To Parent With Heart, Look Inside

Parenting is exhausting. And even more, trying to nourish yourself while balancing  your day to day responsibilities, career (this includes SAH parents because wow is parenting a full-time career), and striving to show up as a socially just and conscious citizen can be draining. Not to mention all of the family members and friends who benefit from our time and love (and we benefit from theirs).

It’s common for me to feel totally calm and at peace one moment, like I have all the things under control, and the next moment I feel as if the world is falling apart right at my finger tips. This sense of instability can lead to feelings of fear, isolation, and unworthiness. Brené Brown sums these feelings up by saying, “The uncertainty of parenting can bring up feelings in us that range from frustration to terror.”

So how can we fully embrace the idea of parenting with heart while also leaving space to be human and make mistakes? I’m trying to focus on what’s important: raising a child who can be whatever they want to be. A child who feels valued. A child who is kind, compassionate, and resilient in the midst of life’s ups and downs.

Here are four areas I’m exploring to set toxic parenting culture aside and focus on what’s important:

Quality vs Quantity

You can usually find me in my office with post-it notes strewn across my desk (and sometimes my forehead), a multitude of colorful sharpies within arms reach, and that second coffee I totally should not be drinking (ask my colleagues). My co-parent/husband is in charge of the nest from 11am-5pm each day, and as I take on more projects, I can see how my “but I work from home to spend time with my child” attitude is totally not swinging it.

So here I am, wanting to spend time with my soon-to-be three year old, but also totally wanting to dive deep into my career and take on more projects/volunteer opportunities. I’m a parent who loves her child, but also a parent who is forever passionate about making a difference in education and the world.

Enter the idea of quality versus quantity. H is literally around me all the time as I work. That’s the beauty of working remotely. She has a desk set up in my office, and the whole house is her playground. But as she gets older, I notice she really wants my undivided attention and has come to dislike my computer (e.g. “You’re on that AGAIN!?)

So I set some goals to focus on quality time instead of more time. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Hire a part-time babysitter. The babysitter is here from 8:30am-12:30pm 3x per week and their job is just to play with H and keep her happy, content and occupied. I am able to sneak away for yoga during these times, too.
  • Set boundaries. I like H coming in to say hi, but it’s so much harder for my husband to entertain her when she decides she wants to stay in my office. Locking my door when I need to get things done works for our family. It’s a way I set boundaries and am clear about my need for space.
  • Be present when playing. Since I’m not spending as much 1:1 time with H, I really try my best to be present when we are playing. H has tons and tons of energy, and really likes to do things her own way (3 year olds, right?), so I channel my inner child, get down to her level and enjoy her interests and the way she plays.

Authenticity

This has been a buzz word for some time now. What does it mean to be authentic? Well, despite the fact that we are literally evolving every moment, I think authenticity refers to vulnerability to be ourselves, honesty to speak our truth, and the courage to admit when we make mistakes or hurt others. This is a real life motto for me, and now that I’m in my 30’s I can truly say that I’ve reached a level of authenticity that was unknown to me in my younger years.

I’ve been privileged to have opportunities to grow as a human through travel and deep friendships with adults and children who are different than me. From these experiences, I’ve learned the importance of offering my authentic self to H. I embrace my eccentricity. I’m intense, passionate, and quirky.  I will corner you and talk to you about cicadas and/or the epic amount of snails living in our yard. Or education. But this is who I am.

Our children observe our comfort with ourselves and ability to stand out and not conform to the status quo. They observe if our body language / tone changes to meanness or gossip when we are around other adults, too. Authenticity is a valuable and critical trait as we strive to fight oppressive systems around us and the conformity culture we live in. Authenticity takes courage and constant work.

Self & Community Love

In a capitalist and ableist society rooted in white supremacy and fat phobia, self-love is a form of resistance. Representation matters, and the images most kids see flashing across their screens, in books, and in magazines are of cisgender, thin, able-bodied white people.

For my white child, community love includes recognising her privileges and putting in the work to make the world we live in a better place. Self-love is recognizing that her voice matters, and she can use her voice to speak out against systems of oppression. She can use her voice to amplify the voices of all marginalized groups. My job as a parent is to show her I value her thoughts and her actions do matter. 

Self-love for me is also about interconnectivity and belonging. Feeling connected to a movement bigger than myself makes me feel like I matter, my actions matter. This is my community. I model this for H. I care about myself and I care about you. I will fight for you. This goes beyond appearances, talent, amount of productivity per day, and all the other false narratives around self-love that are part of the society we live in.

Action

When I think about my actions, I’m constantly reflecting on whether my actions align with my values. Actions speak louder than words. Am I doing what’s best for my family? For my community? For the world? I’m starting to recognize that it’s the small steps that matter. Small, actionable steps. So I show H with my actions the importance of speaking out against all oppressive systems.

Some of the questions I’m constantly thinking about are:

  • Who do we support?
  • Who do we vote for?
  • How do we spend our money?
  • Are we actively involved in our community?
  • Who do we spend our time with?
  • Can we call people out on their oppressive language, actions, and mindsets?
  • When we make a mistake, or are called out on our complicity with systems of oppression, do we apologize, do better, and move forward?

A crucial part of actively striving to do better includes seeking out resources written by empowering BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ activists who are changing the world. It’s also about seeking out #ownvoices resources created by Disabled and Autistic youth and adults.

Some of these activists and organizations include:Wee the People, Rachel CargleAnti-bias MontessoriEmbrace RaceA Striving ParentIjumaa JordanRaising Luminaries, Books for LittlesLittle Feminist, Reflection Press, Neurodivergent Narwhals and Raising Race Conscious Children.

 

Although I’m always a work in progress as a parent, wife, friend, and fellow human, I can nourish myself and my child when I take the time to look inside and focus on what I can control: being a good human and helping H be one, too.

With heart always,

April