I read a book once about how marriage is like a crucible… a container you heat up to a really high temperature, melting something in it before you pour it into a mold. To me, parenting has really been like being in a crucible. Turning up the heat and pressure forced me to pay more attention to my inner monsters.
The parenting role and its responsibilities help me contain myself as I melt. And in the melting (or meltdown?) process, I must confront every flaw I haven’t yet finished dealing with or didn’t know I had.
The high temperatures are the lack of sleep, the constant need for my time and attention, the 24/7 sense of being on duty or on call, the many many things to do and things to give up, having so little time for solo recharging and being with my husband and friends.
The bubbles and flaws that come up are leftover wounds from my own childhood, character flaws for which the workarounds no longer apply, a million billion new fears, my yearning to be the best parent I can be to LittleA, and an intense hunger for a clear, vivid sense of my identity… who I am right now other than mama.
All of these fears and pressures, I believe, ultimately come from the fact that being a parent tests you in new ways and makes you newly vulnerable and open to the world… almost like being a child again yourself.
The fear of failure that parenting opened up for me led me to do some work on my own inner demons and monsters. The image in this post is my own playing with a page from Havi Brooks’ Destuckifying Monster Manual and Coloring Book, in which Havi teaches us to open negotiations with our own monsters. Her book takes the perspective that our monsters are trying to help us when they sabotage us by yelling in our heads or otherwise acting out. This particular monster that I colored upon and wrote all over is all about my fears around further building my coaching business. Those fears turn out to tie back in with a lot of my fears about being a parent and somehow needing to be perfect and guaranteed-for-sure safe.
I have been working on talking to my monsters, understanding what they are trying to help me with, and trying to collaborate with them on healthier ways to get my needs met. The monsters often have interesting ideas if I can get them to brainstorm with me instead of just yell.
In recent weeks, I have felt a softly burgeoning feeling of hope, of a perspective gently growing within me which holds all of me… who I have been and who I am becoming, which includes being a parent but also many other things. I hope that letting go of the self-imposed pressure to Not Fail will make it easier to move forward and grow.
And of course, all the joy and giggles and cuddles and love and every other single wonderful thing I get to share and give and receive with my husband and son make this whole parenting thing more than worth it in every way. The hard parts… are my opportunity to grow and to mold myself again and again into ever-evolving new shapes.
Sometimes it feels like a crucible, or maybe a kiln in which I willingly place myself to be transformed. Or a fire which I must walk through, an act of initiation. And on the good days it feels more like a really awesome hot tub. A really awesome crowded hot tub with all my loved ones and all my monsters to keep me company as we sweat and purge and relax and let go.
Has parenting upped the pressure you put on yourself? Forced you to confront an inner demon or two? Share your experiences in the comments.