A Pandemic Father’s Day Reflection
Finding Your Parenting Mantra
Reflection & Gratitude.
The Dadwell Podcast debuted on Father’s Day 2019. Producing and hosting 25 episodes, I’ve learned an incredible amount about myself and my role as partner and parent. All of which was made possible by humble, honest men who shared their strengths and struggles as entrepreneurs, creators and dads — through interviews, essays, emails, and long phone calls (remember those?). A year into this project, I’m incredibly grateful to this community and to you as a supporter, reader and listener.
This Father’s Day the World is Very Different
As we reflect today — soaking up our kids, eating and drinking something indulgent, sneaking away for some personal time — we can’t ignore how radically different the world around us feels. School is out (for how long we don’t really know); camps are cancelled (without viable alternatives); we’re still physically distanced from friends and family (while our neighborhoods tack between commerce and caution); our work feels tenuous (as the economy plays speculative hopscotch); and perhaps most of all, our society continues to convulse with injustice and righteous anger.
No matter how long we’ve been dad, we are likely ill-equipped for parenting in a world of pandemics and protests — both of which will likely be measured in years, not months. Continuing to talk with other parents and following fresh perspectives like Sean Williams and David Willans, I’ve come to realize the importance of rituals and routines we can consistently draw energy from and meditative methods not reliant on any one individual, public figure or institution (as those will all let us down at some point).
Talking with Erin Wheeler, a licensed clinical social worker and certified perinatal mental health clinician, I’ve come to believe one of those practices we should explore more is the mantra. As we wind down our annual celebration and recognition of fatherhood and slip back into our modern lives as shapers of our children’s minds and protectors of their bodies, I ask you to consider your own mantra and how it might strengthen your/their resolve, resourcefulness and resilience.
Read more in Erin’s guest contribution below…
Mantras for Parenting
Mantras help us remember and reinforce truths, especially in times of stress. A good mantra never promises something it can’t keep. It encourages us to be more hopeful, flexible, or compassionate, but it doesn’t guarantee a positive change or an outside event will occur. This allows our brain to absorb the mantra without going, “well, but what if… ?”
The following mantras are for my fellow parents out there who were already navigating the uncertain terrain of parenting and are now trying to hold it all together amidst a pandemic and massive societal change. I encourage you to read through these mantras and write down the ones you need to hear the most right now:
I can make the best choices with the information I have to keep my family safe
I can be in reasonable control of what I can be in control of
My protective instincts as a parent have evolved and adjusted to the situation
This turmoil, just like early parenthood, is just one season of my life
I can create structure for myself/my family AND honor my/my family’s need for flexibility
My self-care is essential to the wellbeing of my family
I can find moments of joy during these uncertain times AND create moments to feel my difficult feelings
I can find options for stepping away from factors that make me feel trapped in parenthood right now
Under the circumstances, I am giving my family what they need
My best is good enough for my family, even when it feels like my best is falling short
I can be grateful for what we have AND feel distressed over what has been lost
I can be a good parent AND be overwhelmed sometimes
My family is resilient and our attachment to one another is resilient
Now that you have a list, be creative about how you want to display these mantras. You could put sticky notes in places you’ll see each morning or evening. You could record yourself saying the mantras and listen to them while deep breathing. You could create a wallpaper for your mobile phone’s lock screen.
You might sense there are certain phrases missing from your list. For most parents right now, our distress falls into categories such as helplessness/loss of control, responsibility/guilt, and inadequacy/failure. Now think about which of these categories are being triggered the most for you. What statements would give you comfort if you heard them from a supportive friend after you admitted struggling emotionally? This can be the framework for finding the mantras that fit you best.
Reciting mantras can be a ritual affirming we are working to believe important truths about worth/power/competence, even though those beliefs often feel untrue. Mantras aren’t a solution to the stressors we are currently facing, but they can help us hold more flexible expectations of ourselves as parents during such unprecedented times.
— Erin Wheeler, MA, LCSW, PMH-C
Erin Wheeler is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified perinatal Mental Health Clinician and founder of Inner Resource Counseling, a private mental health practice in Chicago. Erin specializes in treating mood and anxiety disorders in pregnancy/postpartum, perinatal trauma, postnatal depression/anxiety in partners, and other challenges related to the transition to parenthood. Erin is passionate about collaborating with other providers within the perinatal mental health community in order to enhance support for folks in every stage of their parenting journey. She is an active member of Postpartum Support International and The National Association of Perinatal Social Workers.