There’s an underpass at LAX going north on Sepulveda Blvd, and it’s pretty amazing since sometimes a plane is taxiing right on top of you. I was born a mother traveling through that underpass sometime in 2005. My daughter had been born maybe 3 months before; the timing is now vague. However, I remember crying as I drove to yet another audition (yes I used to be an actor) worried that I had left my preemie alone with a baby sitter I barely knew.
In the time it took to drive through that underpass a multitude of thoughts crossed my mind: I will never be a good mother. I am so irresponsible why did I have a baby. How do I not mess her up? Why am I leaving her? Who am I? My husband is going to figure out what a mess I am and leave and take my daughter. I drove to the side of the road and sobbed, the ugly kind of sobbing with snot, tears and screaming. And then I knew it. In the midst of all that pain I realized I hurt because I had to put her first. It hurt because I had no idea how to do that, and I was also afraid of losing who I had been up to that point. It was cathartic and terrifying, a labor of sorts, and in that moment I realized that I am her mother and I have to figure this out.
I would be lying to you if I said that was the last time I fell apart. It was actually the first of many. In the months and years since that time, I survived through post-partum depression. I went to multiple years of intense psychotherapy. I fought my husband and fell in love with him again. I changed my career and earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology. I began the journey that has culminated in what is now Stop Parenting Alone, my center for parents, family and children. Through that heart wrenching, soul searching, and painful experience, I realize I have been developing as my children’s parent.
You see, what I have come to understand is that as our children develop, we, as parents, also have to develop and grow. I tell parents that your parenting age is the age of your oldest child. As a mother I am as old as my oldest child. I cannot know more. This is all I have experienced thus far. So where are you in your parenting journey? Here are a few questions to ask yourself to get you to become conscious and reflective of your parenting development:
At what moment were you born a mother/ father? How did you know?
What did you lose about yourself when you became a parent?
All children are born with lessons for their parents. What lessons have your children taught you? What lessons do they continue to teach?
Begin with these, continue to search, but above all, enjoy the ride that is growing up a parent.