Parenting is the most consuming and full-on job we’ll ever do, full of joys, anxieties, laughter, tears, and pretty much every emotion we’ve ever bottled up and hoped never to feel again. There’s no doubt about it: it can be exhausting. And when we feel like we’re running on empty, it can take a superhuman effort to get everything we need to get done in the day and be the kind of parent we want to be (and hope our children will remember us being!). Although we can schedule unwinding activities into our family day – such as reading, crafting, cuddling, breastfeeding, and just being still together – it also makes sense to schedule in a little time to nurture your own interests.
The unlived lives of the parents
It’s true that all too often we forget what really made us tick before kids, or simply find we haven’t got the time to pursue those interests once they come along. But as the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung once said, “The greatest tragedy of the family is the unlived lives of the parents.” I have mused on this a lot since becoming a mother, and feel that if we devote our lives entirely to our children at the detriment of all else, we miss the opportunity to show them how to live lives rich with passion and interest. When we choose to go a yoga class, or to take half an hour to make notes on an article in a science journal that intrigues us, we are sending a message to our children that we value our interests and make time to pursue them. Maybe the half hour is optimistic, but by making a window of time each day in which your children see you doing something that gives your life interest and purpose, you actually, I believe, set a really positive example.
Attending a class
My partner and I both have creative interests outside of our employment. We currently share the care of our son and schedule our working hours accordingly, with my partner working one more day than I do. We have also made time to go to a class each which furthers our learning in our respective creative fields. The idea is also to work out a little bit of time for each of us to ‘practise’ outside of class, but at the moment this is still in the pipeline stage! This set up is not without its hiccups, especially if either of us has a creative project on the go that seems to demand more time, but it is a way for both of us to continue pursuing our passions whilst enjoying being a family. It has been a bit hit and miss finding the right balance when both of us simultaneously started our new courses this autumn and have been champing at the bit to get started! The great thing is that my son has already taken an interest in his dad’s creative ventures and is learning alongside him. I truly believe that this pursuit of our interests makes us both more rounded individuals and brings gifts to the parenting table. In the future, I know we both hope to share our interests with our kids (whether they’ll be up for this is another thing entirely!). In the meantime, I feel I am more able to be present with my son, really present and full of the attentive joy I want to bring to parenting, when I have tapped in to the things I enjoy doing too.
Becoming aware of our own dreams
I wonder if one of the ‘dangers’ of attachment parenting is over-attachment parenting, through which a parent sacrifices their sense of self at the altar of the child. It’s easily done when we want to be the very best, most present, attentive and caring parent we can be. But as Jung indicated, perhaps we do our children a disservice by not also attending to our own aspirations, dreams and sense of identity within the family framework. If we make time to seek our bliss – be it reading a book, gazing out the window, doing some artwork, catching up with friends, exercising etc. – we validate our child’s own exploration of what makes them tick, and give the message loud and clear that fun, interest and passionate learning is available to all, whatever their age.
Article by Lucy Corkhill
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