I hate that feeling: the feeling of inadequacy as a parent.
Even though deep down in me I know that I am a pretty decent parent, there are moments when the voice inside my head is saying: You SHOULD be better.
I´d like to close my ears because it simply harms my wellbeing and prevents me from enjoying my parenthood wholeheartedly.
Life has taught me that it´s not that easy to be a working parent and balance between millions of things. So I´ve learned to be more merciful and compassionate towards myself and to remind myself that good enough is enough. It has helped me a lot.
But what I especially hate about the feeling of inadequacy is that it always comes back. It feels like never ending battle where there seems to be only temporary peace. It´s frustrating!
Couple of weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon it happened again.
Our girls were taking afternoon nap and my husband was having coffee on the couch and looked a bit sad. “Is there something bothering you?” I asked.
I feel like a bad father. I don´t play enough with the children. When Liilia asked me to play with her yesterday I answered I can´t because I need to work. I felt such a lousy father after that! He answered.
But you ARE a good father! I´ve seen what a great father you are! And you DO play with them too. Of course all parents could play more but hey, what´s enough? You have your job, you´re helping me with the blog and you do a lot of other things for our family. What more COULD you do with the time and energy you have?
I don´t know? But I feel that I SHOULD do more. I SHOULD play with them more.
I took a cup coffee too. I started to think how many times I had refused to play with our girls during that week.
Many. Because Mom needs to get this work done today. Because mom needs to do the laundry. Because it´s already late and mom is tired.
Then it happened. The feeling of guilt was there again. The feeling that I am not enough.
I have tried many ways to feel good about my parenthood and learned that adding reasoning to what you feel helps.
Why did I say no to my children? Did I make a reasonable choice?
More often than not I’ve noticed that I actually have quite good and valid reasons to say no. It is parents´ duty to do things so that family life can run smoothly. Everyone needs clean clothes, breakfast, dinner, evening snack, good night sleep and time outdoors. Everyone needs time to rest too.
Then I remembered the 80/20 rule again: If in the long run you’re doing fine 80 % of the time, you don´t need to feel guilty for those 20 % when you’re not at your best. I felt a bit better again.
I also remembered what I had concluded about a year ago when I was struggling with these same feelings of guilty and inadequacy: That children don´t need you to be with them all the time. All that they need is that you are there for them when they really need you.
That is still what I truly believe in.
I continued my thinking process and ended up making a confession to myself. I confessed that honestly I am not that good at playing with our children. At least indoors. Sometimes I even prefer working over playing with them.
First I felt bad but then I realized that I have my own things what I like to do with our children. I DO like to build things with them, like playing with legos. I also like to bake with our children. And what I especially like is to play outdoors with them.
But wait a minute! I did all those things with the girls during that week!
So maybe I shouldn´t feel guilty of saying no to some of their playing requests?
I have been learning mindfulness over the years and little by little become better at gently pushing away other thoughts when I want to concentrate on the most important thing of the moment. Like playing with our girls in this case.
For many years I had also worked for living less on autopilot on my everyday life, learned to seize the meaningful moments of life more and prioritize them in practice in my everyday life.
It has brought more quality to time spent with my family.
And I believe that it has brought more quality to our children´s and my husband´s life too, and helped me to be a better mom and wife.
So maybe it was not about minutes and hours. I HAD TRIED to give my children all my presence and attention when I had been with them during that week. All that I was able to be at that very moment.
Maybe that’s enough.
After our conversation me and my husband decided to do something together as a family the next day. Something that we all would enjoy.
We went kick-sledging on the lake, did some ice-fishing and after that ate some warm sandwiches with tea by the fireplace.
When I went to bed that night the feeling of inadequacy was gone and the peace of mind was back again.
Before I fell asleep I still said to myself the words that had helped me many times before to feel good about myself:
All that you can do is to try your best.
Trying your best is enough.
YOU ARE ENOUGH.