Humanness Required

Recently, on the EFT list serve, an online community of Emotionally Focused Therapists, there was a discussion about recommended parenting books for a pregnant woman.  Therapists wrote in and recommended:

1)   Parenting from the Inside Out

2)   The Whole Brain Child

3)   How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen

4)   Blah

5)   Blah

6)   Blah

And I confess, I’ve read most of these books and the information that I gathered was invaluable.

But, I don’t read parenting books anymore.   At all.   Ever.  I get a little “ugh” feeling every time I see one of those half-read suckers on my bookshelf right next to the Atkins Diet and Raw Foods Cookbook.  They tend to make me feel panicky and a little bit like I’m failing.

Instead, I check out blogs by moms where the theme of imperfect parenting runs through their stories like gold.  I love the moms that talk about how parenting is hard work.  We moms have a difficult time admitting this because we think it sounds like we are saying that it’s hard to hang out with our beautiful, sweet, and soulful children.

We are afraid we will be misunderstood.  So let me be clear. Parenting is hard because of the worry, guilt, and mundane tasks.  That’s what is hard.

Last weekend my daughter, Amelia, and I went to the Farmer’s Market and she wanted to stay when it was time to go, so she threw herself on the ground screaming, “I’ll never leave this place!”

I just kept walking to the car without reacting and she followed. When I got her in the car, I let loose.   I gave her the kind of lecture that would make me cringe if I overheard it from another mother because it was so long-winded and shaming.

I yelled, “You are five now and this is the second tantrum in two days.  You don’t see other kids acting like that.”

Even re-writing this makes me want to prostrate myself on the ground or go to confession or somehow quit being a mommy.  No big fanfare; it just didn’t work out.  I’m putting in my two-week notice and placing an ad on Craigslist.  Thanks for the opportunity, but I’ve realized I’m not cut out to be a mom.

Parenting books don’t even touch this part of me.  They don’t touch the guilt I feel for working so much, or the shame for lecturing my daughter, or the fear—which is really driving my reactivity–that somehow if she doesn’t deal with her emotions more appropriately (I know, how ironic) then she’ll grow up unhappy, and I’ve got a thousand permutations of this outcome.  The parenting books don’t touch that.

When I read my mommy blogs, I instantly feel less alone, because I am assured that a mistake is just a mistake.  Parenting blogs written by honest moms in the trenches teach me this:

I am forgiven.  Or maybe it’s, I am accepted.  I am enough as I am.  I am loved.  At the end of all this learning I am still going to mess things up, not because I am a failure, but because I am human. 

After our horrendous day, I put Amelia into bed.  I opened the window and felt the cool breeze blowing in.  We lay in bed together side-by-side and pretended that we were on a boat under a night sky tucked in together.  I felt silly and said, “We are as safe as popsicles.”  Amelia said, “Popsicles aren’t safe because they drip onto the ground.”

That girl is always thinking.

So then I said, “We are as safe as cookies.”

No, again, because cookies crumble.

“Ok, then what’s the safest thing you can imagine?”

Amelia answered, “Mommy.  You are.”

So even after my worst day of parenting (in a while), I still manage to be logged in her mind as safe, which means that just maybe I’m doing okay and that there is a lot of grace for me.

And for you.

The Attach Place  Center for Strengthening Relationships

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

The most important thing a pregnant mom needs to hear is, “We are all human, love is like glue, and nothing close to perfection is required.”

Jennifer Olden, LMFT and Mom



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