My life makes me feel crazy. What do I do?Nov 19, 2022
SMALL DAILY WAYS I MAINTAIN MY AUTONOMY
The power of autonomy
Autonomy and freedom are essential human needs, and like all needs, they show up with different intensity in different humans, For some of us, the need for autonomy is a driving force behind our decisions and our stability. If you feel resentful about having to mop the floors AGAIN because someone spilled their milk. If the laundry teases you and says mean things in your head when it piles up. If you feel like you never get to make a single solitary decision for yourself, this post is for you.
Recognizing the bossy voices
The biggest threat to my daily autonomy is actually the voices in my own head. Yup. These voices are even bossier than my (very demanding) kids. They have direct access; no ear plugs can block them out. They can get all the airtime they want; leaving the house does not change their tune. They say: "You're being lazy. Get up and do something productive." They say: "Other people's houses are clean all the time. There's something wrong with you. Get yourself together."
They're not nice.
Acting from desperation
When I listen and respond to these voices, I hop up from my 5 minutes of sipping my tea and fill my short break with pickup up toys off the floor. Then my kid comes downstairs and knocks that same pile of toys back onto the floor, and I explode on him. This is acting from desperation. I am desperate to prove the voices wrong, to show them I am not lazy. But my desperation is a cycle that never ends because the voices do not get quieter when we listen to them. Acting from desperation creates a painful ripple in my life that leads me further and further from my power.
Acting from power
When I talk back to these voices, I am acting from my power. I am asserting my freedom and autonomy. I say: "I deserve to rest. Rest is important for me." The toys stay on the floor. The child comes down 5 minutes later, and I look up, smile, and welcome them into the room. They knock more toys onto the floor, which is fine because I am feeling my cup that littlest bit fuller. My cup fills because of the rest, yes. But it also fills because of the power of my autonomy. I choose what I do with my time. I am not bossed around by the voices in my head.
Small ways I assert my freedom
The voices are my biggest hurdle, but those very demanding kids... they're tough too. Small, daily ways I assert my freedom with my kids without asking anything that's too difficult for them:
Wearing ear plugs while watching their video
Thinking about my own projects while playing a video game or listening to a story about beating a boss for the 30th time
Wearing my favorite clothes
Lighting a candle in the bathroom during my small breaks and sitting silently, praying
Bossing around my inanimate objects, which I think of as my staff -- my dishwasher, my washing machine, my robot vacuum.
Practicing gratitude for the tiny moments of calm, pushing back on the feeling of relentlessness by recognizing the stillness
Choosing how I feed my body (coffee or tea, crunchy or soft, snack or full meal)
Having a vibrant imagination, pretending to be Elsa in her power as the 5th element, writing prayers and poetry in my mind.
There's too little talk about parents' need for autonomy and the way that need is challenged by the realities of parenting high-needs children. A key sign that we have needs that are not being met is resentment. Do you feel resentful about your life? Resentful about your children's needs? Envious of other families that appear to have it easier? Do you have a fantasy life that you wish you were living? Do you burn with anger some days at the injustice of your impossible role?
Controlling our children
Many adults meet their needs for autonomy and freedom by controlling their children. Through control over someone else, we gain the feeling of mastery, independence, control and confidence. We meet our own needs, but we do so at the cost of our children's autonomy.
It can feel like a zero sum game --
Either I'm in charge here, or you are.
Either I get my needs met, or you do.
Recognizing that autonomy and freedom exist as unmet needs gives us room to find small ways to achieve freedom on a daily basis. Instead of fantasies of abandoning everyone and driving off into the sunset, we can meet our needs for freedom in doable, proactive ways.
Unacknowledged needs often fester into shame-filled narratives that leave us exhausted on the inside, as well as the outside. Let's name our need for freedom and find our own daily autonomy!
Bossy internal narratives and high-needs children hem us in on all sides, making us feel trapped and resentful. Everywhere we turn, someone or something needs us. There's never any rest.
At least part of this exhaustion is the under-recognized need for autonomy, that vast feeling of space to maneuver and control over our destiny.
What strategies do you use to gain autonomy without controlling your children?
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