PARENTAL ASPIRATIONS, PODCAST INTERVIEW, UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS

A Recovering Perfectionist

Michelle Lee Diasinos is a Conscious Parent advocate, coach, author, and co-host of The Mothers’ Roundtable podcast with two children of her own. Read her chapter in the #1 International Best Selling Change Makers Volume 4, where she shares her personal transformation that led her into this place of service to parents navigating their unique path. A recovering perfectionist, Michelle delves into the challenges parents face when perfection becomes a problem. One of the many exciting projects she’s initiated is “Heal My Story,” a platform for people to anonymously write about their healing journey. Join our chat and hear what moved me to tears in what she said.

Podcast: Conscious Parenting with Michelle Diasinos

I chatted with Michelle about:

  • Motherhood was the first time she truly met herself.
  • She spent a lot of time doing work on her own, making peace with her past, releasing anger, frustration, and sadness. She was able to get to a place where she could be comfortable with the fact that her parents did the best they could at the time and did what they did with love.
  • Prior to parenthood, Michelle was a Special Education Teacher and worked in occupational therapy. She was a very calm person and thought she would be a patient mother. But being a parent is nothing like what you think it’s going to be like!
  • Michelle put immense on herself to be the best parent ever! She then realized that she was also pressuring her son to meet her perfectionist tendencies. As many parents did, she took her son’s behaviour to be a reflection of her (bad) parenting. This kind of situation made her realize she had a lot of work to do.
  • Even as a trained professional who was calm and using all the ‘right’ tools and techniques, she discovered she was capable of raging anger, explosions, and subsequent guilt. She’s come to realize that the anger is just an invitation to look deeper. All it meant was that she had a need that wasn’t being met.
  • Perfection is insidious! Most of us don’t even know we are perfectionists. Listen to the language you are using when speaking to yourself. For example when parents go to bed at night, they’re often thinking, “Did I do a good enough job?” This question might be driving their every action!
  • Children’s behaviour is an expression of their unmet needs. We as parents can do everything possible to meet their every need. How do we help them gain the tools to deal with not having their needs met?
  • Her “Heal My Story” project is a platform where anyone can share aspects of their healing story. I highly recommend you try it out if you are thinking about processing your trauma through writing. It is for anything that has surfaced during your healing journey that you want to put out there in the world.

Michelle’s message to Sandwich Parents is: “I acknowledge you. I know how tough this can be. I want to remind you that compassion is the salve. When you mess something up, and you inevitably will, because you are human, give compassion to yourself. Because each time that you do that, you are showing yourself unconditional love. You are showing your kids how to do the same, so that they can go out into the world and they can show it to others. This is sacred work. I see you. I thank you for doing this work.”

Join her on Instagram and Facebook, where you can learn more about how to live a truly Conscious Parenthood. And listen to her podcast, The Mother’s Roundtable, where every week she and her co-host Jessica Crescenzi  examine a topic related to parenting and give advice based on their expertise as parent coaches and their perspectives as mothers.

PODCAST INTERVIEW, STORYTELLING

Parenting with Humour

Adrienne Hedger is the award-winning cartoonist behind the popular web comic “Hedger Humor.” Her work has been featured on BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, Upworthy, Today.com, Yahoo!, Disney, Nickelodeon, and other popular media outlets. Several of Adrienne’s cartoons have become viral sensations, reaching tens of millions of people worldwide. She lives in California with her husband, two teenage daughters, and her dog.

When you are doing the work to understand your (often over-) reactions to your children, a lot of it can be quite challenging and emotionally heavy. Triggers take a lot of headspace to understand and process. Reframing our thoughts is difficult to do! So when I discover a source of humour that reflects parental challenges, I grab it and hold on as tightly as I can. That’s why I subscribe to Adrienne’s monthly emails: they make me laugh out loud.

It’s not that Adrienne’s cartoons are all mirth and jolliness, it’s that she gets it. Okay, yes, her cartoons can be silly and hilarious for sure, but she really, really knows the frustrations we parents feel and captures that perfectly. She then expertly takes challenging parental moments and helps us take a step back to see a bigger picture. She finds the funny in an emotionally charged moment,skillfully using storytelling to shift our perspective. Her message is: Parenting is HARD, but if we can laugh a bit during situations we can’t really control, maybe we can enjoy them a bit more.

We had the BEST conversation, in which she shared her story and parenting approach. We even had a cartoon moment of our own when she went into her closet to be near the Wi-Fi and have some quiet.

Podcast: Parenting and Cartooning with Hedger Humor

We talked about how:

  • Her life was lived in two very different worlds because her parents were divorced — her father was delighted by kids and laughed a lot, whereas her mother had to do the day-to-day parenting and so the threshold for silliness was at a more ‘normal’ level than Adrienne’s is now.
  • Her husband has a very different parenting style and she has had to share parenting duties full-time with another person, unlike her mother who had complete control. She cannot just run her own show! That took adjusting.
  • Her “unpredictable” parenting approach (to quote from her daughter) is actually consistent if we look at it from the perspective of stakes, like ‘harmless’ versus ‘safety’ issues. We concluded that the litmus test consists of asking: Is it ‘reversible’?
  • Sometimes people think that she lives in the ‘ha-ha’ happy world of cartoons. In actuality, she’s living in the same frustrating parenting world we all do.
  • The act of cartooning her life has changed her parenting. It’s kind of like being a reporter: she can step out of the drama and take a more meta view of the situation.
  • Parenting is so ridiculous. It is really, really hard. You love your kids so much. There is so much at stake. The best way to survive it is to turn to humour!

Her advice: Get yourself a notebook and put it somewhere very convenient, where you spend a lot of time in the house. Jot down funny ‘moments’ in your family life whenever they arise. Capture things that made your laugh or touched you. After a year of that, you will have gems to look at with warmth.

Read Adrienne’s hilarious and relatable cartoons at her Hedger Humor website, watch her videos on YouTube, like her Facebook page, and laugh along at Instagram.

FOCUS ON YOU

I Am Where I Should Be

We cannot control the past.

We cannot control other people.

As Aaron Burr sang in “Wait for It” (Hamilton, the Musical, with which I am absolutely obsessed), “I am the one thing in life I can control.” Since I don’t have any control over how I got here, the only thing I can do is to make this moment count. That is… two year from now, I want to look back at this phase of my life and say, wow, that was the best thing that happened to me.

If I’m here, I’m going to make this the best here I can make it.

Here is a result of past situations, choices, interactions… Here is where I am now.

My feelings are symptoms.. Discomfort means that my goals are more difficult than I’m capable of, so I need to adjust my expectations or I need to up my game by working harder and smarter. Anger means that I feel like someone has hurt me. Fear means that from experience, something like this has caused me pain in the past. Sadness means that I don’t think this is good for me. These are all symptoms.

When I’m frustrated with my kids, more often than not, they are acting in the way that I believe they ‘should not’ and in a way that I ‘did not’. However, upon more deeply reflecting, it’s that feeling of parental helplessness – 1) finding it difficult to solve their problems and to end their pain or 2) believing that this is a reflection of their inevitable future failure due to my failings as a parent. This often leads to anger and anxiously trying to control the situation. Or it could go the other direction, more like helplessness and depression.

If I focus on the relationship here and now, then my communication becomes more about listening and potentially hearing a solution they already have. Or maybe they just want to be understood in this moment. If I focus on learning from this and preventing this in the future, we can work together to make our future better… together. If I can accept that this moment is exactly where I am supposed to be, then I can stop and look for the opportunity to pause, listen, communicate and collaborate.

FOCUS ON YOU, UNDERSTANDING EMOTIONS

Raging at Kids is Signal: Need Self Care!

For the first few years of my kids’ lives, I thought that yelling at them was my way of disciplining and teaching them. But over time, I came to notice that 1) I wasn’t consistent in what I yelled at, 2) I had some specific triggers, and 3) while some things might have made a little sense to yell about, other issues were way too small to be mad at. Lastly, the fear and pain in their eyes were wrong. I hurt and scared them! As their mother, the one person who loves them most in the entire world, the one person who would do anything at all to keep them safe… *I* was causing them pain and they feared me.

It got me thinking.

And it got me digging.

It got me working on this issue.

I’d like to say that I quickly came to the conclusion that I could fix this by never yelling at them ever again, but it’s not quite that easy. There are so many levels of this and it’s very hard work to sort things out. But ultimately, I have come to the conclusion that something wasn’t quite working. And, while I was doing the best that I could, something needed to change.

Uncontrollable rage is never about the children. It’s about us as parents. It’s about our own insecurities and fears. It’s about our lack of control and our past traumas. Rage is what we turn to when we feel like there’s nothing else we can do. It’s our way of throwing temper tantrums. The problem is that rage literally does nothing to solve the problem at hand. If anything, it only makes things worse in the long run. It damages the relationship we have with our kids; they lose trust in and respect for us.

Raging at our kids doesn’t make us terrible people. It just means that we don’t have enough energy, headspace, or wherewithal to skillfully deal with the challenge in front of us. We feel so helpless that we can only rage.

It’s really a signal to stop and breathe. It’s time to remember the bigger picture. It’s a moment to love yourself and your kids. Once you find your equilibrium, then you can reconnect and communicate. It doesn’t mean they didn’t deserve a scolding or discipline. It doesn’t mean they don’t still need your guidance. It’s doesn’t mean you can’t be mad about what they did (or didn’t do). It just means you need to make sure that you are responding appropriately and thoughtfully rather than reacting in a knee-jerk manner.

But… when was the last time you had enough sleep? When did you get lost doing something you loved to do? When did you put yourself first? When did you pamper yourself? When did you have alone time to regenerate and rebuild your resilience?

If your answer is “I don’t remember…” then give yourself a break. You are running on empty and none of us are at our best behaviour when we don’t take care of ourselves. And guess what? The most vulnerable people around us suffer when we run ourselves to the ground!

So, without judging yourself for that rage, will you join me in taking care of ourselves first so that we can be the best version of a parent for our kids?