Eighteen years ago I used to swim in the sea pool near my home every day when I was pregnant with my first child. Bobbing about like a small whale. It was summer, so the sea helped me keep cool and it took the weight off my legs.
I was excited and very, very nervous.
I had no idea of the wild, life-changing adventure that was about to begin. Jeremy was born on 01/01/01 at 1.01am.
I kid you not.
Just after the fireworks had ended to bring in the new millennium.
01/01/01 sounded like some sort of crazy-weird numerology to me. I have no idea about numerology, but life sure got crazy after he was born.
He was born at home, in a blow-up paddle pool in the tiny living room. I had my darling husband and my best friend holding onto me as I screamed my way through labour. After he was born I sat in the pool for ages with him lying on my chest. Just stunned and amazed. Completely in awe.
The story of my life had just taken the most astonishing twist. Everything was different.
I’ve been back to the sea pool recently, a little over 18 years later. Each time I visit here I think of those whale-days before my life changed forever.
I’d feel so much love for the woman I was then, but I don’t miss my 35 year old self at all. She was a mess; full of fear and self-judgement, defensive and reactive and with so much unexpressed emotion and confusion.
Now I float in the sea pool a different woman altogether. One who has had her life unraveled and her stories rewritten and who has found the deep peace that she always craved.
Parenting challenged me in more ways than I could have imagined, especially after my second son was born.
It opened up old pain and pushed every button.
I found myself saying things to my children that shocked me and shed tears of frustration and overwhelm almost every day for years.
I “lost it” and yelled at my children and my husband countless times.
There were days where I felt things couldn’t possibly get worse, and yet my imagination ran riot with fears about the future.
It wasn’t all bad – not at all. But the early years were an emotional roller coaster. My stress and suffering got bad enough that I was motivated to find ways to change, heal and grow.
I didn’t want to just “cope” with being a parent.
Relying on punishments, limits and rules to control my children was not the path I wanted to take.
I wanted to actually enjoy parenting and be confident that I could handle the challenges without yelling and struggle.
To wake up in the morning and feel relaxed and happy about the day ahead was my dream.
I wanted to THRIVE.
Doing the inner work to find more peace and joy became my passion.
It’s been an amazing inner journey, full of learning and surprises. I want to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned in that time.
I believe we’re all on our own paths. My lessons are mine. Yours will be yours. And there’s some universality to our experiences.
In celebration of my 18 year anniversary as a parent, here are the biggest lessons I’ve learned along this journey. I intend these insights serve you on your path, this year and beyond.
1. I couldn’t thrive without becoming a wiser, stronger and more grown up version of myself.
Starting a family and raising a child or children is one of the biggest personal development opportunities you can experience. Children are always changing and new challenges keep arising. Each phase of my parenting journey needed a different mindset, new skills and new actions from me.
I discovered very quickly that if I wanted to avoid using punishments, threats and rules that I needed to learn some new ways of solving problems. I also needed to upgrade my communication skills.
We need to invest in ourselves, our learning and our inner life if we want to grow and meet the challenges as the opportunities that they are.
2. Don’t get lost in the story of the “good mother.”
I used to have strong pattern of self-judgement. In my own mind I was never “good enough”. I pushed my self so hard trying to be the “good mother” of my imagination that I got to the point of physical and emotional breakdown. My expectations of myself were completely unrealistic.
Quieting those voices of self-judgement is vital to being able to enjoy life at home with children.
3. Live life with an open mind.
It was so easy to get caught up in my own plan for how family life should be. I found myself falling back into old beliefs about how children should behave and learn and ended up judging my children. If I had stayed stuck in my old beliefs and expectations I would have ended up in constant stress and conflict.
Instead, I learned to question everything I believed about how and when children should grow, develop, behave, learn and become independent.
Each child has their own unique path to follow. Life goes much more smoothly if you don’t expect them to fit your predetermined plan.
4. Focus on right now and the beauty of what is.
Don’t let your days be dominated by fears about the future.
I noticed how often my fears about my children’s health, well-being and learning were pushing me into trying to control them. I also noticed that the battles and struggles did more harm than good.
Instead of being scared by the stories in your head, learn how to meet your fears with understanding and to question them. Do your research about health, well-being and learning but above all, pay attention to the beauty of the present moment and the precious relationship you have with your child. It doesn’t have to be stressful and it doesn’t have to be a struggle.
5. Make self-care a priority.
We all know that parenting is hard, physical work. Sleep deprivation and demands for attention are no joke.
Even once I had found some peace from my inner critic and questioned my expectations, I still needed to have some time to myself to tap into my inner world.
Making time for simple practices that brought me back to my own inner peace and wisdom was vital to my well-being. I discovered that the best form of self-care has been my own spiritual journey. That’s what keeps me calm and balanced when my children or husband are anxious or angry.
It was also important to connect with other parents who were on a similar path. I wanted to share my challenges, have a laugh and learn from each other.
I’d love to share more of my journey with you and tell you more about what I’ve learned. I want to share the tools I used so that you too can find relief from stress and struggle.
I did years of research and trial and error. I want you to be able to take the short cut.
The Joyful Parenting Course will give you the practical skills that you need to become the confident, peaceful parent that you have always wanted to be. You can find the details and book your place at https://www.freyadawson.com.au/joyful-parenting-course/