Theres a new energy around our school gate this year. Most of my friends have now successfully released all of their children into the school system. They are starting to get their sparkle back after a few years of sleep deprivation. They have enough energy to raise their heads and look around them after six or seven years of being absorbed by the park, playground or kinder gym. These are mostly professional women, whose goals, ideas and ambitions have been closeted for a while. These are women with renewed energy who want to do something bigger now. Watch out, world.
Do you ever have those days when being a parent just isnt enough? Especially if, for now or for longer than that, youre a stay-at-home parent. There may be days when you want to crawl up the walls with frustration. You may think that you could be doing so much more, but your brain is being shrunk by the sheer monotony of nappies and nursery rhymes.
In our society there is so much emphasis on our achievements in the professional arena, out there in the wider world. Yet there is a unique creative energy that is part and parcel of being a parent, which should not be overlooked.
Before my children were born, I had a career in publishing and over a couple of decades took enormous delight in scaling the professional ladder. The birth of my first child closely coincided with the deaths of both my parents, so I was knocked off the career ladder by that unique combination of circumstances. In many ways that was the most difficult time of my life, yet out of that period came an opportunity to write my first book, Sophies Journey. It wouldnt have happened if I hadnt stepped away (or been pulled away) from the standard career path. And now, I wouldnt be anywhere else: my life has been transformed in strange and marvellous ways.
Maggie is a gifted actor who has received fantastic reviews for her performances in an independent theatre company. Her work is on hold while her son is young – Corie is just six months old – and Maggie plans to go back to the theatre in a few years. She is a gorgeous mother and Corie is a delightful little boy, but Maggies sense of inadequacy is overwhelming. Maggie says that her biggest challenge as a parent is the battle she has with the sense that being a parent isnt sufficient for her. She struggles daily with the mountain of guilt that follows, every time she feels that way. Parenting isnt enough for her, and somehow that makes her feel that she isnt enough of a parent.
Should parenting be enough? The expectation that parenting duties should be your lifes work is a relatively recent phenomenon, found only in certain parts of our planet at particular points in history aligned to specific phases of economic development.
Being a full-time mother or father probably wont be the sum total of your achievements for the next decade or three. It doesnt have to be, if youve got other things that you want to be part of. But when your children are young there is a limit to what you can take on, closely linked to the amount of sleep you get, and the incredibly intense care that young children require. So maybe, for now, for this season in your life, its a wonderful opportunity to retrain your eye, to draw pleasure from the events and sensations that surround you.
Take it a day at a time. Take delight and maybe even pride in what you achieved today, and scale back your expectations. Some days, the achievements will be bonsai maple rather than massive elm.
See your day as a small but perfect achievement in its own right. Look for opportunities to let your capabilities and talents shine. Many talented writers with babies and young children find themselves exploring the joys and challenges of poems and short stories when the time commitment required to complete their novel is out of their reach. For some of them, it unleashes a new and remarkable voice. No matter what your talent or where you want to be, now is a great time to find joy in the small things.
- Did you get out of the door with your baby and go for a walk to the park? Thats good going.
- Did your toddler go to bed with dinner in his stomach and clean sheets on his bed? Nice one.
- Did your six-year-old say, I love you? Thats precious beyond words.
Sally Collings is the author of the bestselling Sophies Journey, Positive and The World According to Kids. Her latest book, Parenting with Soul, is released by HarperCollins this month. Even as mother to girls aged six and seven, Sally still manages to grab the odd nanosecond of serenity. Visit Sallys website http://sallycollings.com to read more about finding peace and direction as a parent.