Is Empathy Making You A Selfish Parent?
Updated: Sep 30, 2020
I work with a lot of moms who describe themselves as empaths, which is a condition that goes far beyond the simple capacity for empathy. Empaths spend their lives not just aware of, but actually experiencing the emotions, pain and needs of the people around them. It can be excruciating for them to be with someone who is needy, emotional, or makes self-defeating choices (aka most children). Empaths often marginalize themselves for others' happiness, feel terrible when loved ones are emotional, and tie themselves in knots to fix others' problems (aka most moms).
If this sounds familiar, you might be an empath. OR you might just be a human raising a child. I have learned to approach my new clients as empaths, because most of them are experiencing their children's hardships and pain much the same as an empath, even if they don't see themselves that way.
Unfortunately, when we are in this place, the thoughts we tell ourselves are usually something like: "My child's suffering is as if it were happening to me. It is painful when they're struggling, so I need them not to struggle. I need to make sure they are OK all the time because I can't handle it when they're not." This thinking makes us SO selfish.
It leads us to do selfish (and ineffective) things like:
Avoiding consequences because it may make our child sad or lead to an outburst
Rescuing kids and solving their problems for them
Doing things for our kids that they could do themselves
Having an agenda in talking or disciplining kids (not staying neutral)
Giving kids the message that "I feel bad when you feel bad, so you're not allowed to feel bad. Please be a certain way so that I can feel better."
And it makes it really hard to do unselfish things like:
Believing in our kid's ability to figure out hard things
Allowing kids to have a full range of emotion while staying neutral
Handing problems back to our kids in love
Honoring and caring for ourselves by setting boundaries
The ability to be an unselfish parent comes from disentangling ourselves from the stuff our kids are going through, and I believe this is possible for even the biggest empath. I have seen it happen for my clients many times, even the empaths. One of my clients recently told me how things had shifted for her since we started working together:
"Before, when my kids were unhappy it felt like it was stabbing me! To sit back and be able to say, 'I can't control that, and in fact it's not my right to.' feels so spacious to me now."
Even when empathy feels like an unchangeable part of you, it is possible to turn it into a super power when you take care of the internal struggles showing up in your parenting. It's not about learning a new skill; it's about seeing yourself and your parenting job in a new way. This is exactly what my work does. My clients absolutely learn new approaches to their children's problems, and what makes those approaches powerful is the new perspective and emotional health they gain from our work. If you're ready for this, I'm SO ready for you! Set up a free discovery call and share your pain and challenges with me so I can help you find healing and solutions.