I’ve always felt pretty confident about the decisions I make as a parent — until recently as I try to navigate the hormones of two nearly ten-year old girls. In order to get through these trying days I’ve used a combination of the Serenity prayer, girl friend support, parenting books and Kendall Jackson chardonnay.
But deeper than my exhaustion from the fights, exasperated comments, and eye-rolls, is the constant shadow of self-doubt that is creeping into my world on a regular basis.
You see, when my kids were younger, the decisions my husband and I made were implemented in a dictator-type style. My way or the highway right up to your room. But these decisions were about eating two stalks of broccoli, cleaning up the basement, or one more show on Nick Jr. Obedience was the yardstick in which I measured my parenting prowess.
Now the decisions seem to be getting a bit harder, and my kids are turning out to be real people who have to make choices of their own based on the life skills I help them develop. In addition to the day-to-day battles about clothes and when to go to bed and chores, etc., I now worry about other things. Like when can my kids have cell phones, how do I talk to them about drugs, how to deal with mean girls, what do I tell them about guns in schools, do I need to make them aware about the dangers of taking selfies and how do I explain to them that just because their friend’s parents bought them a brand new iPhone 5S for their 10th birthday that does not mean they are getting one. Ever.
Sometimes I literally feel their tiny hands slipping out of my grasp. And when I desperately try to reach out and grab for them, I often think, wow. I am completely screwing this up. We need to stop putting money into the college account, and increase the contribution for the therapist fund.
I know moms are always plagued with doubt. As new moms it’s “Do I really need to buy organic” or “Will the fact that I let them cry it out give them abandonment issues?” And I still hear doubt from my friends with older kids around dating, driving, school issues and career choices (but mainly about dating.) It never ends and can rock our psyche. Self-doubt can make good moms question their judgement or worse yet, forget who they are as parents.
I’ve been feeling this doubt. A lot. And it’s been getting the best of me. I can’t help but feel that I am making wrong decisions, saying the wrong thing, picking the wrong battles — all the time. This black cloud has been looming over me, making me feel exhausted, unmotivated and beaten down. It has crept beyond the parenting realm and into my marriage, my writing, my life. Doubt has made me more sensitive, less confident and a bit of a mess.
So, it was a surprise when cleaning out my e-mails I found an article I saved from a writing coach I admire, Lauren Sapala. The topic: “Self-Doubt: The Writer’s Constant Companion.” No joke. In her post, she discusses the doubt every writer feels when going through the process, and how doubt can make you do dumb things. While writing is cathartic, it also makes you incredibly vulnerable. There is just no way every person will receive your message the way you intended it. And not everyone is polite on the Internet. Kind of like parenting a tween.
That’s why I feel like this article could also be entitled: Self-Doubt: Every Mom’s Constant Companion. Who among us does not wonder how much we’re messing our kids up? My self-doubt has been growing daily like the weeds in my flower beds.
In her article, Lauren discusses that if we do not face our doubt head on, we give our power to it. To quote: “We automatically assume that it knows what’s best for us.” Kinda like when we let our doubt change the decisions we would make as parents.
But it gets better. This is where Lauren went from smart to brilliant in my eyes:
“There is a Buddhist exercise that helps people handle their fears by asking them to invite the fear in for tea. We can do the same thing with self-doubt (which is a form of fear). Whenever your self-doubt about writing shows up, use your imagination and invite it in for tea. Give your self-doubt a comfy chair and the option of cream and sugar. Ask your self-doubt what’s been going on, what’s happening, what’s new?
Most importantly, ask your self-doubt why it’s choosing to show up now, and what can you learn about yourself from observing it?
The key is to treat your self-doubt like it’s about four years old. Yes, of course it has value and things to teach you, and a certain innocent way of looking at the world that is interesting, but the fact remains that a four-year-old does not get to run your life. For obvious reasons. Most four-year-olds may think they have really good ideas, but eating cake every day for breakfast just isn’t going to work in the long run.”
Didn’t I tell you it was brilliant?
As moms, we can learn so much from this. Self-doubt is just another child we have to lead, another kid we have to put in her place. We can listen to it, but we cannot think that it knows better than us — what is in our hearts, what’s in our souls, what we want for our children, what we believe is best for them.
I had a long cup of tea with my self-doubt this morning, and I listened to what it had to say. I listened to how it was scared I was starting to lose my kids, how it felt I was losing control, how it was unsure about the influence other people had on them. I considered what it had to say about my parenting style, my communications skills, and my approach. I heard (again) how it feared for the safety of my girls, their ability to “fit in”, and letting them make mistakes.
And then I politely asked it to leave. I wrote down on a piece of paper five things that I was scared of for my girls, five things I wanted to teach them about my morals and values, and five things I did right as a parent. I thought long and hard about the way I wanted to communicate with them, and about the things I was doing wrong.
And for the first time in a while, I feel refreshed and ready to face my kids instead of dreading it. Because my kids are good, just like I know I’m a good mom. While I know I’ll keep making mistakes along the way, it won’t be because I made decisions based on doubt; it will be because I made a decision out of my beliefs of how to parent my girls and a whole lot of love.
So when that doubt creeps in this evening as I’m sure it will, I’ll kindly tell it to take a hike. I’m out of tea, and I’m sure as hell not sharing my wine.
Do you doubt yourself as a parent? How do you keep doubt from creeping in?