Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Bigger Picture Parenting

We are staying in California at the moment and I find myself constantly trying to work out where everything is. Once we finally get Christopher into his carseat (I have been reduced to using good old-fashioned bribery – yet another thing I swore I’d never do, done!), we are on our way and I am driving a huge car because we had so much luggage at the airport that we had to have it supersized 3 times. (Another story. Short version: Holdens + travel = a lot of bags.)

So, anyway, we get on the road and I have this very smug and, quite honestly, rather last-minute sat nav lady – let’s call her Dorothy - telling me to do this, do that, take this turning and so on. When we arrived, I just followed her every direction (often wrongly due to Dorothy's last-minute-ness) and hoped for the best - and we usually arrived where we wanted to be. Dorothy had to do a lot of ‘recalculating’ (she tries to sound so non-judgmental when she says that).

After a few days, I began to find my feet a little. And I realized there was a button I could press to ‘zoom out’ on the map so that I could see where we were in the bigger picture of things. This zooming out allowed me to feel my way a bit more, to turn the volume down on Dorothy and, here’s the important bit, relax and take the scenic route. It also meant that I stopped thinking I’d ‘gone the wrong way’ because it wasn’t in the instructions. Instead, I felt like I was finding a new and more interesting way. Because, you see, Dorothy always tries to send me onto the huge, terrifying American highway to go wherever I ask her to take me, even if it’s only for half a mile – she just loves the motorway – and really, I am a small-road person. And once I got the hang of things, I realized there was a beautiful coastal road running parallel with the Terrifying Motorway, which could take us to most of our destinations gently - and with a sea view.

And it is striking me this evening that the key to being ok and keeping our perspective is the knowledge that we can actually zoom out of the map in our lives. We can see where we are and feel our way. This seems like such a simple and obvious observation but I think it is absolutely vital for parents to have a ‘zoom out’ button available to them.

Because, honestly, the sticky moment-to-moment stuff can really get you down as a parent when you lose touch with the all-important Bigger Picture. I know for me, if I forget to zoom out, I get completely burnt out and exhausted and feel like nothing is ever going to be ok again. And I look back at my younger self, staring at a tiny baby, who I loved in this overwhelming, magical and terrifying way, thinking ‘Seriously, what am I meant to do here? How am I meant to do any of this with no sleep and no instructions?’ And then you make it through the baby stage with everyone breathing and wearing clothes and eating food (well, not always you but the baby at least) and you think ‘Great, I’ve done it, I’ve worked out how to keep us alive.’ And then the little person in front of you has their first tantrum – and it really does go on for a long time, and you really don’t know what to do about it and you have to sit down and focus. on. breathing. in. and. out. And on it goes....

After that, another stage begins, and another, and another. And there’s no break. Just when one thing sorts itself out and you find the solution to an issue, there’s something else. It really is neverending.

And that’s why we need to zoom out – to find whatever works for us – whatever helps us do that. Coaching, honest sharing with others, taking time to look after yourself, talking to your own mum or mothers of older children, meditating, praying, a bit of real-life tree hugging (trees are so good at reminding us how small we are and how much we think) – anything that helps you to find the ‘zoom out’ button on your life to reconnect with the Bigger Picture. And it is absolutely essential that we all do this. We all need to find our way if we want to stay sane and enjoy the journey.

And when we zoom out, we see the truth more clearly. And the truth is that everything passes. Everything is a stage. Everyone has their own unique way of being, their own unique karma, their own learning. This includes our children and means that they are their own people from the beginning – and they choose us just the way we are. We do not have to be perfect and we do not have to get it all right. There is no right way. There is just the way, which unfolds as we take each step. (And we can always recalculate.)

Our job is to zoom out regularly, get our perspective back as often as possible and keep putting one foot in front of the other, while holding hands with the people around us who love us.

Love Hollie x


  1. As a mother I have to agree. When my daughter was little I felt exhausted by the day to day mess, lack of sleep and my own drive to do everything 'right'. At some point, when she was two, I had a bigger picture realisation. I realised that it wasn't about getting it right, it was about being real and about being me. That my greater parenting aim was for my daughter to feel confident enough to call me in the middle of the night at 21 if she'd got into a bit of a scrape and needed some help. That I would be that trustable someone, who knew what it was to make mistakes and that it was okay and a normal part of learning. Most importantly, I relalised that if I was a person who could love and trust myself in the middle of my own scrapes, then she would know that I would still love and trust her. So, I relaxed. I can't say I felt less exhausted but I did enjoy it more. Now she's 12 and we are great friends. She always calls when she's in a bit of a scrape.

    1. I love this, Jo. I love how you say 'if I was a person who could love and trust myself in the middle of my own scrapes, then she would know that I would still love and trust her.' It's so important how we treat ourselves.. I have such a strong 'inner critic' and have been learning to relax that for myself so that I don't pass it on... It is tiring enough just getting everyone fed, washed and dressed, let alone if we are trying to get it all 'right' all the time! Good to know from a mum further down the road that it works out well...

      Thanks for posting x