The other morning I woke up feeling low. I have a problem with the circulation in my legs, and the pain had been bothering me a lot recently.
I tended to numb my feelings, eating chocolate, or having some caffeine, but I didn’t like the side effect of feeling edgy and finding it hard to relax. I’d been trying to give up caffeine, because when I didn’t drink it I felt really present with my daughter. It was easier to let go of the need to rush around and achieve things, and just share her joy in playing with her Lego or her train set.
I messaged my listening partner and asked if she would like to exchange 5 minutes of listening time each. My daughter was watching TV, and I asked her if it would be okay if I left her for 10 minutes. She agreed. I would be in the other room, and I would be able to hear what she was doing.
I talked to my listening partner about how I felt constantly under pressure, how the work of being a parent never stops. I cried about how much my legs hurt, and if I were on my own I would just get dressed and go out for a walk which always helps. I cried about how hard it was just to get ready to leave the house, how there seemed like so much to do, from getting breakfast and thinking about snacks, to making sure my daughter was dressed, and navigating all the discussion about what to wear. I cried about how if she went to get herself ready and got distracted by playing, I was torn between taking that moment of independent play to get stuff done, or worrying that if I didn’t interrupt her we would be late. I cried at how complicated it seemed.
When my 5 minutes was complete, I listened to my partner for 5 minutes. My daughter came in just as the timer went off. I instantly felt in a much better mood, and when I walked around finding my daughter’s clothes, the pain in my legs was much better! I realised how much of it was stress, and pressure, as well as the physical difficulty. I felt much better emotionally as well. The simple task of getting ready didn’t seem so overwhelming anymore. We left the house, and went for a cycle ride together. I felt even better after that.
It’s sometimes difficult to remember that there is a way out of those hard moments we all experience as parents. Often our feelings are not just about the present moment, but due to a build up of stress. So when we can release the stress by having a good talk, laugh or cry, then the present moment seems brighter, and we are not so weighed down with baggage from the past.
I usually do my listening times at the end of the day, and I don’t always cry as easily as I did then in the heat of the moment. As parents, a lot of our most desperate moments are in the middle of the day, when we’re feeling overwhelmed with our responsibilities and there isn’t another adult around to take over and help out. So if you have a listening partner, or good friend, make a deal with each other that you’ll try to remember someone is there for you in your most stressed out moments, and give them a call. It can completely turn your day around.