United Parenting writes about “Who’s yer one?”

 

This is a transcript of the presentation that I gave recently at the Parenting 2.0 Conference in Dublin. It’s my story (well, a little of it as I only had 10 minutes to share it!) My mantra when I wrote it was ‘name it and claim it!’ because I believe that if I cannot have the courage to be vulnerable and name my experiences then I’ve no business asking a client to do so in a session with me.

 

 

There’s a saying here in Ireland: Who’s yer one? It means’ who do you think you are to tell me what to do?!’ Well, my name is Niki Williams. I’m a Psychiatric Nurse, Counsellor, Parent Mentor and Trauma Therapist by training. However my main qualification is what I’ve learned through personal experience as a survivor and a divorced mother of three.
My parents separated, my father moved abroad, and I was raised from the age of three by a single mum for nine years. We lived in a council house on welfare benefits. I remember life as simple and carefree. Then my mum got married to a man whom she really didn’t know. I believe she was in love with the idea of being ‘a proper family’ and she fell for his potential rather than his reality.
He was a very sick man. He was a whisky drinking alcoholic who made irresponsible financial decisions. My mother went to work to feed us. He systematically sexually abused and raped me. My mother was too terrified and ashamed to leave him. All this had a hugely damaging effect on our family relationships.
Consequently I was left with a legacy of shame. I felt like it was my fault, there was something bad in me and if people actually knew me they wouldn’t like me.

 

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More positively it gave me a thirst for learning. I had a God given unshakable belief that there were better things out there for me. I wanted to learn how to do things differently. I needed practical, workable alternatives. I became a self-help book junkie!
After some chaotic years of living independently; learning the hard way that hurt people hurt people, I found a man who was willing to marry me. Having read an abundance of literature about relationships, healing and creating a better life; I’d engaged in therapy and felt ready to create my own family. I was clear with him that divorce was not an option for me. In fact, what I told him was “I‘ll kill you before I divorce you so you better be sure this is what you want!”

You can imagine my devastation when five years into forever I discovered my husband’s affair with a married friend. All the things I believed would protect me from this had failed. The bottom fell out of my world.
We had two children at this stage. My daughter was three. When I looked into her eyes I was unable to separate her pain from my own at losing a father. I had long ago vowed that my children would grow up with a mum and dad who loved each other and stayed together. So we reconciled. We honestly tried, we even had another child, but the trust was gone.
By the time we agreed to go our separate ways and I relocated from England to Ireland, two out of three of our children were acting out with daily antisocial behaviours. Because I had worked so much on myself I understood the process. They were drawing attention to what needed to be resolved. I sought help for them. I researched and tried every solution I could come up with and yet, the behaviours continued.
Only now I faced it as a single parent, where I knew no-one and had no support network. On the outside I appeared bravely confident, relying on my old survival skills. On the inside I felt isolated, ashamed, angry and guilty. There were days when I lost sight of anything positive. I woke in the morning thinking “This is not my life”, feeling “I just can’t do this anymore”, before dragging myself out of bed to do what had to be done. I was living a life of quiet desperation.

 

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However, just as in my childhood, my spirit kept telling me there were better things ahead and I could not give up hope. I read about Dr Tony Humphreys, an Irish psychologist and author who seemed to speak my language about raising children with healthy self-esteem. I thought to myself “This is it. If he can’t help me no-one can!” Whilst at U.C.C. for a year. I grew and matured, as a person and a parent.
I learnt, among many other things, the simple yet profound truth that I want to share with you today.
I call it the 100% rule. It goes like this…

Everything that someone else says or does is 100% about them.
Everything I say and do is 100% about me.

Think about that for a moment.

Everything that someone else says or does is 100% about them.
Everything I say and do is 100% about me.

It’s about personal accountability. It was a revelation to me, taking complete responsibility for one’s own actions. Something my parents had not learned and so were unable to teach me. By applying this rule I was able to stop personalising other people’s behaviour. It’s what finally moved me out of a victim mentality where I felt powerless over my life.

For example; my children were not punishing me for being a bad mother. They were telling me the only way they knew how that life was difficult and painful for them too.
My husband didn’t leave because I failed as a wife. He left because he chose to solve his problems that way. He could have chosen differently. I couldn’t have forced him to leave any more than I could make him stay. The only person I can control is myself.
How other people act usually has very little to do with me and more to do with what’s going on inside of them. Fear, anger, hurt, frustration, disappointment, illness, you just don’t know what battles someone else may be fighting in their lives and projecting onto you.

With the compassionate, non judging mentorship I received I learnt how to hold, not control, my children’s pain over the loss of their Dad, or their upset at witnessing my grief. I chose to forgive myself rather than beat myself up. Acknowledging my pain I began taking better care of my own needs and reached out for support to people who were actually able to offer it. I learnt how to parent myself with the same loving compassion that I was endeavouring to parent my children.

 

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Having read so often about loving myself now I was actually doing it. By recognising and honouring my needs, valuing my thoughts and expressing my feelings as being equally as valid as everyone else’s I moved from head knowledge to a heartfelt understanding. It’s not what you have that makes you a good parent, it’s who you are. Love is what my children will remember. I believe that because a lack of love is what I remember. After this shift from within, I moved on with renewed hope.

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I felt empowered to act for myself rather than against another. It’s called setting healthy boundaries which I had struggled with for such a long time. I found my voice and used it to communicate honestly and assertively, especially with my children. No means no because my rules are fair and are there to keep you safe.

It became ok to be vulnerable with them, to respond to their anger or tears with “I understand you feel angry” “It’s ok to be sad” and “I know I miss Daddy too.” I could admit to them “I’m really sorry I shouted, I’m having a tough day and that’s not your fault.” Children are naturally very forgiving.
Seeing my ex-husband through my children’s eyes was a huge step of emotional separation. It was more important to me for him to be their Dad than to punish him for hurting me. I was willing to forgive him and healing followed.
I discovered that I was actually unconditionally loving my children, cultivating a close, affectionate relationship with each of them, despite the difficult behaviours. I feel so passionately about sharing this learning with other parents that I founded United Parenting – Putting Children First. Sometimes getting help doesn’t mean solving the problems. It can mean maintaining a loving relationship even in the face of those problems.

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With a house of teenagers now it’s a bumpy road that we’re travelling together. As we know better we do better. So can you. I trust that sharing my story will inspire you to share your story with me. Thank you for listening.

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