Sarah Bessey is asking her readers to share a bit about their parenting practices. I’ve spent the morning thinking through what I have to contribute to the practices of parenting. Lately, I have been doing a lot of soul searching on the self care and sacrifice needed to be a mom, so I considered writing about that. However, I think the most helpful piece I can contribute from my own practices of parenting comes straight from my own story.
One of the essential practices that has seen me through my almost three years of parenting is the practice of convincing myself that I am not destined to follow in my Mother’s footsteps. As women, we all have things about our Moms that drive us nuts, and many of us have pieces of our childhoods that we don’t want to repeat. I hope that most of you reading this had childhoods that equipped you with most of the tools that you need to parent. I know from experiences however that some of us grew up in less than ideal families, and now carry stones that we are learning to untie so we can run this race unfettered.
I am the blessed Mom of a 2 year old girl and a 1 year old son. Shortly before the birth of our son, as I was in the midst of chasing a toddler in my third trimester, my Mom took her life. She had been struggling with depression, anxiety and mental illness for more than 25 years. Even though her illness was a huge monster that had been around most of my life, 16 months after her death I’m still shocked that she left like that.
With my main mothering role model gone via suicide I realized that part of my journey would be finding the faith ti believe that I had the strength to parent well at all. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety in my own life, growing up around my Mom it was truly a learned behavior, so as I prepared to welcome our second born I was terrified that postpartum depression might send me over the edge forever. That I was destined to teach my daughter some of the hard lessons my mom taught me.
By the grace of God I sit here today at a dining room table smeared with chili and scattered with sippy cups, a whole and (usually) happy Mom.
I still grieve and mourn the death of my own Mom, but rarely do I fear a steep decline into mental illness. These days I’m busy tackling some latent adolescent self esteem issues, but that is a blog for another day.
I am my own Mother, so are you. I don’t mean that you are the woman that raised you, I mean you are the author of your own Motherhood, you are not destined to repeat negative behaviors. God is a gracious guide and will grant us strength, wisdom and women who can help us learn better and healthier ways. Affirming my own unique and healthy Motherhood is a practice that I perform regularly. Here’s a few tips… and yes they all start with P, isn’t that lovely?
1) Prevention: Anyone who has lost a parent to disease of any kind (and depression is just that) fears contracting their parent’s illness. So do what you need to do to be aware of how you can be proactive against the disease you fear. For me it’s an active lifestyle, a healthy diet and time to write, reflect and meander through my own mind. Also I am all for scheduling a counseling appointment or talking to my doctor about medication options if I feel things may be slipping down a dangerous slope. Don’t be afraid to take the steps necessary to be proactive.
2) Prayer: I talk to God about my fears when I start to freak out. Why, just this morning I turned my ceiling fan on high and burrowed under my covers in order to drown out my kids so that I could get a grip on my own head before my Husband left for work. Burrow if you have to but find a zen place to get it all out and upward to God.
3) Person-hood: You are your own bundle of DNA with different genes and circumstances. You are not your family of origin, you are doing your own God-led thing. Your little family is a whole new ball game. So play it out, don’t assume you’ve already lost, that’s folly folks.
4) Peers: You’re not on an island, and if you are on an island chances are that A) I’m jealous and B) you still have neighbors. What I’m saying is that we are in this together. Whatever you are struggling with I bet God will show you someone who has been there, walked through it and can support you in your own journey. Involve others in an honest conversation about your story, and enter into theirs!
Many of us have beautiful stories behind us, some of us don’t, yet we all hold the potential to write beautiful stories and give our kids the foundation and tools they need to add chapter after chapter to theirs.