The Meaning of Parenting

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
— Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning.

I hate writing.

But it’s meaning is worth it. Like many people I am dyslexic, and re reading what I consider to be a master piece for it not to make sense is disheartening.  But I persevere and write as slow as a snail because the outcome MEANS more to me than the suffering, and its because of this use of applied MEANING that can make or break being a parent.

Meaning can be explored in almost anything you do, my hero in the world of psychotherapy is existential philosopher Viktor Frankl its where I first truly found answers to the wondrous question of life’s meaning.  If you are yet to come across any his of work, check out his book Mans search for meaning, his perspective on life and therapy will turn around suffering of any kind.

Through years of my own therapy and working with clients  I have always explored the existential question of meaning, but since becoming a parent its benefits have expanded. I’ve experienced that Meaning has the power to shift your state of mind from the lowest point to its highest in seconds.


Apply meaning to your choices.

 When recently visiting a good friend in South Africa,  most nights she asked me, ‘ how do you do it’?  referring to breast feeding to sleep and bed sharing with my two year old. My friend has three children  all sleeping alone, some breast fed, some bottle and they are all happy and healthy but my friend did describe the desire for a little more patience ( she virtually has none) and overall perseverance. Where she was unable to continue I was, the only difference was in the meaning – I’m no super human nor naturally patient.

Using my friend as an example, she is not one for mindful breathing techniques or all that ‘mumbo jumbo’ as she fondly describes it, but as a nurse she can relate to our babies biology and delicate senses. So she took this on board….

Intuition is pretty much what a baby relies on, our pupil dilation, heart rate, and body temperature all reveal subtle signs of when we are stressed or unhappy, so rocking a baby to sleep feeling desperate and resentful will make baby cling to you even more, they know something is up. So you can’t fake it, you really need to feel it. Some nights I do have to dig deep to get myself into a positive state of mind, but when I do it never fails to make me feel at ease even if its holding a crying baby at 4am. How you meet the needs of your baby will impact how you feel in the situation, and in turn how your baby feels about you.

So how do you build resilience?

Understand your WHY; with a clear purpose you’ll be able to tackle even the toughest of obstacles fuelled with a sense of bravery and determination that what you are doing is worth it. Question what lies at stake if you don’t meet your babies needs and explore what you gain by making sacrifices. 

What is your why?

As an example, I feed my baby breast milk because I extensively explored the health benefits, so I am comforted by her intake of vitamins, I understand when she increases her feeds unexpectedly an illness is likely to be coming on.  The increase in feeds gives my body a chance to make new milk with antibiotics,  her saliva literally tells my boobs what to do, learning this blew me away.  So now I know I’m not wasting my time feeding at night again but in joint control. Equally, I have been privileged to learn about the benefits of bed sharing and how it positively impacts emotional intelligence and IQ, making for a more successful adult, this brings me pleasure to know I am contributing to her long term social success.

Occasionally like any human I wake thinking I’m done. My nipples hurt, why is she awake, I need my own space, why cant my husband take over?  a tumbling of negative thoughts in a sleepy haze, then I consciously through much practice draw on all my ‘whys’ and what it means, and I am able to recognise it is temporary that the benefits knock the negatives out of the park, and most importantly remind myself that it’s my choice, when I hit that moment and I am able to meet her needs, my body softens I feel my breathing slow down, and I immediately feel her relax against me. My job is done, for another night at least.


It’s all in the Why

 As a final note; Rarely is the baby the real reason for our anger, or negative emotions, what happens is that we project negativity onto them unknowingly. By stopping and noticing our emotions we are able to interrupt this thought process. Questioning yourself through an internal dialogue can often be enough to shift the feelings from future anxieties or blame and bring you into the present moment  dissolving any anger or resentment generating loving feelings towards your baby. I hope this has helped, it’s a privilege to share my years of work with other mums, to become a trusted figure in the field of therapy and parenting, and that is my ‘why’ which helps me put myself  out there, even if it means having to write.

Jerilee Claydon