This article was first published on The Coach Space
Balancing work with bringing up small children is one of life’s biggest challenges. When you have these little people making constant demands and getting in the way of your professional goals, it can be irritating to say the least!
Sometimes it can all get a bit too much, tip you over the edge and turn your day into a nightmare.
Yesterday looked like one of those days.
There I was, with a professional mountain to climb and things to achieve, but feeling like nothing was getting done. With little progress being made each day, the pressure was building up.
I really needed SPACE and TIME alone. No distractions. But when you have a toddler and a baby, distractions are too common and difficult to avoid.
You can bet with almost certainty that when you really need time to yourself, they do the exact opposite of what you want. It’s like they can read your mind. And don’t forget, a toddler’s job is to push you to your limit and do everything they can to make you explode.
Asking five times for an ice cream before dinner wasn’t enough for my 4-year old. He tried his blackmail routine, refusing to eat dinner, but that didn’t quite push me far enough. However, by the seventh time of asking for ice cream, I could feel myself erupting.
Once my patience is gone, it has truly gone.
Having been at the point-of-no-return many times, I have come to recognise it and pause before it’s too late.
So I gave myself space and time to choose: I could either give in to anger and frustration and lose my cool, or I could calmly walk away.
‘Losing it’ feels good in the moment, but afterwards feels dreadful.
I have a flashback to a previous outburst, where I see the eyes of my son and I regret it, feeling terrible about myself.
So I walk away, and give both of us time to calm down, think and change focus.
It has taken a long time to learn how to do this. It has been so hard for me to walk away because I used to see this as giving my power to my son and ‘losing the battle’.
And if you know me, you know I favour control and having the last word!! LOL.
Walking away gave me a chance to think about the real reason why I was so irritated (clue: it was nothing to do with my son).
It was one of those days where I felt overwhelmed with all I wanted to achieve. That morning, I had been having some negative internal conversations; doubting my capabilities, blaming myself, and then blaming everyone else! (When things get hard, I play the victim.)
Just being aware of what was really going on internally made me feel so much better.
But the best thing, in the end, was that I didn’t scare my little boy.
I feel so much more aligned with myself for not showing him a behaviour that I do not accept from him (how arrogant!).
Once I relax, I go back to him with love and patience and explain to him what happened. He doesn’t listen to it all and doesn’t really understand but it is a process. I am teaching him what to do when you get angry and how to apologise and make peace. This is far more powerful and this is exactly where I keep all my power.
INTERLUDE: How babies and kids act unconsciously in your favour
Let me go back to what happened at the ‘point of no return’.
First, I told my son that I was getting upset with his behaviour, and that “I am going away so we can both calm down”. But before that happened I did raise my voice and woke up my baby daughter who had just been put to bed by her father.
I decided to go and rock her back to sleep, also as a way to tell her I was sorry for waking her up.
She fell back asleep in an instant. To be honest, I was still triggered and high from the scene with my toddler – I just wanted her to sleep so I could get on with my life…
But she woke up as soon as I left her, and that happened three times.
This was unusual for her. It was as if she felt I wasn’t well and told me in her own ways to stay with her to calm down. She ‘forced’ me to pause, be patient and totally relax.
It worked wonders and I was full of gratitude for her then. I came back downstairs, to my toddler and we had a great time together.
That night I went to bed feeling calm and confident that I did all the right things, proud that I didn’t let my old pattern of frustration and anger take over.
Parenting can bring out the best in you, if you allow it
Children can feel your emotions and they have a way of mirroring them back to you. Learn to see it, bring space and acceptance and choose what to do next.
Be grateful for them showing you the way to a better relationship with yourself and with your family.
Learn to recognise those make-or-break moments, but don’t be hard on yourself. You will still get triggered and yell from time to time. What matters is what you do afterwards and how you treat yourself in these moments.
Change your posture, smile, raise your head, choose to focus on the learning and choose to speak in a way that is positive, hopeful and loving.
It is not easy and it will never be perfect. Your willingness to change, to do better is all that counts.