What was the most surprising thing about becoming a parent?
I was so excited at the idea of having a girl, and teaching her how to channel her inner girl power – independence, strength, never a victim. I daydreamed about the mother/daughter relationship I’ve grown up idealizing on tv and in friend’s homes. My daughter, at 8, is wise beyond her years and beautifully brazen. What has and continues to surprise me is the feeling that she is this way despite me, not because of me.
I know it’s trauma residue hiding restored beauty, but accepting that parenting may always have this extra layer for me is something I never considered before becoming a mom. My daughter has an old soul, an empathic heart, and has fire in her veins that at times manifests as rage and anxiety. It’s been difficult for me to avoid only taking credit for the fire.
The difference between experiencing that feeling now versus when I first felt it in the earlier years of motherhood is I recognize it as a reaction, and not a reality. I recognize triggers and use them. Now instead of pleading with myself for the answer to the question, “What is wrong with me?” I instead ask, “What is going on right now?”
Tell us about one of your proudest parenting moments.
A very simple moment that comes to mind is dropping my son off at school recently. He grabbed his book bag and jumped out the back seat. As soon as he shut the door I could see a look on his face like he forgot something. I thought it was his lunchbox. He opened the door back up and said, “I love you, Momma.” So much about that gave me all the feels.
Another recent moment … my daughter’s attitude was out of control and she was sent to her room. She kicked a hole in her wall because she was mad at me and her dad. I didn’t know about it until she came down stairs (hysterically crying) and told me about it. Instead of flipping my lid, I told her to go back to her room and I’d talk to her in a minute. I took a breather and went upstairs and gave her a big hug. We talked about letting anger get the best of us and that it happens to me too. The consequence I gave her was to make a list of 5 things she can do when she gets mad that won’t make her feel worse or hurt herself, anyone or anything. This is her list:
It’s frustrating but I’ve come to accept that going against my gut reaction is sometimes the play I need to make. The fact that I handled this situation differently than I normally would have, and the ideas on her list are both parenting wins in my book.
We used the list to cover the hole in her wall until daddy is ready to teach her the basics of sheet rocking. 😉
Was it difficult for you to participate in this project? What Strength did you pull from to get past the fear and contribute?
In the beginning, Yes! There was so much anxiety around how what I’m putting out there would be perceived and how I may be judged for it. I don’t feel that anymor. Now, I can walk in to any room, anywhere knowing that if I start a discussion about what life is like as a parenting survivor, it will be received with curiosity and evoke conversation. Now though, the difficulty lies in balancing work, family, self-care, and the drive to push what I’ve learned as far as it will go.
Do you believe participating in this project has changed you in any way? If so, how?
It has changed my entire life. Literally everything from how I parent, how I do my job as a mental health care manager, the direction in which I want my career to grow, how I treat myself and others, everything. The confidence I’ve gained and the shame I have shed is monumental.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your children?
Love. What it looks like, what it feels like to give it, and what it feels like to receive it.
When you are not writing or parenting, what do you love to do?
Feel out my mood, create the perfect playlist, and capture something that inspires me.
Dawn Daum is co-editor of Parenting with PTSD. She is also a founding member of the annual #FacesofPTSD social media campaign, helping to raise awareness for trauma survivors living with PTSD. She spends her work week as a mental health Care Manager for a non-for-profit organization in Saratoga Springs, NY. She is currently leading the agencies’ initiative to implement trauma-informed practices into all services provided by the organization.
Dawn has provided talks on parenting with high ACEs, ACEs and trauma science, and is currently working to provide workshops on parenting with PTSD for both parents and service providers. Dawn is also co-facilitating the Becoming Trauma-Informed & Beyond: Resilience in the Workplace community on ACEsConnection.com.
You can connect with Dawn via:
Learn more about Parenting with PTSD.
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