How I Survive Parenting While Maintaining My Sanity (and it doesn’t require booze)

By Shannon Haddaway

Photo credit:  Imani Clovis

Photo credit:  Imani Clovis

“WHY didn’t you tell me it was going to be this HARD??”  I sobbed into the phone.  I was hysterical for the millionth time that week, begging my mom for answers.  I wanted to know what I was doing wrong.  What was wrong with me?  With my kids?  With this whole situation?  

Parenting is not for the weak.  Oh sure, one can give birth or adopt and  find oneself in charge of small humans running around calling them mom or dad, but true, actual parenting is tough stuff.  I had no idea of this fact back when I would fantasize about dressing my not-yet- born children up for Christmas cards and carting them off to soccer games and birthday parties.  The children in my fantasies were always strangely quiet, compliant and clean. 

As usual, the universe had other plans for me, because who knew that two strong willed, high maintenance adults would produce strong willed, high maintenance children?  In spite of this (or, some would argue, because of this) they are all three incredibly unique and vivacious and will grow up to do amazing things in the world.  At least, they will as long as my husband and I keep doing what we’re doing, which is taking care of ourselves so we can show up fully for our kids.  We can never rest on our laurels, because we must stay ahead of them at all times.  We have to out maneuver, out smart, out negotiate and out will them.  In addition to this, there’s also the fact that we want to live a long time and continue to be active into our old age, and in order to do that, we have to be as healthy as we possibly can right now. 

It took me a long time to recognize that I must take care of me before I can take care of others.  As a recovering “people pleaser” and “giver of all of me”, this has been my hard work.  For many years I thought if I cared for myself that I was selfish.  If I took care of my needs, I wasn’t a good wife, mom, sister, daughter, etc.  When I found myself in the fetal position on my kitchen floor in a weeping mess after years of giving myself to others and keeping nothing for myself, I knew something had to change. 

It was in that moment that I decided to get back on the yoga mat after taking several years off.  The moment I stepped back on, I knew that I was home.  Several times a week, I have sixty minutes to myself, linking my breath to each movement.  Over the years I have come to love the meditation and quiet moments in the yoga room just as much as the vigorous, sweaty flows.  It is the integration of head, heart and body that brings me back to my essence, which in turn allows me to show up better for my children.   

When my kids are screaming at the tops of their lungs, fighting, crying over homework or dragging their feet when we need to get out the door, I now have the capacity to pause and respond rather than react. Most of the time, I remember to breathe through it rather than completely lose it. And, in the moments when I do lose my patience, instead of beating myself up, I can practice self-compassion, another unexpected gift of yoga.   Ask any yogi why he or she practices and they will have varied responses.  Mine is because it makes me a better parent.  It allows me to see that my children are my biggest teachers, and when I am fully present, I can take from them the many lessons I am supposed to learn in this beautiful life.