Running on Empty {Whole Together Family}

Altogether too often, the things about parenting that I repost on Facebook or Instagram are aspirational. This is the way I want to parent. This is the way I want to be there for my kids. This is the basis I want them to have.


Sometimes these things leave me with no plan, just a vague sense of “shoulding” on myself and not quite measuring up.

Which tends to have the opposite effect I’d like it to.

I get short with myself and I get short with everyone else and all my parenting aspirations have gone to heck in one morning.

I guess you’ve probably been in the same boat.

I’m imagining telling this to all my aunts and all of them laughing and saying, “yes, we know what you mean!” (b-t-double-u- thanks for being their in my head, Aunties;) )

But I digress.

We’ve all been there.

But this post stopped me short and made me think.

I reshared it, but then found I am still thinking about it a day or two later.

(reposted from facebook as linked)

(Thanks to parenting coach Sarah On Purpose! for sharing it first!)

This idea of an emotional cup just makes sense. I know it’s not new, and I’ve heard of this is various ways before.

I think it’s easier to think of our own cups as parents. We have the phrase running on empty and we know what it feels like for us adult people to be completely drained, overwhelmed, or just in need of a little reassurance. We are primed with ways we can relax and take care of ourselves – take a walk, read a book, eat a snack, talk to someone, cancel things, etc – but applying this idea to our kids (with specific things that drain or fill) is so helpful.

When I’m trying to get my kids to behave or finding streaks of bad attitude infecting all of them on the daily I tend to think in terms of making the behavior stop. I just want them to stop with whatever they’re doing that’s making the other kid scream or just get on the train and do their chores already because we’re helpers in this house. Which more often then not results in a lot of scolding.

I don’t want to just be told to play more, or give more hugs, or whatnot. That ends up feeling like blame to me (can you say enneagram 1? I’m working on it). It feels like, “Hey your kids are fighting because you’re not affectionate enough or don’t spend one-on-one time much.” I know that’s not how it is meant, but that is why this graphic makes so much more sense to me. I can think about it in terms of giving my kids something they need that helps them instead of feeling like I’m atoning for past sins of omission.

This graphic helped to reframe why my kids might just need more affection, attention, or fun. It’s not because I messed up (not completely, at least) it’s just because life is tiring and there are lots of drains on their energy. Some of which, I can’t control, but I can help a lot with the refilling. So yay!

Looking at this graphic (and being reminded of all the parenting books I’ve read that say a version of this in a longer format), I can see clearly how playing, affection, and whatnot would lead to kids having more emotional energy for the things that take away from their emotional cups – namely doing things they don’t want to do… and maybe the stress, rejection, and loneliness of sibling fighting….and the scolding. yup. But on the flip-side, I can also see all the things we can (or already) do to help them cope with the day-to-day discomforts of being in a family, learning to be friends with people, and learning new things daily.

It’s a much more hopeful mindset that I am thankful to have run across in my scrolling.

So here’s to thinking about if my kids are running on empty and how I might be able to help them refill their cups a little more intentionally.

Crossing my fingers here.

How about you? What do you think of this idea?

I’ve also found these accounts helpful to follow, if you need more positive, helpful resources in your feeds:



This is day 22/100 #the100dayproject #100daysofpressingpost

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