Option B Parenting: Coping with Struggles and Despair on the Parenting Journey

I’m sure many of you read Sheryl Sandberg’s gritty and authentic piece about grief last week.

Her “option B” analogy resonated with me.

While my journey has been vastly different to hers, the last 5 years of parenting have presented me with what have felt like impossible mountains to climb. Option B battles that I did not want to have to face.

The behaviour of one of my children has devastated our family environment. I’ve felt helpless, despairing, desperate, overwhelmed, alone, and in a situation way beyond my capacity.

We’ve seen child psychologists, family therapists, psychotherapists, naturopaths, parenting coaches, doctors, paediatricians and the rest. And none of them have had answers. None of them have offered a key to change.

And it’s felt beyond impossible.

Most of us can probably identify an option A we’re aiming for, in parenting, or another aspect of life (and I’m using “option A” here to refer to whatever we hold as the “ideal” life). For me, that’s a healthy, happy, functioning family. Not one fraught with tension, angst, and misery.

But for all of us, at some point, life presents us with an option B. It’s not what we planned for. It’s not what we hoped for. It’s not what we imagined.

I’ve been hanging on to hope for my option A. For a different path. A better path. But I haven’t been able to change the path I’m on. It’s an option B path. And I’ve come to realise that investing all my energy into trying to change the situation, just piles more angst onto the angst of the situation itself.

So slowly, slowly, I’ve been changing my approach. I’ve been investing more energy in doing option B well. I’m seeking to better appreciate what I do have, to be more mindful and grateful for the moments that are good, however tiny they may be. And I’m aiming to incorporate more things into my day that bring joy and relief. Little things. Like exercise, meditation, reading, time to myself, a bunch of fresh flowers, coffee with a friend. Things that bring me joy.

Because we only get one shot at this life. And while life doesn’t always offer us option A, in the words of Sheryl Sandberg, “let’s kick the shit out of option B.”