Parenting: The Art of Letting Go

Michelle Hildt, MA, LMFT, EFT trained, EMDR trained on Nov 09, 2022 in Relationship and Family

I recently said goodbye to my two daughters. One is studying abroad in a country far away that has limited Wifi, political unrest, and a culture far different than what she is accustomed to. The other moved across the country to pursue her career and embark on a new adventure. Both goodbyes, though different, felt almost identical. I hugged each daughter extra tight before watching one walk through the airport security line and the other drive away from me at airport departures, our cross-country road trip and move-in over. After each goodbye, I felt a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes that were all too familiar.

You would think I am used to this “launching business” because I have done it so many times before. It doesn’t matter if it was watching my son’s anxious eyes as he walked into his kindergarten class for the first time or seeing my daughter’s timid smile as she left my car and walked into her first day of high school — the feelings are the same. Have I loved them enough? Do they know they are brave, capable, kind, and worthy? Are they going to find someone who will care about them? Are they going to be kind to those around them? Will they have someone to reach out to when they are sad, lonely, or hurt? Will they reach out to that person? If they reach out to me, will I know how to be there for them? Am I enough? Have I been the mom they need?

As these thoughts and feelings flood in, I have learned that it is okay to think them, and it is okay to feel them. It is okay to sit with the emotions, let them wash over my body, let the tears flow freely, and to be grateful for these moments of love and connection. Now, let’s be honest, I hold back the free-flowing tears until I am in a “safe place” where I can be present.

As I continue to gain insight and wrestle with the uncertainties that are inherent in relationships, especially in my role as a mother, I would like to share a little of what I have learned.

You are not alone. Although I believe there is a unique bond between a mother and her child, there are others who love your children as well. Find them. Let them in. Learn from them. Be grateful for them. Share your children with them. They will have insight, knowledge, and love different than your own. As many of us have heard before, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

You are doing better than you may think you are. It is so easy to get down on ourselves and point out everything we are doing wrong or what we wish we were doing differently. Look for what you are doing well. Do the best you can in the circumstances you are in today and know that your best is good enough. “When we give ourselves compassion, we are opening our hearts in a way that can transform our lives.” – Kristen Neff

You need to take time for yourself, and that is not selfish. As a young mom, I used to feel a lot of guilt over not being a super wife/mom/friend/businesswoman. Over the years, I have learned that when my tank is full, it is much easier to be there for those around me. When my tank is full, I am a better wife/mom/friend/businesswoman. Each of us is different. My needs and version of self-care are different than yours. Find what you need, and honor those needs. For me, I know that one thing I need is some “alone time” to be inspired each day. This can occur in many ways. Sometimes, it is getting up early and exercising outside. Sometimes, it is climbing into bed a little early and watching an episode of my favorite show. Sometimes, it is listening to an inspiring podcast. Sometimes, it is sitting in silence and watching the sun rise or set. “One of the most valuable gifts you can give yourself is taking time – time to be more fully present.” – Oprah Winfrey

You need connection. I need to reach out when I am feeling insecure, upset with myself for the way I handled something, frustrated with my children, overwhelmed, or proud. I have people that Brene Brown, PhD calls my “marble jar friends,” friends who I can be myself with. I can show them the “me” who doesn’t know all the answers, who is struggling to make it through the day, who is disappointed and frustrated, or who is too excited to keep it all in. I turn to these few to listen to me, love me, and lift me. They do not judge, criticize, or talk about themselves. “I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship… Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” – Brene Brown

I have learned as a mom that it is a lifelong process of letting go. We can not do this alone, as parenting is truly one of the most rewarding yet challenging experiences one will ever face.

Michelle Hildt, MA, LMFT is a Marriage & Family Therapist in Scottsdale, AZ.

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