I am updating this site after some time away. Looking forward to being back online. Watch this space 🙂
I am updating this site after some time away. Looking forward to being back online. Watch this space 🙂
The only thing that can ever make anything complicated is the way we think about it, approach it, dream it. We make meaning of everything, and in doing so, we create the world around us. It looks like it is the other way around, but indeed, we are authors of our own lives, and no one can take that power away from us.
It is all a matter of choice.
Simple parenting is a choice.
Like any writer, we borrow from convention, trying on other people’s stories to see how they feel on our own skin, but we bring each pen stroke to life all by ourselves in our own authentic way. By choosing to live it.
One need look no further than the practice of parenting across cultures to see how invented our family life is. If you are Balinese, Brazilian, or British, the chances are you have grown up around certain notions of childhood and family, which differ to those held elsewhere in the world.
If you were a member of the Beng, living on the Ivory Coast of Africa, then you would likely believe your child to be a reincarnation of an ancestor. Your baby would have been drawn direct from Wrugbe, the Beng land of the dead, into a new life. You would wash your newborn with special black soap, reserved only for use on babies and dead bodies, the two groups inherently connected in your mind. You would need to persuade your little one into this new life of theirs and prevent them from returning to Wrugbe, which, after all, would be a more natural environment for them.You might prioritise buying them a cowry shell bracelet to protect them from illness and bad spirits.
For more about the Beng, and childrearing practices in different societies, see ‘A World Of Babies’ by DeLoache and Gottlieb, Cambridge Uni Press.
Common beliefs about parenting from our own stomping grounds cover the accepted practices for responsible care-giving and child-rearing. Some examples that come to mind are:
Do you find yourself nodding along at all? Do you recognise these notions? In my personal and subjective experience, they are often presented as the real truth about bringing up children.
Hang on though, because THIS IS ALL MADE UP CULTURE STUFF.
We can do better than the cultural equivalent of Dan Brown.
We are not the victims of circumstance. We are the authors of our lives.
Even when you feel like Lord of the Flies has nothing on one of your average family outings, and you wonder if you are The Heart of Darkness to everyone else’s Swiss Family Robinson…..
No, no, no.
I cannot speak for you, but this is what looks real to me right now:
The bedrock of our society is CHOICE, and yet all too often we forget that we have the power to write our own lives like never before. Instead we say, ‘Ah yes, we were once young, carefree souls, but now we have kids so’………
…..and then we tail off in despondent resignation.
INSERT HEAVY PAUSE
(Because, having spawned, and brought tiny humans into the world our own desires, our own needs, our own happiness is somehow shelved)
And we look back on nostalgic visions of childhood where the celebrations and wonderments, the big and small experiences, were always NOW and there was a magical sense of CONNECTION. A time when there were no details to worry about, and no forms to fill in, and no need to feel weighed down. We were so free.
Then we say ‘but that is what CHILDHOOD is like, and that reminds me, we have to provide this incredible, rich, textured experience to our own little ones, and gosh, what hard work it is’.
But we also have to make sure they do well in school. They have to learn to do calculus, or speak Mandarin, or score goals, or play the oboe. And we have to make sure they have a successful career and that they get to be happy because they can get all the material goods they could ever require, plus spiritual fulfilment, emotional health, and whole-brain heartfulness.
At some point we might start looking for a set of magic techniques to take care of all this.
Then we see that we need to do all these things for ourselves too, in order to be enough, and to be happy, and that now we have to do it ON TOP OF parenting. If we don’t then we are setting a terrible example, and our children are doomed.
You see now, what a complicated burden parenting is.
However, this reasoning ignores the glaring fact that IT IS ALL 100% FABRICATED.
The only thing that parenting needs to be is a connection between you and your child that is grounded in the present moment. A connection through which you attempt to understand them and to do what is best to help them grow. It is that simple. All good decisions and feelings and experiences will flow, natural as rainfall, from that connection.
There are so many choices. Bold choices, timid choices, creative choices, wise, foolish, and wacky choices.
The rest is just generic, made up, dime-a-dozen culture stuff.
What are you making up today? Is it necessary? Is it beautiful?
Treat your obligations like furnishing your dream house. Does it make sense to you? Does to bring you pleasure?
Then choose, choose, choose. And remember that you chose, so that you can unchoose it should you so wish.
What do you choose, you Mamajestic lovelies? Tell me what matters most to you.
What would you choose over and again?
What could you unchoose to make your parenting more simple?
Come share your thoughts in the Mamajestic Facebook Group.
With lots and lots of squishy love,
PS You can read more about parenting and connection at the Three Principles For Families Centre Site
This week I did a group session about changing relationships before and after a baby is born. Inevitably, the discussion turned to communication, and how it feels when one or more people in a family feel misunderstood or sidelined.
When a new baby arrives into a family group, everyone enters into a new learning cycle, where questions about role, identity, and belonging may arise. In addition to this, normal sleep patterns and opportunities for rest, relaxation, and alone time shift around, and getting used to new ways of doing things, and different priorities, can leave you feeling disorientated and tired.
This disorientation is a natural part of learning. Beginning is easy, ending is sweet, but the messy middle requires you to realign yourself in all kinds of interesting ways, and to have new insights about your life. So much of what we do is composed of messy middles of one sort or another!
At a time where big changes are occurring, it is only natural that people should get a bit wrapped up in their shifting world. Perhaps too, there is social pressure to keep it together, to have the answers, to be proactive, and to suck it up, and we can get in a bit of a panic when we feel swept along and out of control.
Getting wrapped up in our thoughts about how we are doing, where we are up to, what we want to achieve, and how our lives should look focusses our attention on our internal world. That means, that we are less able to focus outwards and be open to new ideas, the perspectives of others, and cannot obtain a clear view of our situation. If we want to reach out to other people, then it is much better to do this from a place of relative clarity and openness.
The good news is that it is really easy to spot when we or other people are feeling open, relaxed, and ready to truly listen and collaborate. You only need to observe basic body language to see where other family members are at-
Good mood= open and relaxed body language, clear eyes, sparkle, easy smile, easy eye contact
Bad/preoccupied mood= defensive and closed off body language, glazed expression, lack of eye contact, or aggressive eye contact, furrowed brow, strained features
Even before any speaking happens, we can see if it is a time when conversing will flow with ease, or we need to tread carefully, or when we need to back off and come back later.
The other bit of good news is that because it is only natural that people get down in the dumps or confused, then there is absolutely no need to take their moods and whims personally. When problems in communication occur it is because people are innocently bogged down in whatever is going through their minds at that moment, not because we are distancing ourselves on purpose.
We live in separate realities, so sometimes it is difficult to see through our own perspective, and get a glimpse into what is real for the other person. However, when we do, we can connect in profound ways with one another, and family members of all ages, shapes, and sizes!
I made a video with some examples. I hope you enjoy it!
Please do come and share your own experiences of relationships and transitions in the Mamajestic Facebook Group, or indeed to share any related blogs or videos you come across in your travels.
Do go ahead and share this post if you found it spoke to you! I love it when posts get shared about. It helps other people to find the site.
Take care and lots of love,
There are a growing number of books that demonstrate the simple power of the Three Principles Paradigm, and the impact that it has had on the lives of the authors and those who are in …
There are a growing number of books that demonstrate the simple power of the Three Principles Paradigm, and the impact that it has had on the lives of the authors and those who are in …
Here Comes The Sun, Hello Spring
Spring is in the air, the season of fertility and new growth. Can you feel it breathing its breezes and butterflies around you?
I hear the church bells ringing, and an image pops into my head: I am looking at a tree in our hillside garden. A stream of water is flowing from its base, making the twists and turns of tree root shapes. It tumbles down the verge, and over the side of the terrace. Life is waking up. It is everywhere.
Time to wake up! What growth do you want to see? What would please you most right now?
Observe the springy glow on our homeside hillside!
In previous weeks, the prospect of Spring had me ready to crawl back into bed. Of course, the commencement of this fertile season meant I should make all kinds of stuff happen. After all, the world has turned round a sufficient amount that I no longer see my breath in the air. That must mean it is time to purge my mind, body, home, and life of the extraneous.
Then I remembered that these things are all made up and resolved to languish in a duvet nest until further notice. Then a child jumped on my head.
Well, that didn’t take long.
Bit by bit, I did get the urge to consider what my authentic desires for growth might be. So I gave it a whirl.
It is not always easy to figure out what you really, truly want. Often, the moment you stop and try to focus on your desires, what comes out is a list of things you would like to get done, or to have done already. For instance…
Me: So, Alexis what would please you right now?
Me: Well, let’s see….Time to declutter the house. Time to try and sell baby gear that we no longer need. Time to create better systems for organising life. Time to lose weight. Time to smarten up. Time to look for new projects and new income. Time to study. Time to really spend some quality one to one time with my husband and the kids.
Me: Nope. That is just a list of things you think you should do. Tell me, what do you really want in this exact moment?
Now, I find myself doing this from time to time, and it ends with two results: a longer list of things to do; a feeling of dissatisfaction with the way things are. Not a fabulous energising result, then.
The Problem-Solution Pattern
Back when I studied text and narrative at the University of Glasgow, we learned about typical discourse patterns that exist in our literature, and our thinking. These patterns are structures for the way we assign meaning in our communications. Michael Hoey identified a number of these prevalent in English texts, and noted that there are different kinds of pattern popular in different societies. The presence of a common discourse pattern reflects a predilection for a particular kind of reasoning about the world.
I notice that the problem-solution story is very prevalent in our society. We just love to analyse, measure, assess, solve, and evaluate. So, it makes sense that you get sucked into a problem-solution mindset on a regular basis. Perhaps this is where the proactive, goal setting, to do list fetish comes from, which is such a common approach to the stuff of daily life in our society.
For instance, you can take just about any sensible personal desire and turn it into a bewildering series of actions to be taken. Here are a few examples:
Desire: I would love to sleep more….
Ooh this is fun. Let’s do another one.
Desire: I would love to make beautiful nourishing food for my children…
It works with things like appearance too!
Desire: I would love to be fit, (somewhat) lithe, and strong…
Desire: I would love to live in simplicity and order…
It is truly a marvel to see how fast a wish for sleep, to nourish others, to tend to your health and sexiness, to create orderliness can turn into a problem. Incredible too, how many solutions there are to choose from, of which many require outlaying time, money, and energy that are not available at that moment, and often do not have the promised or predicted effect anyway.
When my mind and body are asking to have their needs attended to, and I feel depleted, this is what seems to pop up out of the cosmos: the definition of problems and projected solutions. I am sure that, this is one reason why the world sometimes feels so busy. Our problems may have solutions, but often the relentless pursuit of resolution, wholeness, and happiness can take us further from well-being.
In fact, we are surrounded by advertisements which inform us about the problems we barely considered we had! From the point of view of putting energy in the bank, giving attention to these constructions can sap our dwindling reserves, just when we want a little boost.
Not that there is anything wrong with genuine problem solving. It is unnecessary problem creation I am on the look out for.
Uncovering Authentic Desires
I am going to go out on a limb and say that this is not the stuff of genuine desire. I am going to go beyond that and say that much of what is written about bettering your parenting, body, home, and work, is meant with the best of intentions, and useful to some, sometimes, in some situations. However, all too often, what we get from our society, which prizes the rational, the productive, and the effective, has not got a lot to offer in terms of identifying and nurturing healthy everyday desires. What we seem to have instead are objectives, passions, and goals. Not to mention that we are encouraged to go big or go home. Do it on a large scale, or it isn’t really worth it, it won’t be going anywhere!
This means that, rather than living in deep appreciation for the many wonderful opportunities, material goods, and cosmic gifts that we already receive on a daily basis, we get caught up in what might be, who we might become, what we might do tomorrow or next year. These thought balls get lobbed around our collective unconscious and insinuate themselves. Then we get so worn out figuring with all these pesky mental globules, that appreciating anything seems too much of a stretch. Then we say, I am tired, and you know there is never enough time just to be, just to look after myself. I don’t even know who I am or what I want right now.
Thinking Outside The Box
For me, the question of desire has to come back to a level of understanding that does not come from out there in society, not from the habits and fetishes that are prized at present, not from received wisdom in any form.
Genuine desire is personal, quirky, and does not fit into a problem and solution pattern. Figuring out what you really, absolutely need comes from an intelligence within you, which does not have to correspond to identifying a lack, then taking a range of actions to address the situation in an efficient manner. We are not cars to be serviced by mechanics, we are complex organisms with spirits, with whims, we are animals with instincts, and we are beings who might benefit from many varieties of interaction, stimulation, and growth in all kinds of non-standard forms and patterns.
When it comes to taking action you desire, then whatever it is can be an end in itself. It can be small, minuscule choices, or grand designs. There is no size and shape requirement. No measurements, analysis, no specifications. There do not need to be elaborate plans, as the satisfaction of a desire in the moment can be a spontaneous meshing of opportunity and fancy.
This is self care. It is not self-assessment. It is not self-judgement. It is pure attention to your own joyfulness, for its own sake. It is honouring your own wellbeing in the moment.
Down The Rabbit Hole
As I became accustomed to observing my thoughts and the forms that travelled through my mind on a daily basis, I became aware of just how many of them there are. Also, not all of them make conventional sense. I got interested in the seeming random stuff that entered my skull, and that DID serve me. I found that I was helping myself, without knowing how or why or where a particular notion or image would turn up. For instance, I had a vision of me swimming in a pool, being supported by a giant turtle, which reassured me when I was in labour with my youngest. Why not pay a little attention to these images, colours, textures, and feelings? What were they saying?…
…I am talking a little attention here, not analysis or deep interpretation, not directing or getting bound up in thought, just drifting into a dream…
I continued the conversation with myself thus…
Me: Hello there, quiet corners of my conscious self, what would you like more of in our life?
It’s cool if it doesn’t make sense or appears well thought out because I get that you are coming from the heart. I know you don’t do lists and goals and such. A seeming random abstract notion would be fine…
Me: RED: YES. RED.
Me: Well, I could change my blog to red right now. I can adorn myself with these nice, red, clothes. Ooh I like it. Yes that does feel nice.
Me: OK. I could put some music on….Satie? too sad. OK. Rocky Horror it is….
Me: (holds up image of rather mystical looking woman in manner of ancient fantasy land character)
Me: I’m a sweet transvestite…..Sorry, I was distracted by the awesomeness. What have you got there….I am not sure this is a career move….
Well, let’s see. Oh she’s WISE.
Me: (image of Kevin Smith as Silent Bob rolling eyes in assent)
Me: She has time for what she does and needs to do, because she is centred in a reality where life is not expected to run twenty times faster than it actually does,
She does not believe she has to be everything to everyone all the time,
She can nurture herself and others
She does not try to do, be, and become too many things, and feeling not enough,
She is fierce and strong,
She is not perfect, and does not need to be,
She takes nourishment for herself,
She can work charms and mystical awesomeness,
Sounds good. I want to cultivate greater understanding, compassion, physical health and wisdom to my life!
I wonder if I could give myself permission to explore this.
Some Concluding-ish Thoughts On The Practice Of Desire Fulfillment
I made a little video…
Now, the thing to remember is that desires are not meant to be turned into checklists. Turning desires into ‘have-tos’ zaps all their power to energise, clarify, and assist us in our lives. Moulding a desire into a need for productivity and rushing through it all does this too. Desires are suggestions regarding what I might enjoy.
Self care in the form of fulfilling small desires does not always have to wait until the children are in bed or at school, does not depend on your partner’s schedule, does not depend on you being at work or at home, or the recommendations of experts. Self-care in the form of attending to our desires is available in many moments if we simply ask ourselves what would be pleasing, in and of itself, in the time and space I am inhabiting at this very moment.
At the end of the day, happiness does not come from creating a perfect set of circumstances, or performing a particular set of behaviours. It comes from within, where there is nothing in particular getting in the way of it. For this reason, it is best not to put too much thought into the question of what you want to create or not. Neither to think too much about thoughts. The point is to allow yourself awareness of small desires, and permission to fulfill wishes just because you can, and not because it is improving, transformative, productive, or with a set agenda. Though, you may find that listening to yourself and your needs may well pay greater dividends in time.
By listening to small desires, I can look past habitual behaviours and make choices which are better for me, or see what I can be grateful for already. I have more fun, more lightness. The feeling that I get to live in, when I am more attentive to what I have genuine need of, is so much more rewarding than the feeling of checking an item off a list (oooh baby and you KNOW that does feel good, doesn’t it!).
The feeling of, a small genuine desire fulfilled is a little charge of energy which keeps me company as I set about my business. It helps to put me in touch with where my feet next need to land, and what to give attention to. What’s more is that giving to myself leads to having more energy to share with others, and to care for my family.
I usually leave my posts with an invitation, but today I challenge you to look at what is hanging out quietly in the wacky and abstract world of your consciousness and see what it suggests for you!
Have fun exploring your desires and do come share your experiences with me by posting a comment here or on the Mamajestic Facebook Group.
What kinds of conversations do you have with yourself? What would you like to ask your heart? Do you now think I am a crazy lady?
Let me know!
Two years ago, I wrote this post about children, snot, breastfeeding, and immunity. It includes one of the coolest things I ever found out about lactation! As it is somehow the middle of March (what?), I thought a reprise was in order….
….I have come to associate the changing of Autumn to Winter, Winter to Spring with coughs, colds, and mucus. Spring truly is green, and this year has been no exception. As I type, I have my snuffling youngest in my arms, where she recently passed out.
It’s times like this when I ponder the important questions: How can I best look after my children? What do they need me to do? Most of all, why must my kids cover me from head to foot in snot?
If you are a sensitive soul, who dislikes mucus and bogeys (or nose monkeys- my favourite Portuguese expression, ever) my advice is to turn back now. Watch this video to take the bad taste away.
Anyone still reading? Thank you for staying with me. I did a little research to get some answers, and found a few emerald-tinted surprises.
Bearing in mind that Biology is not my specialism, unless you count study at GCSE level, I began by clarifying what snot is and what it is for. Then, buoyed on by curiosity, why there is so damn much of it.
The human body is a rich source of nutrients and water which various pathogens, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi, seek to colonise for their own ends. Luckily for us, our bodies have lots of clever tricks for preventing these invasions. The stars of the defence line-up are white blood cells, which can engulf and consume pathogens, thus destroying them. Other forms of defence involve the production of substances which harm pathogens like sebum, sweat, or stomach acid. Mucus is a mass of sticky protein produced by mucous membranes which line the natural entrances to the body, such as nose, mouth, genitalia.
When they sense a pathogen attack, mucous membranes make mucus to trap the nasties and prevent them from exploring our bodies for a place to call home. It is unknown why they should produce so much of it in response to cold viruses, but it is thought that they tend to be a bit jumpy and go into overdrive when they sense a threat. In ‘Human Defences’ the movie, the white blood cells would be the most likely of heroes. The mucous membranes would be the supporting characters who mean well, and provide loyal support to the heroic white blood cells, but are given to dithering followed by enthusiastic overcompensatory action.
This explains a lot, but as yet, the reason why I am doomed to be covered all over in green streaks whenever my children catch colds. So I kept reading and thinking.
It is well-documented that when children are breastfed, they receive greater protection from illness: when babies are exposed to pathogens they share them with their mother through activities like cuddling or drooling, so that her immune system can create antibodies, which are then passed to the infant in her milk. With their immature immune system otherwise handling only so many invaders, this gives the child’s chances of fighting off attacks a big boost. The act of snuggling in for a good wipe also releases oxytocin, which ensures that the breastfeeding relationship remains strong. So far, so good. There’s a description of how this all works on the Dr Sears website.
In an ideal world, this also acts like a sort of vaccine for the mother, as she is exposed to low dose of the virus and creates the correct antibodies before the enemy launches a full attack. Of course, sometimes you do catch stuff from your kids, but a notable number of times, I have been the only family member not to come down with a cold which is doing the rounds. This seems to be truer, the more children we have and the older they get. At the very least, there is the lovely warm oxytocin rush from being encircled by their little arms, before being used as a human hanky, which makes me feel better about it all.
Now, I am aware of a scratchy feeling in my throat and I wonder if I have just jinxed myself, but then I am writing in the space between getting my baby back to sleep at 6.30 am and my kids getting up at 7.30. I am a bit run down and that does make a difference to whether I pick things up. Unfortunately, those pesky pathogens prey on our vulnerabilities.
The breastfeeding factor explains why it is in my baby’s interests to cover me in bogeys and so on. It could also explain the older children’s behaviour: For most of human history, babies have breastfed for at least the first three years of life, which could explain why my older children continue to cover me in goo, even though they each weaned from the breast when they were around a year old. Even our eldest is still only four, and may well still have been a breastfed child, were we living in a more traditional society.
The story doesn’t end here though. When I was researching this, I came across a blog post about a hypothesis which suggests that breast-milk evolved first as a function of the immune system, and second as means of feeding young. This is based on what milk contains and how milk production occurs: Milk is full of immunoprotective proteins, which fight bacteria and fungi, and are also present in mucus secretions; the two main nutritional components of breastmilk, fat and sugar, are created by proteins, which are otherwise only associated with immunity; the parts of the body used to control milk-making also trigger inflammation and cause fevers, which is another facet of our defence mechanism. It is an elegant example of how nature likes to streamline processes by which our existence is possible.
Given that the body’s general defence system produces many other slippery substances like sweat, tears, and oils, it is quite plausible that breast-milk was once intended to cover the skin in a protective layer, in both women and men. This being the case, perhaps there is a message from deep within our monkey brains which tells our younglings they should rub themselves up and down on the nearest adult when ill.
So, I’m left with a feeling of awe over the cleverness of the human body, and a mild queasiness at the thought that breast-milk is really, really similar to snot.
Curiosity satisfied, I can turn to the business of how to look after a snotty family. I read up on evidence for the efficacy of some popular home remedies and found that the best bets were chicken soup and honey. There is a summary of some research on the matter here.
I loved this super-simple, one ingredient chicken soup, by Jack Monroe. Though, my heart truly belongs to chilli and citrus scattered noodle soups like this one. The kids eat it without the chilli and citrus. They can cope with a little kick, but have yet to travel with me up the Scoville scale. I also love to make this Korean ginger and honey tea. After all, it is nice to know you have centuries of Oriental Medicine behind you, when running round after sick kids and praying you don’t catch the lurgy. I mixed some with some baby oatmeal to make a porridge for the children, and I drank the tea.
I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed researching it! I have chicken on the stove as I type.
I am going to be posting a few old chestnuts, re-purposed and lovingly shone for you, as I have a LOAD of study to get through for my personal development as a pregnancy and maternity coach. Please know that I will be back to share all the amazing new stuff that I find out as a result of my ongoing education!
Can you recommend a great cold-beating recipe?
What is your snot status (snatus? snotus?)? And how is your snot-based knowledge (snowledge)?
It occurs to me that since I wrote the original text, you may have come across new and interesting research that explores whether breastmilk components might be possible cures for diseases AND the solution to what we do when the antibiotics stop working….
Come share resources, thoughts, and recipes in the Mamajestic Facebook Group!
If you want to talk all things lactation, raise difficulties, discuss doubts, have a chin wag, then do not hesitate to get in touch through Project Happy Milk. Both online and in person appointments are absolutely welcome, as are queries via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Hope everyone is well and you are full of the joys of Spring, whether snot encrusted or otherwise:)
You know when someone asks you how you are, and you say ‘good’ or ‘fine’ because in that moment you are. In that moment, it is hard, and unhelpful to call to mind any recent ‘not OKness’and get stuck into it.
Even when we are going through a period of difficulty, it might seem best just to bang a tight lid on tricky feelings and hope they go away. Quite often, in time, this is exactly what happens. However, sometimes they stay there churning away, until they almost become part of the furniture, and we get used to them being there. Then, out of the blue, a moment comes where they start jostling for attention. At that moment, you might allow them to break out. You might acknowledge them. You might talk about them. This telling, in itself, can be a panacea. It can be an opportunity for change. It can be an open door.
Sometimes they bubble out of you, and you can release them. All it takes is seeing them, or rather, seeing them anew.
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by the wonderful Clesia Mendes for her supercool YouTube show ‘Womanhood From The Inside Out’. I could talk to this lady for hours, she is such a gem.
We chatted about a number of things, including my own story of not feeling a good enough mum, wanting to be perfect, worrying about my life, my kids, and my parenting. I talked about how I came to see myself, my life, my kids, my husband, and my parenting in a new light. That I saw how my family is a bizarre and beautiful, ever changing creation, with its own weather, its own weirdness, and that each of us is as good and as perfect as we ever need to be. I may have mentioned that that had an enormous impact on how I feel about life in general and myself, my kids, my husband, and my parenting in the specific.
Here is the interview:
I talked about a way of visualising the mind and how that changed my perception, so I would like to share an extract from a blog post I wrote about it. This is a story of coming to an understanding about toddler sleep habits!
One of the things that I get worked about is Miss just turned 1’s sleeping habits. The issue of baby sleep has become one of the most contentious topics on parenting websites, forums, and the topic of various research endeavours. Thanks to the mighty net, each of us has a plethora analyses and advice, not just the word of friends, relatives, and acquaintances, perhaps the odd baby book, but also forums and Facebook groups, ‘parenting experts’, and scientists. There are loads of books and ebooks to choose from too depending on your chosen approach.
Now, of course, being woken repeatedly throughout the night does tend to be tiring. On top of this though, is a list of niggles and anxieties: I am not intervening enough; not setting good enough routines; exacerbating her waking by co-sleeping; in danger of losing more sleep if I stop co- sleeping; night weaning might get me more sleep, but there are some benefits for Miss 1 if she carries on feeding at night; I don’t want to wean completely because I am enjoying the extended breastfeeding relationship and this is likely the last time I will be doing this; perhaps I should be prepared to do almost anything if it guarantees more sleep; perhaps I should have sleep trained after all; consulting literature reveals that there are pros and cons to sleep training, so either way I have probably done stuff wrong; perhaps I am doing the kids a disservice by being tired and grumpy too much of the time; maybe if I …..and on and on and on.
...Nicola Bird, Life Coach, and Wise Lady Entrepreneuress, helped me out with a simple insight…
It’s not the circumstances of my life that are overwhelming, it is the way I think about them which makes me feel overwhelmed.
At any given moment, I am constructing my perception of reality through my thoughts. Thoughts arrive unbidden in my mind on a constant basis and tell me stories about what is happening in my life. Such as why Miss 1 doesn’t sleep through the night, and the devastation it will cause because, clearly, she is never, ever, going to.
Nicola used an analogy involving TV newsreels to make me more aware of my thought patterns:
Imagine that your thoughts are a ticker-tape playing across a TV screen; one of those strips at the bottom of the TV, which keeps you abreast of incoming news items. The ticker-tape stories are played out in greater detail on the screen above.
As we move through our daily life, the ticker-tape flashes up responses to what is going on. For example, it reports on our behaviour and that of others. The story we connect to these behaviours appears in technicolour on the screen evoking emotional reactions.
The more that we pay attention to a particular story, the more vivid it gets. The story starts to feel more and more real. We start to make it real, even though it started out as pure imagination. The real fun happens when you start to try and pay attention to every story on the ticker-tape and begin to make them ALL real at once. This saps energy and leaves no room for what is actually going on in the present moment. We start to live in our heads. We smother our own personal resources. We start to feel less than well.
We can’t just switch the TV off. It is part of us.
On the other hand, we can just turn the TV round. Put it in a corner. Pay less attention to it. Take it less seriously.
I commented that I thought this idea would be useful.
‘It’s not just useful, it’s liberating’ said Nicola.
She was not wrong.
Miss 1 is so very far from sleeping through the night that the very idea of ever sleeping again seems laughable at times. Like I said above, I react to this in various ways. I have spent untold amounts of time thinking about strategies to help her sleep longer, and still more wondering what, if anything, I did wrong. I start worrying about the long term effects of poor sleeping on my mental and physical health. I get jealous and resentful towards hubster because he is not up as often as me. I get frustrated with her because, to be honest, I expected a bit more sleeping to be happening by now. I see this stretching into the distance for months and years to come with no end point in sight.
Well, none of these thoughts are helping in any way and this is actually interfering with my ability to deal with the present moment. The stories I am telling myself about the future simply haven’t happened yet, so they can go. The strategies I have read about, heard about, thought up, whirl around my head, but they don’t quite fit today, my baby, my current situation, me. Get rid of them all. It’s just clutter. The theories about how this came about. The expectations about little one reaching milestones. Out you go. Good riddance. Oh, and the beating myself up for getting cranky and impatient. I will lose that, because I am only human after all.
I really needed reminding that thoughts are just stories. Stories which tell me about what I fear and desire, not stories which predict what will happen in my own or my kids lives. Stories which have the power to shape my family’s lives, but only because of the effect I allow them to have on my own feelings. Paying untold attention to my thoughts sends me in circles, repeating the same stories to myself, when there are no answers here to resolve my feelings of overwhelm. In fact, these thoughts are creating that feeling of overwhelm.
Now, Miss just turned 1 is Miss 2 and a half, and she still wakes up, and still does not want to sleep alone. That is fine. I get my rest. I am OK. She is OK. We are all OK.
I hope you find this as useful and liberating as I did!
If you would like to talk about thoughts, life, perfectionism, or overwhelm, or anything else, come do so! Leave a comment or find me on Facebook.
I highly recommend that you check out Clesia’s show in general. That’s Womanhood From The Inside Out. There are a whole bunch of fascinating women to get to know and much to learn from their experiences.
Also, Clesia and I would LOVE it if you shared our video!
Lots of love,
I am sitting in the playground on a Wednesday afternoon, feeling the breeze kissing my face, while listening to the happy chuntering of my three rugrats, as they swing, climb, and bounce. The warm tarmac supports me, and a blue sky stretches out above me, the air is sweet, fresh, and bright. All is calm.
It is Thursday morning, and I am slumped in an exhausted daze on my exercise mat. My baby is finally sleeping, after an interrupted night of discomfort and crying (troublesome ears and/or teeth), and my older kids are at nursery. I am immobile, confused, and wistful desperate. Hot tears fall among the crumbs of unknown origin, probably biscuits or toast, that seem especially attracted to blue yoga foam. Everything looks unkempt, and is tinged with the odour of recently changed nappy. All is disarray.
Searching For Peace In Parenting
If someone asked me what kind of parent I want to be, then I would say ‘a peaceful one’. It seems a natural desire. After all, if you do not wonder about who you want to be, what you should expect of yourself, then how can you work towards it?
I always fancied being a bit like this…
The fact is though, that you do not get to pick just one kind of experience in your parenting. Part of being a rockstar human parent is to have a changing mental state, which is sometimes peaceful and sometimes not. Such is life!
The good news is that it is not necessary to worry about not being peaceful all the time, or indeed, to try and become peaceful all the time. This realisation in itself has made me see that truly, there is nothing actually wrong with being sad, or disappointed, or pissed off. Those experiences represent a set of thoughts being had in the moment, which are transitory, normal, and, did I mention transitory? Which means, ickiness will pass, making way for glorious summery feelings and butterflies, and unicorns and whatever you may get your peaceful yayas from.
Furthermore, there are not really ‘kinds of parents’ because each person is who they are from moment to moment, and that in no way means that they are a ‘type’. So, that mum who always seems immaculate, punctual, and well put together, even though she has three more kids than you do, has her moments of crazy, unkempt chaos. That mum who seems to be falling apart at the seams, and in constant pursuit of her diminishing sanity, for no apparent good reason, she has her moments of sheer clarity and calm.
We are all human, we all have the capacity for peacefulness, and we all have thinking which gets in the way of that at times. For some of us, we have thinking that takes us away from our innate peaceful nature a hell of a lot. Some people seem to struggle with difficult mental and physical sensations a little bit more at certain points in their life. There is NO shame in that. Also, there is no need to become someone else who you believe is better than you because SHE doesn’t ever sit on the floor sobbing or feel like ignoring her sweet, helpless, baby’s cries. This experience is painful, I know, I have been there, but it is not an indication that there is something wrong with you.
Adapting to the constant changes of mothering life can be a challenge. It is important to acknowledge that mums face a lot of pressure to be perfect, when the reality of caring for small people is that you become a ninja warrior, responsive to multiple demands, rapid changing parameters, and swishing with your majestic sword at judgements about the choices you are making. Now and again, it all feels a bit much. The first thing to drop is concern about judgement, and temptation to self-critique. Neither is helpful when compared to your cool ninja ‘assess, repair where needed, and move on’ skills. With the multiple demands and shifting parameters, then getting centred and re-centring yourself over again and often will help you. Your mind may shift from one experience to another, but you can always return to your badass peaceful core.
As I type, I am 99 per cent sure that awesome shoes help with this too, but cannot quite justify how…
If you feel that what is going on for you mental state-wise is not part of the ups and downs of family life, and you want to know more about postpartum psychology, go to Postpartum Progress, to better understand what Postpartum Depression and Anxiety look like. Again, these conditions are absolutely temporary, through appropriate and constructive support.
Doubtless, you will come across all kinds of articles, books, and blog posts that will encourage you to resolve negative feelings by following their tried and tested baby raising methods. These are based on the idea of controlling circumstances in order to feel better. Also, you may come across literature that tells you it is not OK to experience a lack of peace, and you should act with haste to master your negative mindset before it masters you. These are based on the idea of controlling your thoughts in order to feel better.
What I suggest is different. It is based on the understanding that peacefulness is what happens when there is nothing inhibiting our natural, default, calm mental state. There is no need to control circumstances or thoughts in order to feel better. Without our further interference, or meddling, a state of calm will return. When thoughts that inhibit this process arise, they can be recognised for what they are, and this acknowledgement reduces their impact.
Here are a few ideas that I found helpful:
1. Let go of the past.
The past is but a memory, and it is easy to forget that at times. Many parents use the past as a way to beat themselves up. The hours ticking by on the clock do not always eliminate feelings of shame because you overreacted when your son threw milk all over the sofa AGAIN, or because you yelled when no one was listening to you saying that it was time for bed.
The past can also be a reason to be angry with your spouse. They did not see that it was their turn to do the washing up tonight, even though you did it the last three nights. They slept all night long, while you got up with a miserable teething baby.
Whether you feel bad about yourself or others, it is not practical to harbour those misgivings. It is a way of tormenting yourself, when instead you can choose to move on. You can admit responsibility for a mistake and make reparations where needed. You can be more communicative with others to get on the same page. You can help them help you out. With each new moment, there is a fresh start.
2. Let go of the future.
If the past is a memory, the future is a fantasy. However real the fantasy may appear, it is pure invention. Life rarely conforms to fantasy, for better or for worse. We need the concept of the future so we can make plans. Too much thinking about the future leads to anxiety or stress because the more you dwell on what will be, the more you want to control it, and the more you fear that you cannot. Well, that’s correct. It is not really in your control, so it is best to realise that and allow for flexibility.
So, if your son did not say ‘Thank you’ when you gave him a present, or your daughter just doesn’t seem to get this potty training thing, it doesn’t mean that he will grow up to be ungrateful or she will still wet the bed at 15. These normal parenting fears happen because we cannot yet see how our kids will learn politeness or bladder control, and we wonder what to do about it.
There are no guarantees, but applying pressure from a place of fear is more likely to result in a fight than learning experience. Better to set a good example, and support their natural urge to get along with others or rock those big girl panties and let them work it out. Let them surprise you. They will.
3. Embrace the present.
The present is all that is left when you let go of the past and future. This is all we ever really have and all we ever will have. Every moment we experience is a present moment. The good news is that, with the past and future out of the way, we are freer to really observe what is in motion around us, to connect with others, and to feel the stillness within that leads to a sense of peace. When we are not busy counting up faults or inventing calamities, the world around us appears that more beautiful.
When there is a challenging situation, focussing on the present helps you to deal with it, because you can be methodical and get down to practicalities. It is much less tempting to multitask when you are not already doing six things in your mind. So, when your toddler has done a poo on the floor, the baby is crying for a feed, or your tween is threatening to leave home forever, you can take a deep breath and do your best to sort it out, one task at a time.
4. Break the Pleasure/Pain cycle.
You know how you promise yourself a glass of wine when the kids are in bed, and then you find yourself rushing through Green Eggs and Ham to get to it (He doesn’t like them, oh wait, he does. OK. Night night. Where’s the cork screw?).
Well, not that enjoying a nice tipple is a bad thing in itself, but when you focus on that reward, that desire, that pleasurable thing your future self will have, that can make putting the kids to bed into ‘the trial I have to go through before I get wine’. You can also end up drinking just because it is Wine O’clock. It has nothing to do with savouring something marvellous, and everything to do with habit. Bedtime will feel like a chore, rather than a shared moment with your children. They may well also pick up on that ‘I want wine and a nice sit down’ energy and respond by trying to postpone bedtime.
When you are acting out a pleasure-pain cycle, you feel it, and you know it. It is astounding how many things you can do it with: Work is the pain to get that lovely money; You spend the money, you have to look at your bank account; you want nice endorphins, you have to get moving first; Lycra is the penalty for enthusiastic exercise.
None of these things is inherently bad or good, unless you make it so with your thinking (Lycra may be the exception). Whichever thing is the pleasure and whichever the pain, the good things in life are always diminished by this cycle, and the bad are augmented.
When you really embrace the present moment, the pleasure-pain trap falls away, because you are not fighting to be something else or somewhere else. It is easier to make peace with whatever you are doing. Everything is more enjoyable for it.
5. Take the ego with a pinch of salt
The ego is a voice in our head that chatters away, informing us how we are doing, and of imminent threats or gratification.
For instance, it will tell you that when you cared for your sick infant, even though you were ill too, you proved yourself all kinds of marvellous at parenting. As a result, you will be sainted and angels will sing in your wake.
Alternatively, it might say that when your kid was ill, and you were ill, and you still had to get up in the night and nurse them all day, that this parent job is NOT fair. One day you would just fall down and DIE and then everyone would realise how put upon you were, how unappreciated.
You are so much more than your ego can ever imagine. You are an amazing invention of nature. After all, it is a peanut sized lump in the left brain hemisphere. What does it really know? It is difficult to brush off its ramblings all the time, but when the ego gets quieter, we can get in touch with the rest of the brain, which tells us that we are just fabulous and so is everyone else, which is a great place to parent from.
6. Be nice.
It is a very simple truth that when we are nice to other people, they are more inclined to be nice back.
So, when your kid is struggling with the world, which amounts to them fighting you every step of the way to not get dressed, or eat their breakfast, or participate in a fulfilled family day you planned, give them a break. Know that their assault is not a true attack on you, or what you want them to do. They are acting from the state of mind they are in, and need to get themselves out of their funk. They might need to be left alone awhile, or want you close, or need to eat, or sleep, or whatever. Where possible try to help them attend to their needs, and do not judge them.
The same goes for dealing with grown up family members: Say, your other half is stomping around because you drank the last of the coffee. Know that their overreaction is evidence that they are having one of those mornings, not a personal slight. There is no need to act defensive because when they calm down, and they will, they will be ready to see how wonderful you are after all, and you can forget the whole affair.
This is not to say that if the level of spite coming from the other person is truly violent or insupportable, you should put up with it. Rather that we should realise their behaviour is not truly about us, and therefore react out of a reasonable position, rather than fighting back in our own defence.
7. Be open.
We each inhabit our own version of reality, because everything we observe about the world is filtered through our thoughts. No two people see the world in exactly the same way. We each have our own set of social expectations which affect the way we see other people’s behaviour. Sometimes the meaning we give to those behaviours align with what other people think and sometimes not.
When you see that your daughter just wiped her nose on the curtains. When your son is angry with you for moving the toys he had carefully strewn across the stairs. When your Aunt Linda tells you that you should really stop breastfeeding and did you realise how spoiled your baby will become. These are all indications that the other person is living in a different reality. As far as they are concerned,soft furnishings are a great alternative to tissues, cluttering stairs is not dangerous, and babies are greedy little rascals who need to be Taken In Hand.
How you handle a misalignment of reality depends on how important finding agreement is. Sometimes, it might appear important, but turn out to not be a big deal.
When children don’t realise that spreading dirt and germs has consequences, or that playing on the stairs can lead to tumbles, then it is in their interests to help them add these considerations to their own reality. This is best done at leisure, as if you are introducing them to a curiosity. Though, let’s face it, sometimes you might find yourself putting the point more forcefully, this is less likely to actually sink in. Where possible, it helps to say ‘How interesting! Can I suggest you use a tissue because we can throw that away when it’s dirty, but it would be hard work to take down the curtains and wash them.’
When someone is opinionated about the way you are running your reality and you know you cannot agree, then you can often just ignore them. There is no need to be angry or offended because, as far as they are concerned, they are helping. If someone is offering large amounts of unsolicited advice you can always thank them for their interest, then explain that you are not saying they are wrong, just that their way is not your way.
It is always worth considering that sometimes other people may have something figured out that is really cool and worth taking on board. By allowing for misalignments of reality, you can be open to that incredible new idea that so and so had about snot disposal!
No. Actually. Tissues are great.
You may well notice that the seven helpful ideas boil down to two, even more simple ideas:
1. Stay in the present moment as much as possible,
2. Avoid passing judgement on yourself and others.
It really is not complicated, and it almost always involves doing less rather than more.
Yay! Rest thy ninja sword and have a nice cuppa.
Parents often give themselves a raw deal because they want to create a wonderful environment for their offspring. We get bogged down in the details, and in an effort to grow, it might slip your mind that you are damned brilliant already. If this is true for you, please let me remind you that you are awesome, just as you are.
What is your experience of peacefulness and everything else in the smorgasbord of maternity?
Show me in emoticons, rant, or leave lingering, delicious, peaceful musings…..
The mind boggles at the possibilities:)
Come and Join us in the Mamajestic Facebook Group and Share Your Badass Ninja Warrior Wisdom!
Lots of love,
In the first post in this series, The Special Ingredient In Your Engagement With The World, I talked about how it is through our grounding that we experience connection and engagement with the world outside ourselves. Furthermore, our level of grounding in what we are engaging with impacts our clarity and peace of mind.
In this second part of the series, I want to explore how our grounding develops from birth into adulthood, and why this is so useful to understand!
Let’s start with an explanation about how our experience of grounding works:
As we only ever experience the world through our thoughts, then it is as if there is a glass window between what we experience from ‘in here’ and what is ‘out there’. Sometimes the glass is clear and we can see that ‘out there’ reality in loving detail. Other times, the glass is misted up, and we cannot get a good picture of ‘out there’. We might even have some bizarre stained glass effects in places. What we see is distorted, cloudy, and the more we press our noses up to the window pane, the harder we try to get a glimpse of the world, the more we mist the glass up.
When you are deeply grounded, the perceptions that are coming from within you, through which you understand the abstract and physical worlds, are in harmony with what is out there, with what IS. If we want more grounding in a particular area, then we can study and experiment, but the big leaps come from getting an insight which transforms the nature of whatever your focus is on, bringing it into greater alignment with its true, objective existence.
As newborns, it takes us several months before the idea of being a separate entity from everything else even occurs to us. This means that in developing this kind of grounding, our sense of connection with everything else in the world, we are not learning, but remembering something we once experienced all the time, and later forgot.
Because we are born into a state of complete and total connection with all that is around us, this is a point of grounding which is inside us, waiting for us to rediscover it. This connection to everything out there that is not you, is what affords you deep engagement with the world outside of yourself.
Now, hold on, you might say, that’s lovely, but babies can’t walk, talk, work, even lift their heads up. They might be at one with the world in a profound way, but they can do precious little in it. What use is grounding if it is not coupled with getting out there in the world and doing stuff beyond cooing and farting?
Our grounding grows with us, and is the only way of getting out there in the world and doing new stuff.
As we get older, we expand our ranges of experience, encountering everything from our bodies to mountains, to song, to lasers, to marshmallows, to Ethics, to football, and so on. As we have developmental leaps in our physical and mental abilities, our grounding brings us to new ways of connecting with ‘out there’ and manipulating it for our benefit or enjoyment. So, we might well learn new skills like playing, or drawing, or driving, or building, or cooking, and as we develop our experience and knowledge of how our universe and its contents operate, then our grounding runs broader and deeper, acting as a solid foundation for further engagement.
As we learn to operate in the world in more sophisticated ways, there will be areas of natural grounding, and others of acquired grounding.
We all have unique natural abilities and talents which spring from a deeper grounding in a specific area, while other things we access through education. Some people get calculus, others are brilliant growers of plants, some people can make funny faces, and others save lives. Training and teaching can do a lot to help us learn, but grounding also brings in the insightful and effortless application of our raw spirit, and that itself can’t be taught.
For instance, I was not a natural driver. I took my test four times, yes FOUR (stop sniggering). I understood the basic movements and theory used in the practice of driving with relative ease, but found that there was not an instinctive sense of how to apply my knowledge. It was all intellect and no inner oomph. I got confused, and second guessed myself when trying to respond to this clunky machine and the road it was progressing down. It took me years to gain an intuitive understanding of how to extend myself into the vehicle, and judge more or less where I wanted to put it and how I would get it there without really thinking. It took me a long time to truly enjoy driving. The scratches on the side of my car are a testament to my almost successful learning attempts!
On the other hand, with cooking, I get it. I may not ever have learned really high level cuisine stuff, but I have pretty good instincts for food (albeit with a few disastrous meals in the mix). I can hear when my onions are sizzling at the right temperature, and feel for what ingredients go together, and what techniques to use when bringing them together. I am curious about food, and do engage in the book learning side of gastronomy too, reading cookbooks and blogs. This is pure inspiration, and helps me execute new ideas. I rarely follow an exact recipe though, because I like the sense of ease that comes from having an idea and going with it. Also, I like to use up everything in the fridge. Usually, it works out OK and I have a good time doing it. My ideas about what I am creating are realistic enough and in step with what is actually real, so that the results created are a reflection of that grounding.
It is worth noting that, as human beings, we are built with certain, natural areas of grounding. Our instincts help us out a great deal in maximising our physical, mental, emotional, and interpersonal development, and thus our advantage in our environment. For instance, our ability to form attachments to our major caregiver is a survival mechanism, for which we are fitted various natural talents like smiling and snuggling. Though we grow our grounding to different extents and at different rates in these basic areas of human development, we all receive gifts from the same range for our general use and enjoyment. These natural gifts are then shaped and tailored to the situations we find ourselves in as we grow and the reality we find ourselves interacting with. So, nature and nurture both influence the grounding we develop as we grow.
Doubtless you have experienced degrees of grounding too, expressed in different areas of your life. You may be able to identify a lack of grounding felt in the times that something feels cumbersome or confusing, and where you struggle to produce the results you are after. A pretty good grounding is often enough to get by on in some areas. After all, no one is expert in everything, so it is important to emphasise that there is nothing wrong with shallow grounding per se. I have little grounding in astrophysics, and that does not present a problem. I am developing my grounding in the workings of steam engines, because my son has a train obsession, but in general I have managed to get by just fine with only a very shallow foundation in this area.
We are designed to develop our grounding as we grow, so that we always have areas where we have a deeper or shallower grasp of reality. Grounding is not static, but can shift from shallow to deep if we have a fresh idea to go on, new knowledge to apply. There is always more scope for grounding, but to reach the deepest point of understanding, it must develop in its own way. It cannot be forced, only encouraged by our attentive and conscious learning. Our grounding forms the foundation for our interaction with our environment, and the people and events which shape our lives.
To read about how grounding and consciousness interact, go back to Part One!
Knowing about grounding is so useful when it comes to learning anything new. For instance, when you have your first child, and are wondering how you will ever learn to fathom this alien little being, the answer is ‘your grounding will develop’. When you are about to have your second child, you have about a billion more thoughts about birth this time around, and you are trying to figure out how to play it, the answer is ‘look to your grounding’. When you are struggling to keep track of several small siblings in a crowded playground, and you don’t know which way to turn, the answer is ‘get back to your grounding’. When you get in touch deeply with the difference between what is real and what is preying on your mind, the latter will drop away.
This is what happens in the face of your unshakeable grounding!
If you want to settle down and feel your grounding, I suggest you find a quiet place.
What can you let your grounding help you with? What is your experience of grounding?
Did you find this post helpful? If so, feel free to share it around.
Come and try out one of my services to deepen your grounding in pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or mothering.
Beyond anything else, I would love to hear what you think about grounding. So, do come and share your thoughts in the Mamajestic Facebook Group or leave me a comment below.
Lots of love,