Over coffee this morning with a friend who recently had her second child, the conversation turned to parenting ruts.
“It’s funny, when we had our first child we talked about how we would co-parent and distribute the jobs of child-rearing equitably. We committed to supporting each others’ unique ways of bonding with our child and we thought we really had our s… together. But fast forward six years and the birth of our second child and it is crystal clear to both of us that we are in some deep parenting ruts that are not healthy. Not for our kids, not for us personally, not for us as a couple and not for us as a family. I don’t know how the hell this happened but what is scarier is that I have no idea what to do about it.”
I knew what she was talking about, as I recognized after the birth of my second child that I was living in some pretty nasty parenting ruts myself. But I wanted to know more about her experience.
“What has you concerned most?” I asked.
She thought for a while and said, “I want to change those ruts, but when I think of all the areas I need to make the changes, it seems completely overwhelming. We both work, we are raising two kids with a six year age gap and I just don’t have any idea where to start.”
I sat quietly and waited.
“I have this feeling in my gut, or maybe in my heart, that I am going about this wrong, but I can’t tell you why I feel that way.”
I asked, “Is it a little bit like you are trying to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic but you already know the Titanic is going down?” Her eyes lit up.
Bingo. The sweet spot of “knowing” on some deep intuitive level that this is exactly what is going on and knowing that the solution is to change the course of the Titanic not rearrange the deck chairs.
“Okay, smarty” she said, “I know what the deck chairs represent – the ruts we are in – but what does the Titanic represent?”
“Your thinking.” I said, “When people, parents, give themselves time to pause, to rest, to contemplate, to examine without rushing to “do” anything, they create a space that supports a change in thinking. This change in thinking is usually dramatic, dynamic, and directional. As our thinking changes so do our actions. As our actions change to support the new thinking, our thinking becomes more aligned with our true goals. With this new clarity our confidence builds, we commit more deeply to this new thinking and change continues. It can be several months before a parent notices for the first time that the changes taking place in her life, the ruts are being replaced with paved roads of clarity and direction and it is happening with no struggle, no push, no exertion of energy. This is often described as a graceful process which happens naturally and effortlessly.”
We talked for a while longer, she rolling the possibilities through her mind and me holding the space of that earlier “aha” moment. As I drove home, I was reminded that we are a culture that believes that when we feel stuck, changing our circumstances, our location or our relationships will bring about a feeling of wholeness, of completion, but because our thinking hasn’t changed, it isn’t long before the aching returns, new ruts emerge and we are once again rearranging the deckchairs of our life.