Being a parent is an honour, a joy and a gift. It is also anxiety provoking, time guzzling and very stressful. Especially for mothers. Yes, that is a generalisation and it is also a reality.
When Chantal was a new mother, dizzy with sleep deprivation and overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caring for the tiny demanding soul, who’s only form of communication was crying, there were moments where she wondered whether she would get through this period to a time where her child could walk, talk, dress and feed herself. Not to wish their lives away, but to be in a place where she wasn’t so depended on.
Parenthood, life’s greatest joy and challenge?
Stress gets in the way
What nobody tells you is the bigger our dear darlings get, the bigger the worries, the troubles and the problems surrounding them. No matter how old they are, we still have concerns about their health, happiness, work situation and significant relationships. We stress about them, even when we can do nothing about their choices. We stress about a lot of things as parents and it truly gets in the way of being present to the unfolding of our children’s lives.
It is a human drive to feel safe, seen and heard. Some of us are born with a super power, developed in utero, that makes us super sensitive to the emotional states of our primary caregivers. What this means is that if there is any indication, conscious or not, that our primary caregiver is not in a great receptive, open, emotional state, it sets the littley off into a spiral of anxiety that colours the world.
This colour is otherwise known as ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder. Some don’t believe the disorder exists thinking that these hyperactive, willful, distractible beings are just difficult and behave this way on purpose. It does and they don’t.
Being in nature can help alleviate our stress
It's the stress, silly
Reading Gabor Mate’s book Scattered Minds: A new look at the origins and healing of Attention Deficit Disorder, Chantal reflected on her journey with her daughter who has ADD. She had often wondered where it came from, as her previous understanding is that it was hereditary. Now new evidence suggests that it has more to do with the amount of stress the mother goes through while pregnant as well as in the nine months after the birth of the child.
No judgement or criticism is bestowed upon the parent. As parents we do what we can in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.
“It's no wonder you have ADD,” Chantal said to her daughter in a recent call.
“Really? Why do you say that?” asked her daughter, curious about this out of the blue revelation.
“I always thought I had the most trouble-free pregnancy, that I was healthy, fit and glowing. I was, but I was also perpetually anxious about our finances. It consumed me. Then when you were born, you had colic. I was unable to soothe you.”
Chantal recounted how at the time of her daughter’s birth finances were very tight. She had gone so far as to find a second job to prop up the savings for the time she would be on maternity leave. The colic, lack of sleep, the inability to soothe her baby all impacted the attachment and attunement to her new child. She felt at a loss and quite useless as a new mother.
Feeling incapable when usually so accomplished and capable, Chantal was also lonely, with no-one to share her worries with. She almost looked forward to going back to work but, inevitably, that brought more worries. Going to daycare so young exposed her daughter to endless colds, upper respiratory infections and too many antibiotics.
“I’ve always said you deserved a much more nurturing, attentive, home-bound mother.“ Chantal said it as a matter of fact not because she was berating herself or looking for accommodation. “If I had known what I know now, I could have made different parenting choices.”
It starts with me
Our internal emotional state impacts everything in our lives. At 5th Place, we have known this inherently and, as has been the nature of our work, we have found more and more evidence that in fact this is a truth. We can’t heal our outer world unless we heal our inner state. We cannot help others unless we first heal ourselves. This means attending to that thing called stress.
Stress is so prevalent in our society and its effect is far more wide reaching than we care to acknowledge. Without appreciating its impact it’s no wonder that we have become numb to the effects of our whirring inability to deal with our anxiety, racing hearts, crampy stomachs and headaches.
In spite of the fact that it makes us less attentive, more irritable, reactive, aggressive and dissatisfied, we reach for the packet of Lays, Coke, coffee and cupcakes. Or wine, painkillers and fast food. Stuffed, stuck and staring at our muffin tops creeping over our ever tightening jeans we wonder what the hell is wrong with us?
“I just can’t lose the weight,” said a stressed-out friend, “I’m doing more exercise than ever and it refuses to budge.”
Well it just won’t until you just stop all that stress. Really. We can’t say it more often and more emphatically we have to put a stop to all our stress. For ourselves, our families and our quality of life.
Taking time out to stop and reflect helps too
Attunement is the missing link
More and more children are susceptible to ADD and more and more will be if we don’t do things differently. The really great news is that if your child presents with ADD characteristics, or you do as an adult, it’s not something you just have to live with. The most remarkable element of the healing process hinges on attunement. That attunement that was missing between you as the carer or you as the baby and the other.
First is to learn to become attuned to ourselves by doing the inner work. Next to relearn how to become attuned to our children. Developing an emotional connection that says we are here, present and engaged, as opposed to distracted and consumed, that we can be trusted to keep them safe and we love them no matter what they do or say.
Little drops of connection, linked by gossamer threads remind us of our ability to build community
Better relationships, better world
Of course it is more layered than that but the concept is sound. Matthew, interestingly enough, presents with ADD characteristics. Based on what we now know we feel empowered to make new choices. Gabor Mate says in his book:
“We have seen that the very first step in helping the ADD child is to strengthen the security of her relationship with the parents.”
We believe that the very first step is to strengthen the security of our relationships - full stop. Better relationships means less stress. Less stress means better relationships. And the world becomes a better place.
The time has come to take stress management seriously. Seriously, our world depends on it.
Until next time,
Yours in feeling,
Chantal & Matthew
About the author
5th Place is a dynamic organization that's passionate about emotional fitness. We're the creators of Shape of Emotion, a revolutionary tool that's changing the way we understand and manage our emotions. But we're not just about theory - we're about practical, tangible change.
We offer Emotional Fitness Classes and courses that help individuals, from children to adults, build emotional resilience and well-being. For our younger audience, we've created the Vibarealm, a vibrant universe that encourages a healthier interaction with emotions.
Join us on this journey to emotional fitness and let's make the world a better place together.