Before I conceived my first child, I had a picture of how my family might look. You imagine the sweet baby, the chubby toddler and calm family meals where everyone laughs. Don’t get me wrong – I fiercely adore being a mum to my four boys, but the reality is different, (and much, much noisier) to the preconceived notions I initially had.
From the moment we conceive a baby the expectations or ideas about how that might look and who they might be are in our heads and hearts.
I vividly remember planning my family. I was going to have a boy and a girl who were best friends. I’d pick them up from school and make their afternoon tea from scratch, before talking about their day together, calming, without talking over the top of each other.
You can imagine my shock when I had two boys close together. One screamed relentlessly for 24 months, sick with allergies and reflux, and my toddler would run away from me, push kids off the top of the slide at the park and then bite anyone – even my close friends.
Once, after spending all morning making a birthday cake, I’d spent twenty minutes trying to get everyone into the car to go to my other child’s birthday. As we were leaving the house, one of my boys kicked a ball, which smashed a family heirloom vase into a million pieces, which fell on top of the cake I’d spent all morning making.
What was so confusing in this experience was that I was not the mother I had so wanted to be in the first few years of becoming a parent, and I had to grieve for the loss in the difference between perception and reality.
Yet I did myself a major disservice because I was afraid to talk about it in case people thought I was ungrateful or I didn’t love my boys.
Therefore I am asking every new parent, to allow themselves time to grieve the loss of any preconceived notions of parenting. When a new mother says “I really didn’t picture birth would be quite as traumatic, or “my baby cries all the time” don’t say “ah but at least you have a healthy baby”. Just listen and agree that parenting is tough, and some moments in parenting are gut-wrenchingly hard.
As a society we need to get over being uncomfortable with sadness. We need to embrace vulnerability and offer empathy to other parents, because chances are they are all going through the same experiences.
When we welcome and allow the grieving process we begin to let go of a vision of reality that isn’t serving us, or our child. The result is we can begin to create a new vision that will inevitably lead to more peace.
According to Dr Ken Moses who works with parents after their child is diagnosed with Autism “Parents generate core level dreams for their children even before the child is born. Grieving is the process whereby parents separate from those shattered dreams and begin creating new dreams.”
If you are struggling in your parenting it is likely that one of the tension points is the vision you had of your child has turned out different to the reality. If so, here five tips to allow grief to turn into acceptance:
In a moment we thought we could ‘never survive’ in parenting like when our child gets a diagnosis of something that is going to affect them physically or mentally, a moment we dread is actually the moment we are finally able to understand and accept our child in a new light.
Or when a special outing we planned for our kids just doesn’t work like we hoped we turn to our partner and laugh. Sometimes these moments are kind of the worst and the best – all in one.
These comprehensive, learn at your own pace courses give you access at any time to videos, audios and documents that covers the core areas of development when reaching these milestone moments as a parent or grandparent.
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