direction… teamwork… tone… and realistic expectation.
The purpose of this blog is to invite to consider this ‘why’ and for you to consider what ways you can etch out some time OUT of your family to work ON your family.
When things head into the stress zone in our families we operate in adrenaline-fueled automatic pilot. This is useful to a degree, but nature really designed this state for getting us through very short-term situations. So, if we operate for years in this mode then our patience shortens, our temper flares more easily over smaller and smaller things, we start to feel manipulated, and at a loss, and fearful of what some of the things we are noticing ‘mean’. We start to compare our parenting and our family to others with doubt about how ‘good’ we are at this parenting gig and how ‘okay’ our kids are going to grow up to be. We feel the pull to drink on weeknights. In front of the TV. Watching something we aren’t even interested in.
Essentially it is a parenting joy slow-suck.
It is easy to prioritise other things over taking time out to reflect on parenting. Families these days are busy. Messages we get tell us kids are to be treated with a degree of priority that didn’t exist even a generation ago, and we are sold by the media that a ‘good’ mum (or dad) is one who is self-sacrificing for the family. And yet the harder we strive to be that ‘good’ parent… the more self-sacrificing we become and the deeper into the resentment and ‘who am I?’ quicksand we sink.
So, most of the parents around us are in varying degrees of the ‘trying hard but only getting more frustrated’ quicksand and ….wired for solidarity…. we start talking to them about our kids in terms we would never have uttered when we were fresher in our parenting role (I’ve noticed ‘asshole’ is getting a real run lately). We assure ourselves that others are having a hard time of it too….and that we just need more girls nights out …. pamper packages and gifts from our partners to know to feel ‘happy’ in our lives.
True – the odd massage, girls night out and partner gift help…. but what else is it worth not just making time for, but building into our parenting months?
The families who I have marvelled over, the ones who have had major reasons not to be sailing as well as they were, the ones who still had a spring in their step and a sense of humour about it all, they all did their own version of the same thing. They all took time OUT of their family to work ON their family. Here are some things they put forward as being sanity savers, and some of my own offerings that I regularly see work wonders:
- Having a set ritual that protects some time for chatting beyond the tintacks of where family things are up. Every month, or few months, dreaming the big picture together and working out what is needed in the small picture. A lot like a planning meeting you would have at work…..but with more fun inserted into it. Setting yourself up to succeed and stacking the odds for your dreams to come to fruition. Maybe at the dining table, but how about over some wine and posh cheese on a picnic rug wearing headtorches on the back lawn or (in the garage!) after the kids have gone to bed for it to feel like an easy to arrange and afford ‘date’ as well?
- One mum had me googling this asap. She oozed passion for how much difference it had made to her level of overwhelm. She gestured wildly about being a serious fan of the way it gets her feelings out onto the page, reduces her cranky mummy factor and gets her some clarity on what her parenting big picture looks like. Essentially you go for it for a set period of time paying zero regard to spelling, grammar or topic. So great! And you can buy a shredder to shred your thoughts (or burn them) if you want to write more than you would be happy for your household members to find and read.
- Parenting Seminars or Parenting Groups. I regularly run these and they are a great way to either attend with a partner or on your own. They are great at giving you some conversation starters for when you can talk together. They are also gold for attending with your co-parenting ex-partner to set the kids up across both households and into their lives ahead. Call me if you are interested in Circle of Security, Triple P Positive Parenting Program, 123 Magic, Incredible Years, or My Kids and Me. I also regularly run topic seminars covering issues like ‘Get Your Child To Follow Instructions’, ‘Get Consistent with Your Parenting Partner’ etc.
- Customised appointments are also available should you value the opportunity to sitdown child-free, take off your parenting hat, take a break from the ‘doing’ in that role and reflect on what is going well and what has been challenging, and gear up to put that parenting hat back on with more knowledge, perspective and inspiration for the biggest job you will ever do. I personally have a regular booking for professional supervision. It helps me stay on my learning edge and give the best of myself without burning myself out. I consider that to be the best way of describing what I offer parents. A safe, non-judgemental professional human who is able to act as a filter to parents in an expectation-fuelled and information-laden world to really help them tweak what they are trying so they get the results they want.
- Finally – a culmination of what I have been observing in my years doing this work has brought together ‘The Parent Huddle’. It is a Facebook group which will cost $8 per month once I organise the tech for that. Until then it is free and I invite you to jump in if you like the sound of its description. It is about scaffolding our kids into independence with a focus on how important connection is to manage this. You are invited to participate as much or as little as you would like to in the commenting and posting about the weekly video, or during the late-week facebook live where you are welcome to ask questions or talk privately afterwards.
- These are not the only options. I know that iExceed has an online group called ‘Birthing Your Identity’ and that More Than A Mumma regularly run in-person and online workshops. Either of these offer great opportunity to take space from your parenting role and reflect about it. They aren’t the only ones available. Ask around. Ask other mums/dads that look fairly rested. We need to know what they do to even seemingly keep it all in perspective!!
No matter what you do, do it regularly. Really regularly. More regularly than you think it needs. The parents I know who are enjoying parenting the most don’t wait until they feel the need to ‘sort things’. Instead, they just have a reflection process built into their parenting because they know that nipping stuff in the bud is what works for them. When we prioritise reflecting and planning when our mind and morale is fresh the time we invest is SO much more productive. We don’t have fears or overwhelm driving our bus and we make decisions from a good solid place.
So there it is – the parents who are enjoying parenting the most are the ones who are prioritising taking time OUT of their family to work ON their family. They are doing it early, and regularly, and they are spicing it up by injecting fun into the reflection times where they can.
I wish you all a fantastic first swim of the season if you haven’t had it yet, a drippingly delicious first mango of the season if it is on its way, and a fabulous term #4 for any parents with school-aged littlies.
Here is the online booking link if you want to look into any of the offerings mentioned above. www.loveparenting.com.au/online-bookings
Use any of the contact options to reach out to me if you would like to chat.
This parenting gig is hard, and there is no need for you to go it alone.