Every day in my work, I witness the struggles of creative, progressive, self-aware, growth-oriented mothers who would do anything to ensure the wellbeing of their families. These women are incredibly attuned with the needs of their children, have read impressive numbers of self-help, spiritual growth, and parenting books, and are doing their very best to practice self-care in order to be able to keep up with all the things. Yet for all of their efforting, the majority of these mothers have something seriously heartbreaking in common:
A felt sense of inadequacy. A sense that no matter how much they do or how consciously they parent, it will never be enough.
Enough to ensure that their children will be protected from the harshness and dysfunctions of our culture.
Enough to promote their children’s physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness within a society which actively breeds the opposite.
Enough to feel that they are making a true difference toward alleviating at least a bit of the world’s suffering.
Enough to feel at peace, at ease, and whole as women and mothers.
The irony is that, as a whole, today’s mothers are more invested, more intentional, and more “conscious” in our parenting choices than ever.
Yet despite our very best efforts, the reality of modern-day parenting often feels more daunting and discouraging than gentle, conscious, or creative. And in fact, the more “conscious” we become, the worse many of us seem to feel about ourselves.
How can we be investing so much and so intentionally in our families, while simultaneously feeling more collectively overwhelmed and inadequate than ever?
Are we simply not yet conscious enough?
I have a different theory.
I believe that the trouble with “conscious” parenting is that it’s idealistic, which means that it’s raised the bar immensely on what parents perceive to be possible. A picture has been painted for us of a connected, holistic, spiritually reciprocal relationship with our children. One in which we draw from our most authentic, soulful selves in order to honor, protect, and foster the authentic, soulful expression of our children.
So beautiful, right?
It is beautiful, as an ideal. It also has the potential to be incredibly disempowering and discouraging for millions of parents (particularly mothers, who are still responsible for the vast majority of day-to-day childcare) unless we also recognize how far we are culturally from the circumstances that would best support this ideal. Without this recognition, those of us attempting to achieve such lofty ideals are being set up for failure, or at least the perception that we are failing.
Bottom line: especially as they get older, our kids are constantly interacting with systems that do not follow the ideal that we work hard to create for them at home, which causes us to contort and overgive to make up for what our culture lacks (and the harm it causes). Think about all the effort we put into finding the “right” school or teacher that isn’t punitive, the progressive doctor who doesn’t body shame, the food that isn’t junk, but doesn’t cost excess time and money to get on the table (at the risk of not being eaten at all), just to name a few examples.
I know you’ve been there. Likely, you are there.
We’re going to keep deconstructing this together, but for now, just know that there’s a reason all your hard work at being a “conscious” parent feels exhausting. And it’s not your lack of trying.
With love and loads of respect,