My hope for you is that you’ll get to the point where you’ll be able to say three things to yourself and mean them. This won’t be something you can do by yourself. You will need a community of support, a circle of people who get you, who want to cheer for you and carry you if need be.
0. Build Your Tribe
If you don’t have this yet, don’t be afraid to start building your tribe now. Consider this Thing Zero. Reach out to other parents at school, local support groups, Facebook, people who write blogs. It doesn’t matter. Don’t be shy. Try people on like clothes in the store until you find several that fit where you are. There’s nothing wrong with doing this. You need a tribe of mutual support where all of you get each other. You don’t need relationships that suck energy, judge you, don’t fit, or just drain what life you do have.
We’re all in this big boat together, and we all know we need help. Not all of us fit in each other’s boats, and that’s fine. You will find your tribe, though. Promise. And it will do wonders for you.
1. “I am not alone.”
Because the first thing you need to be able to say to yourself is, “I am not alone.” You need to have a community of supporters, even if they are people inside your computer you’ve never met. Most of my community are online friends I’ve never met in person. There are a few who I don’t even know what they look like. All I do know is that they are there for me, and I try my hardest to be there for them. And through it all we know we are not alone.
When we’ve spent countless days in the hospital, fought everything from cancer to government bureaucracies, dealt with our own serious health issues, and walked to the edges of the world more than a few times, they’ve been there for us every step of the way. We would never have made it without them.
Your community will show you that everything you are feeling and challenges you are facing are true for most of us. They become human barometers to us. When you think, “Surely I’m the only person in the world thinking this and going through this,” you’re wrong. There will always be someone else. And through the power of your community and their connections, you can find kindred spirits who sing the same song as you.
2. “I am not crazy.”
Which leads us directly to the second thing you need to be able to say to yourself – “I am not crazy.” When you feel like you are constantly losing ground, when you feel like you are failing your child – the being you brought into this world and would do anything for – you will feel like you are going crazy. All the worry, fear, lack of sleep, stress, and self-judgment pile up, and we all have our breaking points. You need to be able to get this out in the open – with your support groups, with professional help, with whomever. They can be your reality check, the shoulder you can sob on, the ear who will listen, and the soul who will understand.
They will help you put all the parts and pieces of your life into perspective, and this is the biggest step to being able to say, “I am not crazy.”
3. “I am strong enough, and how I am is good enough.”
The last thing captures another essential part of your communities of trust. They hold the faith for you when you just can’t for a while. You will do the same for them when the time comes. In this comes a shared strength that each can draw on when we are in need for it. This is what communities of faith do. They build up reservoirs of strength that lift up the people who are part of it. They bear witness to something outside themselves – call it God, Allah, Love, Source, Goddess, your Higher Power, whatever works for you – that wants us to find and draw on this strength and be the kind of parent we want to become.
This is why the third thing you need to be able to say is, “I am strong enough, and how I am is good enough.” You don’t have to be Super Parent. You just have to be the best you can be for this precious life entrusted to you. We aren’t the Cleavers. No one is going to give us awards for style points. But we grow stronger and more experienced each day. We grow wiser. We learn from our kids, our peers, and other professionals. We learn how to hold our own.
It’s OK to make mistakes. It’s OK to fail at things. That’s how we learn. This is challenging stuff, and no one with any sense expects you to do it all right the first time. You don’t have to be perfect. That’s impossible anyway. Just be good enough. Just give the best you have that day. That’s all you can do.
What Communities Can Do for You
Other friends will remind you of your successes and the things you’re doing right. They will give you the building blocks of things you’ve already done on which you can build your confidence.
The biggest issue is that we’re terrified. We’re terrified we’re going to fail our children. These are the people we love most in all the world. We brought them into being. We would do whatever it takes. But we worry that it won’t be enough, that our best simply won’t be enough to overcome the challenges before us. How could we not be paralyzed by fear in the face of this possibility?
My best advice is to join with your safe community of support and allow them to hold space in their hearts for your challenges and struggles. Speak your truth to them, and allow them to respond in support, kindness, and love. Let their support build you up so you won’t feel alone, crazy, or not good or strong enough. When the times comes, you will be able to do that for someone else.
This is how we overcome challenges and become the best parents we can for our children. It allows us to bring our best selves to our relationships with our children so we can do everything we can to help and support them.