When you are the parent of small children, it may seem like you spend a lot of time giving and giving, while receiving little in return. If this happens often, especially if you are with the children a lot of the time with few or no breaks in the action, you may find yourself becoming resentful and cranky, and even yelling at the kids sometimes. Of course, this topic is not something that many parents enjoy talking about, so even in conversation with your spouse or your friends who are parents; you may not feel like it is something that you can bring up. There seems to be this idea out there that parenting is inherently fulfilling all of the time. In other words, some people seem to think that those hugs and sweet comments that your little ones occasionally bestow upon you are the only things that you should need to sustain you. I disagree with that idea, and here’s why.
While parenting is very fulfilling in and of itself, it is also hard work. At any given moment you must keep the children safe while encouraging them to explore the word around them, teach them to respect rules and other people while encouraging them to speak their minds and express themselves, and do countless other things like changing diapers and preparing meals. In other words, if you think of your child as a cup, you spend a lot of time and energy filling that cup with your loving words and actions. I am not sure exactly where the concept of people as cups comes from, but I have seen it mentioned in many different parenting and general psychology and self – help books. It is a powerful image, and it makes sense too. In our interactions with others and with the world, our cups and theirs are emptied and filled based upon how those interactions make us feel.
Since you are a cup too, it is important to think about your own needs as a person and whether those needs are being met. As you fill your child’s cup again and again, your own cup may become dangerously empty. If you don’t sit down to eat something when you are hungry, you do not get enough sleep, and even if you do not get enough time to yourself to relax and be “off duty”, you may be going through your days with a very empty cup. While a hug from a child definitely helps to fill a parent’s cup, so do food, sleep, leisure, talking with other adults, and many other things. Tomorrow, I will share some tips for making sure that your cup stays full because you, dear parent, are just as important as your child.
Photo by godidwlr on morguefile.com.