When I was younger, I always knew that I wanted to be two things in life: a teacher and a mom. The first came true for me as I taught swimming throughout my high school and university summers. In 1991, after three long years of trying, I finally realized my dream of being a mom! Giving birth to my daughter, this beautiful bundle of love and joy was an unforgettable moment in my life, as was the miraculous birth of my son just 19 months later. It wasn’t until I became a parent that I realized that my most sought after desires were so connected.

As my children grew through the infancy, toddler, nursery, grade school, and middle school years, I began to see how important a role model I was for them, and I did the best I could with the knowledge that I had; however, the increased stress that accompanied this new role was sometimes difficult, and I believed at that time that it was my children who caused some of the stress and discontentment in my life!

So many times I might have had a rough day at work, was exhausted from running on the treadmill of life, was frustrated with having to do it all myself as a single mom, or was heavy with worries about money or relationships issues.

My kids may have wanted to share something exciting with me, needed some attention, or were maybe fighting with each other, and I would react by either yelling at them or withdrawing. Then I would feel guilty for my behavior, but it was too late—the damage had already been done. I love my children with all my heart, and my intention was never to hurt them.

We teach our children how to behave by our example, and the cycle we are continuing could be one that we learned as a child. We have long forgotten or maybe buried how we felt as children when we were yelled at, scolded, or felt disapproval, disappointment, or lack of love from our parents.

I believe our children are experiencing the same thing now and that they can’t find the voice, any more than we could, to say to us, “Please don’t yell at me—that doesn’t feel good” or “Mom, Dad, why are you always disappointed in me? Why won’t you listen to me? Why can’t you love me just the way I am?”

I know that my life became easier and less stressed when I took responsibility for my feelings and saw how I imposed those feelings onto my kids: the control, resentment, projection of anger, the shutdown, disapproval, and disappointment, all because they weren’t doing what I wanted them to or behaving the way I thought they should. I started to take a good look within myself and through the eyes of my children.

I saw how I was a container of all sorts of feelings that I had never felt safe enough to express, and when my children, or anyone else, for that matter, triggered me, all of those unfelt emotions exploded out of me, and I, of course, blamed them! I became aware that I had continued a cycle of unhealthy behaviour that would create the template that my children would follow when they became parents themselves, and I wanted to do it differently.

My children and I now joke about the fact that they didn’t come complete with a manual, and I fully admit to them that I’m not perfect! I am open to listening to my children now, and when they feel me getting agitated (remember, I’m not perfect) or when my “recovering control freak” side starts to rear its ugly head, my children feel safe to point it out, which reminds me that I am stepping back into my old patterns.

There is a familiar phrase that says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
Our children can teach us so much if we let them express themselves and create a safe place for them to share their feelings, trying not to take their expressions personally or view them as a sign of disrespect or back talk.

It is so clear to me now that my ultimate desires of being a mom and a teacher had to occur in that order: to learn how to be the best mom I could be so that I could teach my children. This has inspired our family to break the cycle.

Author's Bio: 

A reaction, a look or a phrase, and we catch ourselves, “I’ve turned into my mom/dad!” Jo-Anne Cutler is no exception. Once she became aware of the unconscious messages that accompanied her words and reactions, she made a conscious choice to change. Jo-Anne knew that if she could do it, anyone could. In addition to being a writer, she supports her vision of empowering and inspiring others to be the parents, teachers and role models the children of this world need them to be, by creating awareness as a speaker and coach, offering programs as well as a monthly newsletter on how to keep all the great stuff we’ve learned from our parents while breaking the cycle of the, well, not so good stuff! For more information or to contact Jo-Anne directly, please visit http://www.jcconnections.ca