My first born child was a few weeks old, I lay nursing him in our bed staring out the window at what I was sure was a perfect mother. She appeared showered, her clothing matched, she pushed a stroller she had convinced her child to lay quietly in and she was in the outdoor world. It wasn’t even other people’s opinion of me that was holding me back in that moment it was how I had internalized what it was I thought other mothers were thinking about me that let the flood gates loose. I was certain I had already failed my son in those first few weeks together by not being about to get myself together enough to stroll peacefully around the block with him.
I needed a different way to be in the world if I was ever going to get over the unbearable weight that had me second guessing every last detail of what I was doing. The first step, came from some advice from my sister gave when I had said something about guilt and she looked at me and said “we aren’t going to do things that way.” Which essentially gave me permission to relieve myself of any mom guilt that was boiling over into my sense of self and well being. It has been a practice for sure but that moment gave me the key that I needed to unlock access to a healthier way of being with my son. So I am going to give you that same permission right now, do let go of the mom guilt.
There is world of different opinions about parenting. I was working my way through a stack of books, articles and televisions programs each with their own unique version of the one right way to parent. There were promises of quick results and lasting impact and it all put me further back than I was before I picked the book up. Each time, I tossed the reading aside I found the big blue eyes of my son staring right into me. As the two of us got lost in the moment those niggling doubts and opinions would start to fall into the background. Slowly, ever so slowly, he began to show me that all that was required to be the best mother I could be for him was to slow down and listen. To tune my heart into knowing who he was and to pick up on his subtle clues to bring give just what he needed. Other people’s opinions would always be ready to throw me off my game and those same clear blue eyes would be ready to return me to center. My role became to know him and understand the space that was between us. My second gift for you is permission to abandon all those different opinions and focus on the space that exists between you and that unique human that is in front of you.
As I started to take this fragile new understanding of how to parent out of my own four walls, I quickly learned that I would need armor made of something more powerful than steel if i was going to stand in my parenting truth in the wider world. If the voices in my head were strong lying in my own bed looking out the window, they were shouting when I stood face to face with a well meaning relative who was certain I was taking my child down a terrible path. That is when it got harder than I could have imagined. I was still standing on the shaky legs of brand new mothering and here were people with years under their belt assuring me I was wrong. The breath I took in those moments, to center and see my child always reminded me that these well meaning humans did not know my child as intimately as I did. They were not experts on my child. He and I were the two people who had the most time and experience knowing one another and so of course our solutions where always going to be better tested and researched than anyone living outside of us. I give you this third gift, the one that reminds you that trust that you and your child are the experts on your relationship.
Writing about knowing my child the best of all is far easier than standing in the truth face to face with well meaning humans. For those moments I need a few tools in my belt to be able to tune out the noise around me. The biggest one was connecting to my child and not the behavior that was raising and eyebrow or two. When I could see my child I was more likely to connect with their need and not try to eradicate a behavior. I wanted to be anchored in my own intention as a parent not the imagined stories in my head. It is true that the majority of people are not watching and judging me for the things I am doing. With this tool I had to rewrite the narrative of my stories. Instead of, “what are they thinking of me,” I was able to repeat, “I am being the mother my child needs right now.” Turns out saying it enough times did make it true.
Now that I had my eyes on the prize of simply knowing and loving the child in front of me with a much truer story running through my mind, shaking off other peoples opinions of my parenting was faster. I don’t want to lie to you and say it never tripped me up after I put these strategies in place. I will however tell you it gave me a faster return to my own center. Having an anchor to return to time and time again was the glue that kept it all together. I was committed to loving my child unconditionally and when the world got wobbly around my I held tight to knowing that I was moving from the place of unconditional love and could trust that the wobbles would settle with our relationship fully in tact.
This thing of loving from a place of unconditionality in a world that thrives on selling us the the next best thing is a practice. A long series of successes, mistakes and reboots. It has required reexamining my own heart for the places where wounds have been inflicted and choosing healing above all else. It is all kinds of messy and all kinds of rewards. From where I stand now with a 19 years old and a 17 year old every single time I prioritized the space between us over the opinions of others I have seen our relationship preserved. It is the preservation that has allowed me to continue to be a trusted source in their lives as they branch out into the world to be independent. .
So go out there you fabulous human free of guilt, eyes on your child, healing your heart and leading with unconditional love and the opinions of others will fall into the background of the magic that is you and your child living a joyful loving life together.