In my career as a parenting educator, I spend time coaching parents on how to “fill their child’s buckets.” I call this filling the attachment, or ALIVE tanks. The thing is, I’d say the majority of parents I speak with, particularly moms, are trying to fill their children’s tanks while their own tanks are nearing empty.
The tanks or buckets refer to our capacity to have our needs met. When these needs are fulfilled, we can put our energy into enjoying life rather than being preoccupied with complaining about what isn’t going well or feeling sad for what we lack.
It can be quite hard to know what we need and how to get our needs met, but making that a priority can drastically change our experience as a parent.
Our basic needs are to feel connected (to ourselves and others), loved, important, heard, and capable. I also believe having fun and feeling rested is important so I’d weave those two in there among the five basic needs.
We can be the parents (and partners/friends/colleagues) we hope to be when our buckets are full. The big question is: what tanks are empty and how do we fill them? We all know that raising children can require an incredible amount of energy — how can we make sure that energy is in us to give?
In order to fill our own buckets (and our children’s, too) consider what you need and how much of that particular need is necessary to feel full.
Here are some questions to consider for gauging how full or empty our personal buckets are:
Given the situation you are in, how can you get more of what you miss the most? What is possible?
Even though much of your day might be spent working, raising children, and being a partner, what activities do you love—what makes you smile and laugh? How can you get some time to do these activities?
As much as is possible, spend more time with those who lift you up than bring you down. For those who are hard on you, can you talk to them about this?
What can you do to feel you have the rest you need?
What are you naturally good at? Use those strengths to carry you during times that are more challenging.
If your answer to that question is “the kids,” read this, if it is another person, consider how you might communicate more clearly to convey your message.
Consider what helps you feel capable and helpful—can you do what fills this bucket?
I have been thinking about “buckets” quite a bit because I just got back from a trip with my children, which I took because I felt a sense that my buckets were empty. The thing was, I wasn’t entirely sure of which ones, and what to do about that.
The trip we went on (Me and Mom in Tuscany) was unique because the kids spent the day at a camp while their moms spent time together at a nearby villa. The kids had an eye-opening, fun Italian experience while the moms were able to regroup and re-energize. We actually had an Italian chef cooking for us!
I remember one day sitting out by the pool when I broke down in tears: it had been a long time since I had felt completely taken care of. There were people cleaning our rooms, feeding us, taking us on fun excursions and bringing us wine. I had so much choice: I could go put my toes in the Mediterranean Sea, or spend the day on a bike, meandering through the Tuscan hills. What made this experience even better was that one of my dear friends went with me. We certainly had lots of time to chat about everything! I felt grateful to be able to be in that place.
My friend and I talked a lot about our buckets. She asked me really good questions about what might be stopping me from filling mine. She also spent some time with my children and had insight into what fills their buckets that I hadn’t considered. She helped me realize I have two very different children, with two very different sets of needs.
While explaining this experience to my yoga teacher, lamenting that since my mother had passed away, I had not felt so nurtured, she smiled and said, “Now how can you continue that nurturing—for yourself?”
This is a difficult question to answer, but one that I feel is important for me and other parents. What can we do to stay full so we can more easily fill up those around us?
This article is brought to you by: Me and Mom in Tuscany.