When we bring our kids home there are two things that make us feel confident-guilt and anxiety about being a pigback from the hospital.
These are two heavily loaded and painful emotions that affect our days, hearts, minds and actions. If we sleep too much, we are guilty of overeating, bathing or breastfeeding fights and more. We worry if we don’t buy enough diapers or the right kind of swaddles, why not wake up four times in the middle of the night to check on the baby. We worry about our children day and night to see if we can do the best we can as parents. Not seriously, we do!
The current pandemic crisis has not helped. Concerns about our children’s development, social exposure, online education, physical development make the unseen and unpredictable future even more frightening. This, along with our personal relationships and work-related stress, has led us to feel like we are in a whirlpool of sticky issues, which can make us thicker and heavier, making it harder to lift our heads up.
As parents, we make every effort to alleviate some of the slowdown in our children, planning precise stays, allowing screen time, pushing boundaries around junk food or homework, planning extensive family celebrations with clean balloons, food and matching shirts. We do our part to make them happy.
Many parents in therapy have reported that they are both overweight and exhausted. I think a lot of this is coming from the need to compensate for what they believe children are missing out on. Both couples and single parents report increasing stress, conflict and psychological distance, fatigue and excessive feeling at home and at work. Many other symptoms are common complaints such as lack of sleep, increased or decreased appetite, feeling helpless or mood swings between height and significant lows.
At least telling is worrying.
Children need a deep and meaningful connection from us. Many engaged and active parents, investing tremendous effort in the experiences for their children, become very stressed and tired of being connected, attending and being authentic. The thing I want to do seriously is that parenting is not about keeping your kids happy all the time, but about making sure they are excited, well fed and sleeping well, “all the time”. These responsibilities are actually the primary, primary need attachment of the child, which is very often lost in our daily goals and business.
About the parenting connection. A safe relationship where children touch the base, root, secure, nurture, accept and feel valued regardless of the circumstances. Often, we focus too much on controlling, losing that opportunity for connection with our children. Early attachment to parents is a foundation that provides and protects far more than any other effort we make as parents. Connecting helps us focus on fostering a relationship through acceptance, empathy and communication. It helps children develop good relationships and develop good spirits and confidence. They do not get it from our tired and nervous performances as parents, nor do we regard them as a play dough for molding, carving and sculpting in our theories of being good, kind and future game-changers.
It reflects the value of self-acceptance, how we treat our past, our challenges, how we deal with and present our present, and increases opportunities for deeper and more authentic connections.
Swetambara Sabharwal is a psychologist, psychotherapist and mother of two from Mumbai.