February 17, 2016

A Parenting Bill of Rights.

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You have the right to guiltless sleeping in and napping for the entirety of your life—if the opportunity ever presents itself.

The endless interrupted sleep of parenting has paid this debt. Never question yourself. You are not a sloth. Get thee recumbent.

You have the right to carry an invisible permission slip to say “no.” No, you do not have to volunteer for every task at your child’s school. No, you do not have to be the person everyone depends on as back up for childcare or transport. No explanation needed. Just no. I’m sorry, I can’t.

You have the to right pay yourself first. To care for others, we must first meet our own self-care needs. Eliminate the word “selfish” when it comes to caring for yourself. Make a plan and follow through as you put a hefty deposit into your health and well-being bank. The role-modelling you give your children by taking care of yourself is invaluable.

You have the right to take time away from your child.

Many parents have extreme guilt over leaving their children in the care of someone else. Reinforce the foundation on which your children were brought into your life: the relationship with your partner. Coop with other parents and take turns caring for each others’ children if money is tight. Simply going on a picnic or a walk in the park or sitting in the car—alone—counts.

Talk. What’s your five year plan? 10 year plan? Don’t lose the focus of your relationship. After years of counselling couples, trust me, practice this regularly and you will reap the rewards. So you are a single parent? Just as important. Spend some time communing with who you are beneath your role as parent. Weekly is recommended—a regularly scheduled time will become a healthy habit.

You have the right to be imperfect.

Stop second-guessing your every parenting move and decision. You will not make the right decisions all of the time. You are human. Strive for being a “good enough” parent and keeping your children free of emotional and physical harm which are big enough aims.

You have the right to private time in the bathroom. Tit for tat. For every moment you share your privacy— you deserve a solitary soak in a hot bath with relaxing music, lavender wafting and candles glowing.

You have the right to stay in touch with your inner passions. Do not lose sight of what makes you creatively and soulfully tick. Being a parent doesn’t negate being other—fun—things. Passions put on hold for too long are passions lost.

You have the right to practice boundaries within your family. Be honest. Some days our energy stores are functioning at a level that make meeting the family’s basic needs feel like like a jog through quicksand. Be proactive in your thinking and limit how much of your emotional and physical energy you give out during those times. Preserve your reserves. Instead of lying down with Sally for her nap, tell Sally that you need your very own nap.

You have the right to invite a third party into your relationship. Seriously.

One of the best recommendations for families and couples: enlist help with the cleaning and maintenance of your home. Can’t afford it you say? Working bees with other families are an excellent pool of resources with some added social connection. Household work is one of the major stressors communicated by partners. If this is you—open up your relationship and ease your suffering.

You have the right to inner peace. Parenting challenges will descend upon you and progress in their intensity as the pencil lines inch up the sweet growth chart you mark on your door frame. At times you must seek and take respite. Give yourself a break.

Embrace the vulnerability that is parenting. Find that still small voice in your heart that unequivocally adores you and speak to yourself lovingly and gently. When the sarcastic shrapnel tears jagged holes in your heart, breathe deep, centre yourself and repeat the mantra—“this comes with the territory; it is not about me.”

And take a nap.


Author: Becky Aud-Jennison

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Steven Van Loy/Unsplash 

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