Why Motherhood Requires Learning To Let Go And Watch
Motherhood is one crazy roller coaster of emotional ups and downs. While a handbook would be nice and often feels required, one does not exist. We are wading through the weeds, without a map looking for the path that leads to well-adjusted, kind, compassionate members of society: no pressure or anything. So, moms, what is the plan? When do we know to hold on and guide or let go and let them wade through the weeds alone?
What is Your Parenting Style?
I see motherhood through the lens of anxiety. Seeing the world this way, I am overly sensitive to the plights my children face. I know everyone worries about the social, emotional, and physical well-being of their children, but my worry is amplified. This may or may not make me a borderline helicopter parent. Intellectually, I know it is better to guide my children over controlling their every move; but it is a mental battle for me to let go of the reigns and see what happens. As a person who despises the emotional energy caused by confrontation, in some cases, I cave and fall into jellyfish parenting. I like to think I choose my battles wisely and know when to let go, but sometimes I think I cave under emotional exhaustion. My overall goal is to be a dolphin parent. The dolphin is firm but flexible while valuing creativity and independence. I strive to guide my children by having them observe my behavior as I navigate the day-to-day.
Experience Dictates Motherhood
Even with the best intentions, our individual experience will dictate how we parent. Our actions are a reaction to the things happening around us. A traumatic experience can create an uneven rhythm to our parenting. It can take us to a place we never planned to go. Remember there is no rule book, no playbook, no handbook. Each one of us is making things up as we go along.
As an example, my motherhood journey with my oldest child is filled with ups and downs. Everything was smooth sailing until she entered school. Then the floodgates opened, and we were drinking from a fire hose for the better part of eight years. During those years, the difficulties were many. Doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, teachers, and principals were all involved as we navigated through uncharted territory. During this entire time, I was the anchor that kept us in port. As emotions elevated, I would pivot to diffuse the situation. I guided our way through tumultuous waters. Sometimes you make plans and let people follow them, but in this case, the plans were in constant motion, and there was always a need to pivot. Controlling the environment was the only chance I had to keep us from sinking. To read our whole story, click here.
It Is Time to Step Back and Let Go
Today we are in a more stable emotional environment. My now 15-year-old Freshman in high school is on a medication and therapy plan that gives her calm and focus, outside the normal angsty teenage stuff. The need for me to control every turn of the journey is passed. Now I need to let go and guide. The transition of power from me to her is more difficult than I anticipated. I want nothing more than my child to be happy and successful. Watching her struggle in any way gives me incredible anxiety. I watched her struggle and fight for eight years in an environment that required me to step in and advocate for what was required. Now I must step back and help her learn to advocate for herself.
Watching the Transition of Power
Creating new boundaries is a process. Instead of my stepping in and making all the calls, we talk about what is needed, and I lead her in taking the first step. Dependent on the situation, I may write an email to help navigate our way through a problem. But now, my goal is to step back and watch. I wait for her to ask for help, rather than giving her the third degree and handing over the plan of action. It is challenging for me as a mother. I controlled all the minute details of our day-to-day for a long time. Now I am an observer as she figures things out on her own.
What I See
As a result of letting go, I have the privilege to see the joy on my child’s face as she navigates high school. I see the pride with each success. Watching her confidence build as she learns to communicate her needs and ask for help is a sight to behold. We are still learning. I’m learning not to panic when I see things go less than perfect. It is her job to pivot now. The final product is of her design. It does not need to be done my way. She is learning when to ask for help. More than once, I’ve walked in on a complete meltdown, papers spewed across her bed. A few minutes of discussion and things are less overwhelming. She is learning help does not equal failure. Help moves us forward.
On a New Path
I often still wade through the weeds of motherhood, looking for a clear path. I have three children. Three separate journeys, each lacking a map or guidebook. Some days I need to step in, take control, and lead the charge. Other days it is time to let go and watch as my children lead me down the path. Together we will get to the end of our journey. They will learn from me, and I will learn from them. By letting go, I have the opportunity to watch and learn as my children grow into the kind, well-adjusted, compassionate members of society I know they will become.