A tool is something that helps us get a job done and in this series I am focusing on the job of raising our children, but it could equally be applied to succeeding in life as a whole. Parenting is just what some of us do as part of our lives.
It became apparent to me when I sat down to write a list of all the things that have helped me on my parenting journey, that they divided into two different types.
On one hand we need practical or organisational tools. And on the other emotional or communication tools. It’s another chicken and egg situation. Neither of these two different types of tools are dominant; without one the other cannot succeed.
If the practical side of parenting is easier, we are less fraught and tired out by it and therefore have more emotional resources. Equally, if we are feeling on an even keel emotionally, we are better able to ensure the practical side of parenting is taken care of.
The first tool I want to highlight is community, a tool that for me falls into the practical bracket, but has so many impacts on the emotional side of parenting too. So important and seemingly so obvious, but it cannot be easily dismissed.
The three times in my life that I have been really down, have also been the three loneliest times of my life. The times that I felt that it was not worth me carrying on, the times that I looked for a way out. The times that I could not see a way forward within the realms of reality.
Each of these times I had a person who supported me, and prevented me crashing down. But I am convinced that the lack of a community around me at those times was a key influence in allowing me getting to the depths that I did.
My community was lacking in two distinct ways; quantity and quality. I had few deep relationships, and those I did have, were not of an adequately supporting or understanding nature. I did not have people around me who ‘got’ my position, with whom I could share.
On one hand you need to have presence of people in your life, but that is not enough. They also need to be open and willing to help you and you need to be open and willing to share. And between you there needs to be trust and no fear of judgement.
What does my community look like now?
I have a small but varied community, which is still evolving, made up of mostly unrelated people; a couple of school friend, an ex-colleague, an old neighbour, some other playgroup or school gate mums, someone I met through a children’s activity club and a few bloggers who have welcomed me to the online world.
They are people who share similar perspectives on things that are part of my belief and value system, be it small or large.
How does my community support my mental health and my parenting?
They are people to whom I have bared inner secrets. That has been the biggest key for me to find; that opening up to others builds trust and therefore community.
They act as a sounding board for when things aren’t going quite to plan, to help me work out a solution. I know that I am not alone. My community validates my feelings and imbues me with a sense of confidence in what I am doing as a person and as a parent.
How does my community improve the outcomes for my children?
I have a greater level of inner strength to guide my parenting resulting in much less negative behaviour from me. I am modelling for my children being supported and supporting others; they can see that this is a successful way to live their own lives, even if they never become parents themselves, they can apply it generally.
And what now?
It has not been an easy journey. Yes having children has given me a chance to meet a variety of new people but more than anything I grew more willing to open my heart, take a risk and expose my vulnerabilities, and invest in strengthening relationships.
In my mission to empower parenting and work towards happier parents and children, I have decided to take another risk. To create and establish my own hashtag, #empa, to allow others to talk about their emotional state, the influences of this on their parenting, and to provide support to others.
Please use the #empa hashtag if you want to open a discussion on empowered parenting, and tweet me at @FillingGlass. I’d love to hear your views.