My Instagram feed looks very different these days. Yes, I still follow makeup artists, cute cats, badass feminists and awesome illustrators, but now there’s also a hefty dose of parenting help. Sleep experts, weaning recipes, breastfeeding support, ideas for activities, if there’s an aspect of parenting you can make a square picture with a pithy caption about, I probably follow it.
Some of the pages I follow are about gentle parenting, a concept that focuses on positive reinforcement rather than punishment/deterrent. I’m not here to argue the merits of various parenting styles (mainly because I think we will continue to use a mish-mash of everything) but one post on such a page keeps coming back to me. Dr Becky Kennedy (@drbeckyatgoodinside) writes about using the phrase ‘two things are true’ when creating boundaries for children. The idea is that you can explain to a disappointed child that just because they feel one way (which is fine), something else can also be true (which is also fine). So for example, ‘two things are true here: you want to have a snack, but it’s time for tea soon so for now the kitchen is closed. I get that that must be frustrating.’ I like this idea because it promotes the concept that how the child is feeling is valid but doesn’t dictate the situation. Of course, Robyn is only 8 months old so if I tried this reasoning with her at the moment I’d probably just get a puzzled frown or a wooden ring chucked at my head, but it’s a good one to know for the future.
Anyway, what I actually wanted to write about is using this concept of ‘two things are true’ for us as adults as well. I often find myself getting cross with myself for feeling a certain way, especially as a mum, and thinking that if I feel or think negative things it must mean I’m not grateful or happy or loving my best bloody life. Some days are really tough and I find it hard going, even though I love my daughter more than anything in the world, and one of these truths doesn’t negate the other. They can coexist, both be true and both be valid.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about what other sets of ‘two true things’ live alongside each other in my brain. Here’s a few:
⁃ I am more tired and overwhelmed than I’ve ever been and I am happier than I’ve ever been.
⁃ I want time to myself but the minute I’m away from Robyn I miss the bones of her.
⁃ Sometimes parenting is mind-numbingly boring and I wouldn’t want to spend my time any other way.
⁃ I feel incredibly lucky to have the baby I always dreamed of and I feel tired, stressed, resentful and grumpy.
⁃ I am Robyn’s mum and I am still me.
⁃ I love my husband very much and I also want to stick his head in the nappy bin when he doesn’t do his share of jobs round the house.
⁃ Christmas is my favourite time of year and I also find Christmas incredibly stressful.
⁃ I am a confident, outgoing person and I live with a mental health diagnosis/condition that needs daily management.
⁃ I want to sleep but I also want to finish watching that tv show we’re streaming…
These are just some of the ones I can think of now as I sit in Robyn’s room settling her to sleep tonight.
My BPD brain deals so much in absolutes (eg ‘if I feel this way I must be a bad mum/friend/wife/human’) that I find this concept of two things not being mutually exclusive both helpful and mind-blowing. I can think and feel negative things about being a parent and still be a good enough mum? Sounds fake to me. I can be well along my road to mental wellness and still have debilitatingly bad days? Yeah, right.
But actually… yeah, RIGHT. Sometimes two things can be true and that’s okay. Nothing needs to be reconciled or figured out, it can just…be. I can just be. Not good, not bad, just a person, a mum, doing my best and muddling along.