As time poor parents pursuing full careers and creating amazing childhoods for our children, we have our work cut out.
When you first found out you were having a baby, no doubt you read every book or article you could get your hands on and attended classes to prepare.
Once baby arrived, you knew your life would never be the same again and you would love the miracle that lay before you in a way you never previously imagined.
What you didn’t know and couldn’t prepare for was how much you’d be required to change to accommodate this baby, this person. And as much work as it is, you wouldn’t have it any other way.
Add a career to this picture and there is a reality that kicks in, logistics of child care and school (when they are of age), the carers and teachers to connect with, other parents to catchup with and then the paperwork – who knew there’d be so much paperwork?! On top of this you find out all sorts of things about your partner that were OK to handle before a child, after a child – not so much! Come on, be honest..or was it just me?
And in amongst all of this reality, nowhere once are you taught how to thrive in amongst the sheer volume of responsibility. It’s not a question of reducing your career (which is an option some choose), it’s a question of how do I do all the things that make me feel alive and ensure my children and family thrive too?
Now, let’s be clear this is a conversation around fulfilment. If we’re referencing Maslow, you’ve got the basic, social and belonging needs down pat (or thereabouts) and doing these well – this conversation is about fulfilling your potential and your child’s potential in the most efficient way possible.
You want to raise kick-ass children, who do kick-ass well in life and are happy and healthy to boot.
You want to be an awesome role model and make significant contributions at home and at work.
And so what’s a parent supposed to do when time is such a big issue and most organisations talk about work-life balance but let’s face it, most cultures still need to catch up re talking about parents that leave early or arrive late – wake up people – they do MORE than their fair share! (To be fair things are changing, but not as fast as I would like).
When I work with executives and leaders about raising kick-ass children when you have such limited actual time together, there are three things to focus on to enable your child to feel loved, seen and heard. They are: Love, Acceptance and Understanding.
Let’s dig in to each one.
Sounds pretty straightforward doesn’t it? Of course I love my child, I hear you say. The reality is most of us grow up with beliefs that we are only loved for certain reasons. I am loved because I did well at sport… I’m loved because I got a certificate at school… I am loved because I’m good at making friends or because I’m caring towards others or a myriad of other conditions. For most of us love has been given and received with conditions.
It is actually very difficult to love a child unconditionally because let’s face it, it’s difficult to love ourselves unconditionally. I know I still beat myself up when I don’t hit business milestones. I mean I know this stuff, I live it everyday, and hardwired in my sub-conscious is this belief that I’m only lovable if I’m achieving (I’m working on it..!). If you know what I’m talking about, then you understand the importance of unravelling the layers of conditions you live by everyday and the impact this has on your child receiving love.
So where can you focus as a busy parent?
Focus on your availability. We live in the distraction age. We can be talking to children, on our phones and laptops all at the same time. Creating a practice of mindfulness, meditation or self-awareness where you can switch off your mind to be fully there with your child in the moments you have, helps them to formulate the belief that they are worthy of your time and attention. By taking this time you not only give them love, you receive it too. A child believing they are loved no matter what, gives them a launch pad to pursue anything they want.
Contrary to popular belief, acceptance is not ‘giving in’ to your child or their behaviours – acceptance is: I can accept my child for who they are. I may not like their behaviour or the way they are speaking to me right now but I can give myself space to choose my response. If you find yourself blaming them, judging yourself or complaining to others, you give away your power to take control of your situation. How many times have you found yourself complaining about your child or judging yourself for the way you reacted? Awareness is useful, berating yourself or others is not.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Viktor E. Frankl
So where can you focus as a busy parent?
Focus on your accessibility. Accessibility is the degree to which your child feels comfortable to approach you. Ask yourself how much you want and expect your child to be someone other than who they are? Do you want them to be great at soccer because that’s your thing? Do you want them to follow a career because you think it’s a safe bet, even though they may not enjoy it? What do you believe about who your child should be or not be? Keeping these questions at the forefront of your mind and by becoming aware of your answers in the first instance, you will increase how approachable you are and therefore your accessibility for your child.
In order to understand your child, you first need to understand yourself. Are you routine driven and your child is go with flow, are you big picture and your child is detailed? Understanding yourself is the key to understanding your child. No doubt you have done some sort of leadership assessment at work: MBTI, DISC, Strengths Finder. Have you ever considered doing one in the context of parenting?
Dr. Dan Siegel, author of Whole-Brain Child summed it up like this, “The #1 predictor of a child’s well being is a parent’s self-understanding.”
The number one area my clients have created transformation in their families, is by gaining understand on their own attitudes and motivations.
So where can you focus as a busy parent?
Focus on your adaptability. Let’s say you prefer big picture and your child enjoys details. When your child shares a story about their day or something they read about in a book, you tune out because you find the detail of the child in the story wearing a red t-shirt, excruciating (I mean who cares if it’s red or blue, right?) Well, your child might care because details are important to her. The more we understand our own biases, the more we learn to appreciate theirs. Learning about yourself in this way makes you super-efficient when communicating with your child in their preference, not yours. For parents that find their children don’t listen, this one area relieves that problem because you are gaining flexibility in how to communicate in the way your child prefers.
So the three areas again – For love, focus on your availability; For acceptance focus on your accessibility and for understanding, focus on your adaptability. Note, these are ongoing incremental changes, not big bang theory. Be kind to yourself.
You’ve got this!
PS – Whenever you are ready, here are four ways I can help you align family and work:
1. Download the Parent as Leader whitepaper
Get a high level understanding on how to be your best self in leading your family – click here
2. Grab a copy of my book
Order here and receive a signed copy. It’s called Smart Parenting – How to Develop Your Child’s Mindset, Resilience and Courage for the Future of Work. I like to think of it as practical guide for moment to moment parenting to raise awesome kids.
3. Come to my Aligning Family and Work Lunch
Click here to see upcoming sessions and on my Eventbrite page.
4. Work with me one-on-one
If you’d like to work directly with me to stop the feeling of guilt and always catching up or missing out so that you feel present and enjoy your time with family, book in a time to discuss your situation and see if we might be a fit.