We're just going to jump right in on this Gentle Parenting mini-series.
I'm going to expose some 'truth hurts' and touchy subjects through out these posts.
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I think we can all agree here, dreaming the 'gentle parent' lifestyle vs. living the 'gentle parent' lifestyle is not as easy as one likes to envision it.
Because we all have to admit, parenting can be extremely messy at times, literally.
When we learn that we are becoming a parent, we like to make this beautiful picture in our heads that life will be all rainbows and butterflies as soon as baby is here. You expect to immediately love baby, you expect to have the motherly instinct click in upon becoming pregnant or giving birth, you expect that your partner will be able to read your mind and tend to your every need, because gosh darn it, Y O U should just K N O W.
But I'll be the one to pop that bubble for you.
Becoming a new parent does not start out all rainbows and butterflies.
No, it's crying in the bottom of the shower because your boobs hurt and baby can't latch correctly and you feel like it's your fault & your partner is just trying to help so he bursts in during your cry session and explains that he, "read on google to pump a little before trying to latch".
It's your partner crying and begging you to just communicate what is wrong with you, but you have absolutely no idea how to express what you're even thinking, let alone feeling. It's Post Partum Depression.
It's learning a whole new body & life for YOURSELF after delivery all while being thrown a brand new human that you're responsible for keeping alive and it too, has not a single clue what it's doing in said life.
The FIRST thing we can do for ourselves to get a good grasp on what this gentle parenting thing is all about, is letting go of the expected and learning to love the journey ahead.
After all, we only get eighteen years to guide our children.
The first years of their life build them into the teenagers they will soon be.
Those last few statements were enough for me to really see the importance of providing a gentle parenting approach for my children. After all, it starts with me.
I'll be the first to admit, I have failed at 'gentle parenting' many times.
Probably more times than I'd like to admit.
I was 18 years old when I was pregnant with my oldest.
With that being said, as I was a fresh adult, I still had so much to learn about when it came to communicating my own needs & wants, let alone fully understanding and caring for a whole other individual.
Those early days are so hard, especially the first time around.
Before my pregnancy, I suffered from depression. Never diagnosed as I had grown up in a household where medication was more so frowned upon, we were asked to find other coping mechanisms. Since being diagnosed after having my children, I realize the importance of talking about our feelings and emotions as they arise and never to expect someone to just be able to 'get over it.'
I was diagnosed with Post Partum Depression after my oldest son was born.
I applaud myself for doing so much research during pregnancy and I knew immediately when I had fallen down the rabbit hole. I immediately reached out to my physician and they squeezed me in the earliest appointment I could get into. I thank them tremendously for their support and guidance during that time.
Where I'm getting at is, when I was diagnosed with depression my whole outlook on life changed.
I realized how significant my mental health is not only for myself, but for my children.
After all, how are we supposed keep our children afloat if we are barely above water ourselves?
I want to share with you how I managed to find balance for my mental health which provided me with the power to offer the gentle parenting approach for my children.
Feeding my energies to have patience for my children.
1. letting go of the expected
I'll start here, it just seems fit. Going off the previously stated. As new parents we like to create this picture perfect world of how our parenting journey will go. We forget about the restless nights, the sick days, the mom guilt. You have to learn how to be okay when things don't go according to plan. The house will be dirty, you will burn dinner because you have 10 minutes to tidy before dad gets home, you'll have to turn around in midst of commute because one kid forgot his backpack. You may even lose your sh*t today, and that's OK. It really is. You are your own worst enemy. Allow yourself grace, tomorrow is a new day. A new day to do better. We are all allowed bad days but learning how to handle those bad days and those emotions are the key to gentle parenting.
2. learning to apologize to our children
Remember how I said that there had been many times I've failed as a gentle parent? Probably more than I'd like to admit, well it's true. I've yelled, I've hurt feelings, I've slammed doors and acted on their level. I'll tell you first hand, it's not worth it. But in the midst of things, sometimes confrontation happens and after taking a break apart, I want you to know how significant apologizing for your actions is. We expect our children to always act at manner, never to yell and to always be kind. But the truth is, it's not easy. Us as adults still struggle with this on the daily. Apologizing to them and letting them see you address the areas that were wrong creates for such a positive outcome for the children. It teaches them the importance of apologizing for our wrongs all while creating confidence in our children to apologize for their actions to others.
3. learning to communicate with our children
Ensuring your children learn that they can express their emotions to you and you will respond in a healthy and supporting way is the best way to create a good communication relationship with your children. Validating their emotions and guiding them into ways to cope with said emoti0n is guidance and preparation for their future relationships. Whether that's friendships, human relations at school or for their future partner. We have the power to teach our children how to communicate and understand emotions.
4. learning to communicate gentle parenting skills with your partner
No one ever likes to be 'corrected' on their parenting skills. At least that's how my partner felt when I asked he handle certain situations differently. The gentle parenting approach has so many benefits for child & parent. I offered my partner all of the resources I read / saw and asked him to take this approach seriously as I was going to work towards living the gentle parenting lifestyle. Having your partner on the same page makes for easier team mate disciplines and healthy guidance for your children.
5. learning to create a routine
Creating a routine saved my mental health. I can not express how important routine is. It's a proven fact children thrive when in routine. [Think consistent bedtimes, not minute by minute routine] I noticed that routine of dinner, bath, bed every night was such an amazing time for my family. We were alone, safe and silly. The best conversations start here. But most importantly, after I lay my children to sleep for the night, I now have time to myself. I get to choose what to do with my two hours before I sleep. Do I get connect with my partner or will I give myself a pedicure tonight? Do I get to read for two hours uninterrupted or maybe I'll journal a reflection. Creating time for yourself is the most important thing of parenting. Please, take my word.
6. creating a place to escape / release
Flowing off the previous tip, leads into expressing how important a 'space' for you to go to and decompress is. As a mother, we are always putting others needs in front of ours. It's inevitable. I want you to find a place where you can escape or relax. This can be a place in your house, this can be escaping in a book, this can be your escaping and releasing energy in a new hobby. Whatever it may be, find it and go to it when you feel things are difficult for you.
7. learning to take things slow
I know it's hard. We have our children and we are so excited for their next milestone. We're always looking forward to their advancements. When people say they grow up quick, they aren't lying. Embracing the young years and really tuning into the present day with your children is the best thing you could ever do for them. Stop to look at the weeds growing through the side walks. Notice the leaves changing on your afternoon walk. Bundle them up and run outside in a snow storm. They will remember those moments for the rest of their lives. Make sure the memories are there.
This week was all about self-reflection.
Over the next few weeks I will be publishing more posts related to this mini series of gentle parenting. Make sure to subscribe to my email list to get notifications when those post.
I hope you've enjoyed this post & we'll talk next week!
Make sure to leave comments and share your tips on self reflection, ways that helps you get through those tough days.