Parenting and the Art of Letting Go
As a recovering perfectionist, parenting has been a constant lesson in the “Art of Letting Go”. I tend to hold on tightly to how I think things, and people, should be, and have difficulty accepting things and people just as they are. As a parent this can be very limiting because it leaves very little wiggle room for life, and a growing personality, to unfold naturally in it’s own, often messy, way. I got my first lesson in the Art of Letting Go when I gave birth, and these lessons have continued to unfold throughout my journey through parenthood. I have found that, for me, the Art of Letting Go can be broken up into two major components, Letting Go of Control and Letting go of Expectations.
Letting Go of Expectations:
These days we are bombarded with unattainable, unreasonable, and often unhealthy expectations for everything from parenting-style and postpartum recovery to child behavior and development. We see Pinterest boards for extravagant nurseries and birthday parties. We see Facebook advertisements for plans to get our pre-baby bodies “back”. We see articles shaming pretty much every parenting choice out there. We see blog posts of “wondermoms” and their perfectly behaved children with the celebratory #momlife. And all of these things fill us with such high expectations that we have nowhere to turn when our real lives inevitably fall short. So what do we do? We try harder, we yearn for more, we compare and compare and compare. But we don’t get anywhere. So we become frustrated, and self-critical, and we start to despair. This right here is the lesson. This is where we can learn the absolute beauty of letting go.
Letting go of these expectations can be incredibly challenging, but also incredibly freeing. Here are a few of the expectations I’m currently working on letting go and what I gain when I do:
· A spotless house: In letting go of the pressure to have a perfect house, I gain time with my family and I am less stressed about all I “have” to do.
· My children’s play: In letting go of my agenda for how I think they “should” play, I get to see their creative minds and unique personalities in action
· Perfect parenting: When I leave myself some room to make mistakes I give myself the opportunity to practice self-compassion and teach my kids the powerful lesson that making mistakes does not make you a bad person.
Letting go of control:
As a sexual assault survivor and a birth trauma survivor, this has been a big one for me. I have felt out of control of my own body and out of control of my precious child’s wellbeing. Both are terrifying and the natural response is to seize control in every way possible. But parenting, again, has offered me numerous lessons in letting go of control. For example, in the early days of parenting I didn’t want anyone else to hold or care for my child. However, I was also recovering from a marathon labor and major surgery. I HAD to let others care for my child, and care for me. It was an incredibly challenging, but in letting go of control in that postpartum period I opened myself up to some wonderful things:
· I was tenderly cared for by my husband and mother.
· I got to see what a loving father my husband was to my daughter.
· I started to learn that I am worthy of the time and the opportunity to heal. (I’m still learning this lesson, it’s a big one for me and many moms that I know, but it is so important.)
These are wonderful gifts that I would never have received had I held on to control and expectations. There truly is an art to letting go. It takes practice and time and just when you think you’re done, more will come. But with mastering this art comes an unbelievable amount of freedom, not just for you, but for those you love and interact with as well. Letting go of expectations for my children allows them the great pleasure of being “enough”. Letting go of control in my parenting has allowed my husband to find his own parenting style. I’m still working on being less controlling around the interactions other loved-ones have with my kids, but so far this has allowed these loved ones to feel more comfortable in being themselves with my children and form their own unique, loving, relationships. I, and everyone around me, has benefitted since I started opening myself up to the idea of letting go. I’m so grateful that parenthood quite naturally and continually presents opportunities to keep getting better at it.
Here a few questions to get you started in learning to let go. Feel free to answer in the comments section!
What are you holding on to right now? How is it serving you? What would happen if your were to let it go? What would you gain?