I noticed that I become a different person when my children are with their dad. Well, not completely different, but different enough to notice.
I have more headspace.
My shoulders drop and I feel the lovely wave of relaxation and letting go through the whole of my body.
As I notice and enjoy that, I can't help but ask myself: 'Why can't I feel more like this with my children around?' I would sooooooo love to.
Funny enough, I know the answer.
Deep in our DNA we are wired to keep our children safe, to protect them, to be alert to dangers that they are not ready to notice yet.
Imagine a lioness in the jungle with her cubs playing nearby. She might look still, but she is constantly scanning what's happening around. Her cubs might look like they are completely lost in their rough and tumble, but as soon as she stirs in an anxious kind of way – they rush straight back to her. They rely on her for their survival and that constant checking in happens even if it is not always visible.
In a similar way we, human parents, can't help but be switched on when we are with our children.
Do our children need to know that somebody is looking out for them 24/7?
Yes, they do.
Is it exhausting and anxious making to be on high alert 24/7, switched on even in your sleep?
I know it is.
So where do we go from here? How can you look after yourself and find time and space to replenish without compromising your child's sense of security?
Here is the deal.
Children can attach to and feel safe with at least seven people.
It might be an idealistic view, but I believe that for thousands of years we have been bringing up our children in villages, with extra pair of hands more readily available to hold the baby or spare eyes to keep a look out for an older child.
So if you are binging up your child in a nuclear family, without much of the village around you, you are likely under an enormous pressure. I am not even talking about special needs your child might have or the emotional/health/relationship/etc. challenges you might be dealing with.
And you just get on with the relentless marathon of being there for your child. And the longer you stay on it, the more normal it feels to function in exhaustion, the harder it becomes to stop and to take the break.
And how could you? Who will be there for you child for you take the break to switch off, to fill your cup up?
Your partner (if you have one) is as exhausted as you are.
Family is hundreds of miles away.
Friends have more than enough to deal with already.
Parents in your child's class have already formed tight little groups...
I get it, the thought about reaching out for support, of looking for your village might be daunting.
I have not come up with a short cut for this one yet... Bringing up the child really does take a village. Once you become a parent your well-being, the fullness of your cup does become a shared responsibility of your village. You can only switch off when somebody else is switched on.
I know that you might need to problem solve very creatively to ensure that the support is there for you and I believe that the first step to make it happen is to look inside:
Is it the fear of admitting that you need help?
Is it the need to be in control?
Is it the sheer habit of doing everything yourself?
Is it the conviction that nobody else will do as good a job at looking after your child?
Is it the fear of not being needed?
Is it the exhaustion to the level in which you can't even thing or make different choices any more?
Are you worried about how it will impact your relationship with your child?
P.s. If you would like further support – head to my calendar to book a consultation.