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Parents - Who's Looking Out for You?

By Dr. Margaret Paul
March 13, 2023

Are you losing your aliveness and vitality because of being there for your family? Do you ever have time for yourself?

responsible parenting, raising responsible childrenI couldn't stop thinking about Marcy after my session with her. I was really worried about her.

"Marcy, " I had said in our session, "Your voice sounds drained of energy, you look pale, and your life force feels really low. What's going on?"

"I just have no time for myself at all. It seems like between work and driving my kids to all their activities, there's nothing left. I'm feeling really discouraged - like I'm never going to get to do anything with my life for me. It all seems to be for everyone else. Sometimes I feel like I'm dying - and sometimes I even want to die."

This was not good. Something had to change - and soon.

As we explored the problem, it became apparent that Marcy was doing way more for her kids than necessary. She was doing things for them that they needed to be doing for themselves.

"Every morning I go into 12-year-old Andrea's room at least 15 times before she finally gets herself up. Then I make the children’s breakfasts and lunches. The other day I felt really upset because Andrea was just sitting around while I was getting breakfast and making their lunch. When I asked her to help, she just rolled her eyes and got upset. I'm exhausted before I even get started. Then, on the weekends, they want me to take them here and take them there. There's just not enough time in a day! When I try to get them to understand my needs, they just don't seem to care."

"Marcy, Andrea has your number. She knows if she gets upset you will back off. This is not good for you or her - you are fostering her entitlement issues out of your fear of her not caring about you. Your children are not going to care about you until you care about yourself. They are treating you the way you treat yourself. If you want compassion and understanding from them, then you need to first practice Inner Bonding and learn to give yourself compassion and understanding."

Marcy and I Developed a Plan

She would get Andrea an alarm clock and let her know that she had to get herself up - and that if she didn't, she was responsible for the consequences if she missed school. Marcy would also ask her children to take responsibility for fixing their own breakfast and lunch. She would also expect them to help clean up in the evenings and would make it clear that if they didn't help her, she would not be so available to drive them around all the time. In addition, she would set aside some time just for her each weekend to work on her own creative projects. This was a hard one for her. Marcy believed that taking care of herself was selfish - that being loving meant putting herself aside for her family. She really wanted to be a good mom - but in not being a good mom to herself, she was not role-modeling personal responsibility for her children.

We talked about the definition of "selfish."

I told her that I believed Andrea was being selfish when she expected Marcy to give herself up for her, and that Marcy was fostering this selfishness in her children by not taking care of herself.

"Marcy, are you being a good mom if you are so unhappy all the time? Don't your kids need to see you being a role-model for personal responsibility - which includes taking good care of yourself? How are they going to learn to make themselves happy if they never see you making yourself happy? You are teaching them that they need to take care of others’ well-being and that others need to take care of their well-being, which is the definition of a codependent relationship. Don't you want them to know how to take care of themselves - how to take responsibility for their own well-being? Taking care of yourself is not selfish - it's self-responsible! You're not being a good parent if you just take care of your children but don't take care of yourself."

Marcy got it and immediately went about making changes. She was like a new woman when I saw her the next week, with much more power in her voice. She was beginning to see that the problem was not so much not being cared about by her family, but not caring about herself. She could begin to see that how her family treated her was a mirror for how she was treating herself.

I breathed a sigh of relief - Marcy was getting her life and her vitality back!

Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."



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