What is the biggest trap that parents fall into when it comes to parenting?
That life is now all about the child.
Life is not all about the child. The love you had for each other is what inspired you to go down this path of parenthood - together. To learn, to explore, and to expand - TOGETHER.
When we feel loved, when we feel supported, we face our challenges differently.
The experience of loneliness or feeling disconnected within ourselves can be diffused when we feel loved, seen, heard, and understood - and we have an inner knowing that our partner is there for us.
It is a myth that a dad or the supporting spouse/ partner can't do much during the pregnancy or the first few years of parenting. Their presence, their support, and their understanding - makes all the difference in knowing that you're not alone AND - they need you as much as you need them.
When John and I entered into parenthood - we were so excited! We thought that our rock-solid relationship would only get better and better, and we would thrive together as parents. After all, my speciality in coaching was around relationships - I mean, I had the tools, I was continually in self-development and transformational programs - I thought we had this nailed.
I was not prepared for the emotional roller-coaster and impact on our relationship when we became parents.
I really missed "us". I was challenged on "how to have a thriving relationship when you become parents".
I asked everyone I knew who were parents. I wanted to know what would work. I wanted to know how they could keep the spark or stay connected. These were the responses.
"Umm... this is normal. This is just how it is now - it is all about the children!"
"There is no time for our relationship."
"We both agree that our relationship is on hold until the children get older. We've just accepted it for what it is."
"I feel bad for my husband/ partner. Yeah, he isn't a priority right now. I can't even look after myself, let alone put energy into our relationship"
Admittedly, this is alarming. I couldn't accept that this was how life was going to be. I can accept it is common - and it is not normal. It certainly wasn't going to be our reality.
I didn't start a family with the one I love so we can grow apart.
Feeling the disconnection is widespread, it seems taboo, and nobody talks about it unless you ask. There is an experience of shame and guilt, or maybe even some resignation that life can be any other way.
I started getting interested in "why" and "how". I started doing research. I turned to the experts. I turned to mentors and families that seemed to be thriving - I learnt from them - and it is rare.
The ones that had thriving families challenged the prevalent and skewed perception; "Life is about the children."
The main reasons why we feel the disconnect:
He answered; "Avery, then your wellbeing, our family - and if I was to tell the truth, my wellbeing and our relationship is probably not a key priority."
For me, the order of priority was; "My wellbeing, his wellbeing, our relationship, then Avery".
It isn't to say that Avery wasn't important - I was just very clear that you can't give from an empty well. AND as adults, we are 100% accountable and responsible for being aware of what nourishes us in Mind, Body, and Spirit so then our being is overflowing with Love.
From the overflow, we feel so abundant within ourselves that we can give, and receive.
I was also clear that our relationship needed to be solid and felt safe with one another so we can have the courage to bring up the "hard conversations" about our childhood and deal with the baggage.
Without dealing with the baggage, we would be both blindly swimming in stale beliefs and wounds, accepting of the unconscious conditioning inherited from our parents, and then calling it a life.
So what did we do?
John had the belief that as long as I was happy, Avery was happy, that he would be fulfilled. He put his needs last. Because he had put his needs last - he couldn't make our relationship a priority. He based his self-worth on everything external and on circumstances out of his control. Real self-esteem starts within.
Together, we challenged this paradigm of thinking. We both worked on creating alignment on what we believed would empower us both as individuals, as a couple, and as a family.
We had the confronting conversations about our childhood - and we continue to do so. We continue to learn about one another, grow together, and create a space for each other to heal. Without healing, without dismantling beliefs that no longer serve us, we can't create a thriving life.
Our partnership is the foundation of why we became parents in the first place. Strong foundations are the result of love, effort and energy. If our foundation is shaky - we are then two individuals without any partnership "trying" to raise a family. It's an uphill and lonely battle where nobody wins. As the years pass, the cracks get bigger and bigger. We have a choice to deal with it now - or wait and it might be too late.
Where to from here?
Parenting transforms your relationship - and if you resist the transformation, the only alternative is growing apart. Your relationship can be nurtured into greatness or it can die a slow death.
Transformation is hard at first, messy in the middle - and glorious in the end.