WARNING! Some of you ARE NOT going to like this! (Please take a deep breath before reacting though. And try and be honest with yourself. Plus, this — you don’t have to be a mom to get the point of this essay.)
Not long ago I was talking to yet another woman who has lost herself in the lives of her children.
It’s so easy to do.
When they’re young, they require our attention 24-7. But they get older, and some of us mothers refuse to notice this.
Many of us, as our children get older, are still hovering over them, managing their lives, “helping” them correct their mistakes, and basically throwing ourselves in front of them and their natural consequences for their actions (or inactions.)
What complicates this is that the ENTIRE process of parenting is a gray area.
Not SOME of parenting.
But ALL of it.
In this case, the kid-in-question was getting what his mother thought was an “unfair consequence” for a choice that he made. And while she wanted to let him “handle it on his own,” after a day or two of watching him “not do it her way,” she swooped in to take over.
Now this kid will be leaving the nest in less than two years. And this kid WAS working it out.
But his mother was too afraid to let go. To her, the “risk” to her kid was all tied up in one of those myths from our own childhood – his Permanent Record.
Because of her fear for his Permanent Record, she just couldn’t let it go.
So, now we come to our topic for the day.
It’s not the WHAT. It’s the WHY.
When we are making a decision about how to handle situations with gray areas (which is basically, EVERYTHING), for the sake of our own selves, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves this question:
Not “WHAT do I need to do?”
But, “WHY am I reacting this way?”
Because the WHY informs the WHAT.
People who aren’t clear about their MOTIVES for action make all kinds of mistakes in life. Worse, they don’t just screw things up for themselves; they screw things up for OTHER people.
When I asked her WHY she couldn’t pull back from the situation, all she could talk about was the WHAT. WHAT the consequences might be (his Permanent Record).
She couldn’t see that I was asking her to take a look at her own fear. Because it is our FEAR that keep us tethered to “the problem.” Our fears limit our ability to see better choices.
Now here’s the thing, love – once you take a step back and look at the WHY of what you are doing, you may still take the EXACT SAME action (the WHAT) as you would have WITHOUT considering your motives.
But more often than not, once you get clear about your motives (your WHY), new options for responding – BETTER options for responding – become apparent.
But you can’t see those options if you are all tied up in your fear.
Plus there’s this:
Women have a tendency to lose themselves in their relationships. We make choices to do this. But then we resent others, or life, or society, or circumstances for “making” our lives insufferable.
But really, truly, we’ve got to own up to our own role in this problem.
If we are just “beings who react,” if our anxiety for the people we love leads us around life by an invisible ring in our noses, then WE ARE AT FAULT.
We have only one real MUST here at Life After Tampons.
We MUST keep the focus on ourselves.
We don’t talk about our kids, our marriages, our lovers, our “others” here. We keep the focus ENTIRELY on ourselves, our choices, our lives.
There are PLENTY of other places to lose yourself to others on the internet. But it ISN’T here.
That’s because if we want a better story for our lives, then WE have to change.
Not the unfair expectations placed on Mothers v. Fathers.
US!!!! (Technically, I believe it is “we” but you get the point!)
It may be that you still “march on the school” and have a “talking to” the principal about “so and so’s” unfair treatment of your kids.
Or, it may be that we allow our kids to imperfectly handle things and catch them when they fall, so we can teach them how to help themselves when we are no longer around to intervene on their behalf.
It may be any number of other options.
But, when we consider the WHY before the WHAT – we live more in the spirit of clarity and truth.
We stop hiding a bad motive under a good action. We stop looking for “plausible deniability” as in “I DID NOT have sex with that woman.” We stop saying our version of this “Yes, I smoked it. But I did NOT inhale.”
You see what I mean?
We own our own truth. We avoid acting mindlessly out of FEAR but calling it PARENTING.
It’s a Big Girl Panty action, to be sure.
But ultimately everyone is better served if we are able to take it.
Love — truly, truly — Jennifer
Photo: Flickr, rumpleteaser