If you are a parent, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you:
“You’ve got this”
Parenting is a wild rollercoaster ride. Anyone who tells you otherwise has either never had kids, or never allowed their kids to be kids—or they’re in serious denial. Whatever your journey so far, it is no accident that you are your child’s parent (even if your child wasn’t planned, which we can relate to several times over). You are the right parent for your child.
You are enough
Whatever your own childhood looked like, whatever your circumstances are, however your life does or doesn’t match up with your expectations (probably a lot, if you’re anything like us; expectations are overrated), whatever challenges you are facing, and whatever messages you hear stating anything to the contrary (and much of entertainment and marketing is based on the opposite of the truth), you are enough. You are enough to love and guide your children. You are enough to model how to live well to your children. You are enough to show them your humanity, your strength and your passion in every circumstance. You are enough, and you are strong. Strong enough to grow and change with your child.
You will change
If you haven’t yet figured out that you don’t have it all figured out with this parenting thing, you soon will. If it doesn’t happen with your first, if you have another child it will soon be clear that much of the clarity you thought you had is a bunch of baloney. We are so good at coming up with all kinds of ways to parent children, we figure out a solid approach, ground-rules and limits to use in our parenting—all before meeting the actual person we’re supposed to parent. Beyond meeting our child’s basic needs, it should be our primary job to get to know the unique person we have welcomed into our family, and base our parenting relationship (or just “our relationship” as I like to think of it) with them on that. Be willing to change to be a better parent for your child.
You don’t have to be confident
Accepting change naturally leads to adaptation, which can be a bit discombobulating at times, meaning that we sometimes don’t have a clue as to what we are doing, or even if we do, we lack the experience to do so confidently. I don’t believe it’s possible to start anything new with true confidence. We may have confidence in our teacher, or the process used, or even our own ability to learn, but confidence in a particular skill comes with experience. So don’t be alarmed if you don’t feel confident as a parent. It isn’t a sign of weakness. It is a sign that you are adapting and learning something new. Some of the times we have struggled with confidence include: having a newborn, deciding not to use spanking in our parenting, and adopting an open and receptive posture with our children instead of a dismissive or divisive one.
It takes a whole parent to nurture a whole child
A lack of confidence from time to time is one thing. A parent with a broken spirit is quite another. How can a broken parent model whole living to their child? It is important that we all find a path to healing from experiences in our lives that hinder us from being whole parents to our children. Childhood trauma and past abusive relationships can deeply affect our ability to parent in a healthy way. If these kinds of experiences negatively impact relationships in your life, please seek out professional help to process them and move past them. If you develop patterns of abuse with your own children, please seek out the help of a professional therapist to work through it. And if you are the ongoing victim of abuse at home IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. Please take steps to put an end to it, you deserve better than you are being treated and though you may feel trapped, there is support for you and safe options. Call the police. Take your children and move out. Find a women’s shelter. The present and future health of your children is at stake, not to mention your own. An abusive person won’t suddenly just get better. Abuse leads to more abuse. Domestic abuse leads to broken families. But the real tragedy isn’t broken families. The real tragedy is a family with broken people. A broken family with whole people is beautiful; a whole family with broken people is a place of torment.
Wholeness is a journey
But don’t expect to be whole all at once. Be patient with yourself, model grace for your children by extending grace to yourself as well as them on your journey to wholeness.
The journey is more important than the destination
Waiting until we have “arrived” in our journey to start developing as the kind of parent, or the kind of person, we want to be will backfire. It isn’t that we have it all figured out that matters to our children, just that we are trying. Rarely is it the destination that stands out as shaping us and our loved ones, but rather the journey.
Imperfection is a gift
Our children need to see our imperfections and how we handle our screw ups so they can learn to acknowledge their own imperfections and how to handle their screw ups. The pressure to be perfect is intense. There is safety in those that truly love us and accept our imperfections even as we pursue growth and wholeness.
You are not alone
Whether looking for help to get out of a situation of domestic abuse, or just seeking some encouragement and support to be a better parent, you are not alone. If the people in your life can’t offer the help you need, then it’s time to broaden your circle. Reach out to others. There is a lot of pressure in our culture for parents to have it all together, or at least look like they have it all together. And this pressure to maintain appearances isolates parents and keeps them from benefiting from the encouragement and advice of others—a horde of other parents who know exactly the kinds of struggles they’re going through. Having it all together is a trap. Don’t fall for it. Whatever struggle you’re experiencing is not unique to you. You are not alone, and you shouldn’t be expected to be alone. Seeking out the help of others is part of what equips and empowers you to be able to say “I am enough. I’ve got this.”
PS: if you know of someone who is a victim of domestic abuse and you are unsure as to how to help them, I recommend this helpful article. “We all want to be the knight in shining armor who saves the damsel in distress! It feels so empowering. But the truth is, you cannot save a victim. You can empower them with the tools to save themselves.”
Jeremy Martin-Weber is the proud father of 6 inspiring girls, and is 19 years into a love story with his partner, Jessica Martin-Weber.