My husband went away for two nights on a personal development retreat for men (yes, that is the sound of the heavens opening and angels singing!), which left me on full time mom duty, with 4 kids, for the first time EVER!
Before he left I was really looking forward to the change of routine- I mean, how hard could it really be?
Well, believe it or not, the moment he left, I could actually feel the panic rising inside of me.
You would have never known from the outside, but on the inside, I was freaking out!
My stomach was churning, and I was battling a powerful urge to run-just run (!)
(Luckily, those intense sensations passed and only resurfaced again, wouldn’t you know it, before facing down bed time).
But the most interesting part of this short adventure has been the waves of images and memories that have been washing into my awareness.
Like, I’d be spreading cream cheese on toast, and suddenly, I could almost feel myself as a young girl again, left by an absent dad to a single mom who was just coping with her circumstances.
Now that I was experiencing myself as a single mom like my own mother, thoughts, feelings and vivid memories from my past suddenly presented themselves and the years between my childhood and the present melted away.
Uh oh, was I going down a dark rabbit hole that would lead me to old habits, overwhelm and a lot of snapping?
When I noticed these thoughts, feelings and images come into my awareness (step 1), I tried to observe them (step 2), but when things started to get hairy, like when I had to get four kids ready and out of the house to catch a school bus, or one of my kids started melting down at bed time, I noticed that I would be suddenly struck by feelings of overwhelm, lack of control, and fear, not to mention the impulse to lose it!
Intellectually that didn’t surprise me, since I know that when we are in a state stress, say, when the well being of 4 kids is on your shoulders alone, our brain pieces the moment’s events together with ingrained beliefs from our past experiences, often setting off alarm bells to which we are accustomed to reacting…usually in a familiar way we know we shouldn’t.
There were moments when I thought and feared that, with my husband gone, I’d be thrown back into the state of survival that got me through my childhood and spend the next few days parenting like my mom!
Like when my son woke up at 5:30am asking for a treat.
Are you kidding me!!?
So how to do you overcome the impulse to react to the stresses and demands of life with kids, so that you can respond the way you wish you had been related to?
What is Step 3?
Well, it’s taken some time, patience and courage, but over the years, as I’ve developed my self awareness, encountered my wounds and learned how to connect to myself and others, and so today, even in some of the most stressful moments, I am able to connect to my kids in the present moment, instead of automatically reenacting old scenes from my past.
But don’t get me wrong, when thrown back into an old, familiar scene, I could feel my buttons being pressed, only this time I knew they were being pressed, I could tolerate my internal reaction and I knew what to do instead (eureka!).
It has been an emotionally challenging couple of days, facing myself with honest awareness and consciously choosing every.single. moment. (seriously, when you’re a single mom, it doesn’t end), who I want to be and how I want to relate to my kids so that they can feel safe and nurtured.
In the mean time, I feel full of gratitude.
I am grateful for a husband who owns his own business and doesn’t have to travel.
I’m grateful that he’s committed to his self growth and has gone away to a two night men’s person growth retreat.
I’m grateful that I’m not a single mom.
I’m grateful for my own mother, a single mom, who despite failing in so many ways, didn’t run away.
I’m grateful for the skills, awareness and healing that I’ve achieved in my life thus far so that, with my husband away for two nights, I can respond to the pressures and demands of solo life with 4 kids with more calm and clarity ie. Not succumb to the pressure and lose my cool every time my kid speaks.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my journey with you and other moms.
And most of all, I’m grateful for the honour and privilege to help other moms move from a place of anxiety and overwhelm, to a life of joy, clarity and calm.