I will never forget the day my eldest son was sharing a story with me about his past weekend at his Dad’s. Within the storytelling of all the activities they did, he said, “…then Mum and Dad….” at which point I stopped listening to him. His voice became like a muffled murmur in the background, and all I could hear was myself in my head saying, “What?! Did I hear correctly? Who is he calling ‘Mum’?” So, I asked him to repeat himself.
He said, “Oh, right, I call (step-Mom) Mum. But you, you’re Mom (emphasis on the “aw” of the “o”) Once again, I stopped listening to what he was saying and I could only hear my own internal voice trying to reconcile this new piece of information. “How am I about this?….Is this ok? Do I like this? I don’t know…. Am I losing my place as THE mother in this family?…” and on it went for what seemed like an hour but in reality was maybe about 2 or 3 seconds.
One of the principles in my coaching practice is “We are the Masters of our own emotions.” While any average day for many people can include emotion-charging situations, for parents when it comes to dealing with situations related to our own children and their lives – whether it’s their safety, well-being, health or how they are navigating through complex social matters – parents’ emotions can get ignited very easily, for the worse.
Why? Well, one reason is because we are reacting to what we perceive is a threat.
A threat to what? First, a perceived threat to our identity – our own belief about who we think we are. Second, we may react to a perceived threat to our belief about our ability to perform – questioning how well we are doing in the particular situation (in this case “the role of parent”) or in life in general. And, third, we may react to a perceived threat to what we believe to be true or right – we have pictures of what we think life should look like, in our ideal mind. When something is happening that doesn’t seem to match that picture in our mind, it could cause us to react with a concern that we will not be able to protect or preserve that picture in the future.
So, back to my story, there I was faced with a moment of truth for myself. Was I going to have this situation of my son’s step-mother being granted the name “Mum” be superior to my own sense of confidence in myself? Or was I going to let go of the perception of the threat, and ground myself in knowing who I am for myself and for my kids? Thankfully I chose to align my actions in that moment with my own principles! I am all the freer for it, I feel proud and I get to give my children my whole self as their Mother – so they win!
That was over 3 years ago. Today, my boys enjoy being big brothers to their half-brother who is now 3 years old. I have a 4 and half year old daughter and the two of them get along like a ‘house on fire!’ And we spend family occasions together, like holidays or Sunday morning breakfasts while we discuss family matters.
I am interested to hear your responses – do you have stories of letting go of your ego in favour of the greater good of the whole family? Are you challenged in letting go of your ego in a situation at hand? Please respond below.
Tallie Rabin-Claassen, M.Ed. is a coach with Peaceful Divorce & Family Life Coaching, committed to families working no matter what their circumstance. She works with individuals and couples as well as groups. Visit her Coaching site at http://www.peacefuldivorcecoach.com