Doing the Work of Being a Parent

Have you ever looked back on your day and wondered where the time went? Or wondered why the parent you always thought you’d become isn’t quite in line with the reality of your day-to-day life? It’s easy for us to get caught up in the hustle and bustle. Work, eat, sleep . . . repeat. Autopilot engaged.

But how many of us are also on autopilot when it comes to
parenting our children?

When we slow down––just a teeny bit––and gain some perspective, the truth can be an uncomfortable pill to swallow.

One of my goals is to inspire parents to become fully present in their parenting. The first step to this is inner work. But what does inner work mean, exactly? It’s a term I first encountered on a wonderful site called The Parenting Passageway. (Psst! I love everything that Carrie writes.) In one of her early posts Carrie introduced me to a book called Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn. It is, I think, from here that the term in this context originates.

Everyday Blessings approaches inner work from a Zen Buddhist perspective. And while that path may not appeal to all, I think the Kabat-Zinns’ message is a fundamental one:Mindful parenting is hard.
It’s a message and a responsibility that I think applies to all parents, on all paths. It’s taking the time and having the willingness to look within and acknowledge the truth about ourselves. And from there, to find the truth in how we wish to guide our children. It’s drowning out the voices and following our own true path. And it’s one of the greatest tasks a parent can attend to.

If you have a few minutes, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you like the parent you are right now? Is it the parent you imagined you would be?
  • If you had all the time in the world, is there anything you would be doing differently?
  • What’s one simple way to connect with your children every day? Could you go and do it right now?
  • Are you and your partner on the same parenting page?
  • And lastly, in his book Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne wrote something truly eye-opening. It rocked my world more than a little bit when I read it. He wrote: You can see what a family holds dear from the pattern of their everyday lives.Think about that. Is what you hold dear truly reflected in how your live your life on a daily basis? If not, what has your life become a reflection of?

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Whatever decisions you come to, whichever path you may choose, the key to following through is inner work. It’s knowing yourself, accepting, forgiving, acknowledging, and understanding your own needs and limitations. Only then can you guide your children in accordance with your own heart. And that’s as it should be. Because if you aren’t thinking about these things, if you aren’t make these decisions for yourself and your family, if you don’t act on your own beliefs and share those with your children . . . someone else will do it for you.

Something to think about the next time you find yourself on autopilot.

Sarah Jenkinson



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