Aha! Parenting Blog

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If You Don't Feed Your Hungry Heart, How Can You Feed Your Kids?

"Everybody's got a hungry heart." - Bruce Springsteen

"We don't talk enough about how not having a tribe affects us as parents.... I have the fervent hope that we start talking about the exhaustion, need for community and help that we parents need." - Jennifer

Parents carry the heavy burden for society of raising the next generation of human beings. The problem is, in our modern culture they carry it with very little social support. I know you feel a fountain of love for your child, but you can’t keep all that love flowing if you don’t get some love yourself.

And it isn’t appropriate for children to take care of parents emotionally. We all need connection and affection from other adults, and without that supply of love, we end up with hungry hearts.

That's not good for you. It's not what you want to model for your child. And you having a hungry heart just makes you resentful or needy toward your child. (Guess if that makes him behave better.)

While it’s true that meeting the needs of our children can take all of our time, there is always a way to savor adult connection. How?

1. Take a walk with your partner or friend, carrying your little one in a sling, pushing the stroller, or letting the little ones kick a ball or play tag along the way. How about every evening at sunset? Agree in advance to make this quality time by setting aside ten minutes for each of you to really listen to each other without taking anything that's said personally, or trying to solve anything. Just keep breathing deeply to "be" with your loved one, whatever he or she is saying, and say "I hear you."

2. Trade babysitting with a friend so each of you gets time off each week. Use that time to have a festive lunch with your partner, get a manicure with a friend, or find intellectual connection by enrolling in a class at the local community college. Or -- here's a radical idea -- just take a nap!

3. Hire a young mother’s helper to play with your child every Friday evening so you and your partner can have a picnic dinner in the bedroom. Lock the door.

4. Let more love in. Life is too short for you to be stressing over a bad relationship.  If you’re feeling stressed about your relationship with your partner, make working things out a priority. While it's true that some relationships have no future, it's also true that we take our baggage with us to the next partner. Schedule an appointment for couples counseling, or get your hands on my audio series Happily Ever After: Conscious Co-Parenting.

5. Join or start a regular playgroup with like-minded parents so you can connect while little ones play. You don't have to agree about everything to find this helpful.

6. Get out of the house. The job description of young children is to explore and take things apart to see how they work. If you stay home with them, they'll tear your house apart. Be sure to get out daily, even if you can't get them out of pajamas. You won't have deep discussions with other adults with your kids in tow, but at least you can make small adult connections at the park or library or hardware store.

7. If you work outside the home, make it a point to connect with your colleagues a bit. It will make your worklife more rewarding and can be a happy antidote to feeling like all you do is meet customer needs by day and children's needs at night.

8. Find a "listening partner." This idea, originally pioneered by the folks at HandinHand Parenting.org, is that you make a standing date to connect, usually by phone, with another parent. This gives you a safe place and a nonjudgmental, non-problem-solving partner so you can take turns exploring your issues with your child and releasing your own emotions. It's fine to "vent" but make sure to pause and welcome the tears and fears that are lurking behind the anger. Once you feel those more vulnerable emotions, they evaporate -- and so does the anger.

9. Join an online forum, like the one that's part of my Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Online Course. You'll still be discussing parenting, but getting support from other parents who aspire to conscious parenting can make all the difference in the world in how connected and supported you feel.

10. Prioritize love. Every day, make sure you have a juicy connection with another adult. Call a friend or sibling. Write a letter of gratitude to someone who mentored you. Be sure your romantic partner knows how much love and appreciation you feel for him or her.

Anything that nurtures you and keeps your heart open gives you more love to share. As four wise men once said, "The love you take is equal to the love you make...All you (really) need is love."


This is post #6 in our series on self care: The Secret of the Full Cup.

The previous posts were:

#1 - The Secret of the Full Cup: Self Care

#2- Ten Stress Busting Strategies for Parents

#3 - Five Ways To Nurture Yourself while Nurturing Your Child

#4 - Let's Get Physical: 20 Exercise Ideas for Parents and Kids

#5 - As Simple As Breathing

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