Read on how to enrich your life by purpose, i.e. to find depth and, a reason to get out of bed each morning, your own Ikigai.
I was an overworked, cranky, and angry mom. Until I took a step back, realised what was happening, and took a decision work my way to being a better parent.
Since the time my son was a preteen, I was preparing myself for his ‘teen’ age! The over hyped and over analysed ‘teen-tantrums’ that I had been seeing in bad Hollywood films and good books had started making me nervous from the time my son was twelve. I was defensive and over prepared. Any natural reaction from him, and I was already blaming it on the ‘future teenage hormones, taking shape NOW!’
I had taken the ‘teenagers can’t help how they behave’ adage quite seriously, and was sympathetic with my son and was blaming it on his hormones more than my incapabilities to deal with them effectively. The fact that the ‘man of the house’ was abroad for three years, had given me additional responsibility and an opportunity for ‘self-victimisation.’
I am not afraid to admit that I was struggling to find a footing. My full time job, the therapies for my daughter, her school struggles, the thousand and one household chores, driving my son for sports and extra curricular classes along with usual school days, somehow made me so mechanical, that I was doing many of these things just to tick them off of my list everyday.
Though somewhere deep, this huge guilt was building up inside of me, because I wasn’t being the mother I thought I could be. The worst was, I was aware of it. I was aware that I was wasting day after day waiting for some miracle which would take care of everything. It wasn’t living. I was mere surviving. I realised that in those months, I wasn’t listening to my children but only instructing, that I was always tired and irritated!
There were times I used to reflect on my behaviour. Every episode where I used to have a showdown with my son, had me blaming it on his hormones and his teenage typical casual attitude. Every day I was getting distant and difficult. I knew it!
I also knew this wasn’t the way I wanted to bring up my children. My children were not to see me stumbling down in the face of difficult times, I didn’t want them to see me ‘losing it’ and the most important was that I didn’t want them to remember me as someone who was emotionally incapable. I didn’t want to be in their memories as someone who was always angry and irritable.
It wasn’t easy, going from being an irritable, cranky and overworked mom to an understanding, loving and happy Mom. So how did I do it? Let me tell you at the outset that it wasn’t easy. It was done with a lot of conviction, thinking, pondering, and introspecting, and here is all that I did…
I decided against what I was doing in the name of parenting. The good part is that this happened for a very short time and that I took control of the situation. I made some serious efforts over the next few months and it paid off well. This decision to take charge made me have a better relationship with my children. I am happy for the awakening that helped me turn into a better version of myself.
I believe every mother’s struggle is different yet same! In the end, we all have to make some hard decisions, prioritise and follow through. The most important lesson that I learned was that discipline and getting through the day should not take place of LOVE. Love should remain constant; even in the voice of discipline, love should live! It makes things easier.
Leaving the job isn’t an option for many and I am aware that not everyone can afford to do it. Also, many mothers love their job and do it with passion, but in my case, my job was making me unhappy. I had a well paying, half-day, very stable job but it was making not only my life, but the lives of the people I love the most, miserable. So I had to call it quits!
I accepted that I was meant to do other things in life, and I am glad I responded to my gut feeling! It’s been more than two years since then and every single day is a blessing! It may not be the job but something else for you, but the point is to know what is it that makes you unhappy and then choosing to leave it.
I was giving my son instructions almost all the time, and I was thinking of it as a communication. But I wasn’t really communicating because I was never listening. A lot of times, I was doing it to judge, or to give my opinions, or simply to preach, because like many parents I used to think I knew the best.
But once I started to listen, I realised that the ‘teen hormones’ have not yet affected this fine young man, but have overstayed with me.
This whole journey of me trying to change myself was mostly happening inside my head. I can only imagine what my poor children must’ve been thinking, about me being grumpy for a few months and then suddenly calm and happy. It wasn’t easy to get a foot in the door.
My son was skeptical of me trying to make time, and putting in extra effort to spend time with him. But I kept at it. For weeks, I used to find a good time to be with him, which mostly used to be at night, right before bed. I knew that both of us would be relaxed and done for the day. A green tea for me and hot milk for him, used to make sure he was up for at least 15-20 minutes. Initially I used to do all the talking. Telling him about the embarrassing things I did in my school. My not so good academic performances, my crushes and little mischiefs back in the day. Gradually, he started participating, laughing and sharing.
Today, he is more than happy calling me into his room and asking if I would like to sit with him for a few minutes? I am happy that I didn’t give up, because spending time with him is one of the best parts of my life, and I absolutely cherish every minute we talk.
When you are just surviving day after day and not living, you tend to forget that there is a bigger purpose of your existence. You don’t realise that life is precious and nothing should be taken for granted! Once I started counting my blessings, dealing with challenges became easier. When you look at your life in a big picture, say from 50,000 feet above, you realise how most problems don’t even matter in the big scheme of things.
Being mindful about my relationship with my children made me stop sweating the small stuff. I still practice mindfulness. It isn’t a meditation, it is mostly a mind training; a conditioning to be thankful for what I had and still have.
Teenage boys live in an alien world much like their mothers. A lot of times, the ‘showing affection’ part only gets limited to a pat at various occasions. I realised that I had stopped hugging my son in last few years, and he too wasn’t very keen on being hugged. Somewhere along the way, we both had fine tuned our minds about the ‘no-hugging’ rule.
The ‘I love you’ too used to seem out of place, since my boy was a little shy. He was awkward with my showing affection and I didn’t want to push him. But he was still a young boy and I realised I was losing out on my connection by not conveying how I feel about him.
One day, he got a great remark from his teacher. When he showed it to me, I instinctively hugged him. He was awkward at first, but soon got comfortable. I realised how much I missed hugging this little boy. Now, I hug him at least twice a day and boy, does this help? Yes, absolutely!
Being non-judgemental doesn’t come easy. It is a journey and no matter how far anyone has come, there would still be a long way to go. Earlier, everything that didn’t fall within my comfort zone used to make me judge it. I used to be preachy about irrelevant things, but not anymore.
Learning to choose my battles and not turn every disagreement into a war made my life easier. Now, I try to see things objectively and take a few hours before giving any advice on important things. I have to keep reminding myself that he is still just a boy who is exploring and probing the limits.
I am still a work in progress but I’ve stopped giving knee jerk reactions, and this has helped me immensely. Every topic that can set my hair on fire now gets a calm “Oh, that’s an interesting observation, what makes you think so?” response, and not a overdramatised version of my overworking emotions.
Parenting is as much a science as it is an art. So it is indeed crucial to have a fresh perspective on your style of parenting. There are many great books available on psychology and parenting. Read, reflect and improve on where you think you need to change. I did the same and still do it. Nobody is perfect! We all are work in progress. And as long as we are trying to be a better parent, we are doing good. We surely owe this much to our kids.
Parenting isn’t one version of things. It is a collective, second after second, minute after minute, day after day and year after year effort of building memories, creating experiences, sharing happiness and reaching out when your children need it the most. After all, you are the adult in the equation! Take charge and behave like one.
A version of this was published here earlier.
Header image: the author
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