Blog Post, My Story

What I’ve Learnt from Self-Isolating as a Single Mum

What if self-isolating during covid-19 were an opportunity for self-growth? Even as a single Mum, I haven’t had this much one on one time with my daughter where we’ve been completely alone, with no one else around, for….. Well, I never have!

She is at the stage where her language has exploded and she loves to practice the art of conversation. All the time 🙂

I generally love it and I find such wisdom in the space of her ‘whys’ and her own explanations and reflections. But I also crave quiet time alone inside my own head. Where I can write, think, unravel and connect. Where I have clear SPACE.

Representative of my internal state at this stage 30mins into our day 😉

Usually I know that the capacity I have to meet her in her frustrations, big feelings, and state of overwhelm directly correlates to the opportunities I’ve had to meet these needs for myself.

To listen to a podcast. To go for a walk. To write. To dive into literature. All of these things ‘give’ to me. These are things that expand my heart, mind, and bandwidth for ‘holding’ of space when my mothering calls for it.

What has been a challenge during this time of isolation, is finding ways to still meet all of those things ‘for me’ everyday, in a way where I am also actively mothering and alongside my child.

Our fear becomes theirs

A few days ago I started to notice my shortened threshold for tolerance. It was a rising sense of frustration. An agitation and irritation and being touched and needed and talked to.

A feeling of overwhelm that I can get ‘nothing’ done. Like I’m just treading water. Eventually you get tired of that, your nervous system can’t take it anymore, and you need to enact an intervention, or you will create a rupture.

The interesting thing about the relationship with our children is that they mirror all of this back to us. We are an interdependent and co-regulating little unit. If she is out of sync, it’s my job to co-regulate and help her nervous system calm and come ‘back online’.

But if I’m out of sync, I can be almost sure she is going to mirror this dysfunction and tension back to me. She’s going to express the tension that I’m repressing.

She will also be TRYING to regulate herself amidst this tension. This is by doing things such as jumping across the couch. Hanging upside down. Throwing things – flinging the uncomfortable energy away from herself. These types of regulation attempts are often things that trigger and push me further into my own cycle of dysregulation.

One way to move her through this tension is to hold space for her tears – but I was not in a place to do that. I was struggling with my own regulation.

So when I’m in this space, I need a circuit breaker. These circuit breakers can shift energy, which can shift perspective, and a shift in our perspective can change our entire experience.

It’s our responsibility to shift the energy

Some things I’ve been doing in these moments where I know I need a circuit breaker for myself:

  • Take a big breath, hold it, and slowly release it. Over and over until I feel calmer.
  • Say ‘freeze’ and freeze in a statue pose. Ask her to copy. Then press her belly button as the ‘reset’ to start again.
  • Start star-jumping.
  • Break out in song or hum to myself.
  • Spin around together then fall on the floor: re-orient ourselves and the world around us.

I’ve been consciously reminding myself to show self-compassion in the same way I would to a friend. It’s okay to be imperfect. It’s okay to talk about how challenging I’m finding this moment right now.

If – more like WHEN – I speak in a way that doesn’t align with my values, I know how to ‘repair’ with her.

I know that talking through emotional processing gives her more lessons than maintaining the illusion of ‘perfection’ ever could.

Self-isolating an opportunity for self-growth

As I rub up against discomfort, as I feel the swell of rage within, as my skin feels prickled and pinched with every pull and grab, it feels like energy is being physically ripped out from within me.

And THAT is how apathy is transformed.

That is how ego is humbled.

That is how you meet new parts of yourself.

That is how you call forward the parts that ache to be healed and the passions yearning to be expressed.  

Perspective shifts and a path to consciousness

This is why mothering can be a spiritual practice, a path to consciousness, a stripping back and a (re)discovering of who you are.

I’m feeling into all the ways I can be challenged by experiencing life this way amidst a global epidemic.

How I can remain connected with communities.

How I can use this environment to teach my daughter.

How I can use this as an opportunity for learning about myself.

How I can serve others.

How I can bring greater awareness and gratitude to our seemingly small everyday moments.

It is also a reminder of the fragility of life and the certainty of death.

We are all living as these little organisms within our homes. Connected to each other more than we can understand.

Yet sometimes that does little to guard against that feeling of crushing isolation and loneliness.

Know though, that are thoughts are incredibly powerful. Our words are incredibly powerful. The creation of art is incredibly powerful. The practice of gratitude is incredibly powerful.

Surrendering and letting go

To feel my wholeness I let go of expectations on myself to get the same standard of work done as I usually would.

I let go of all house-cleaning pressures until she was in bed.

I put music on – music that I liked (sorry Wiggles) – and we danced.

I packed up the car and headed to an almost-empty beach.

We collected wild flowers and put them in a vase when we got home.

I felt into the hard moments, not wishing them away but surrendering.

When I’d created this spaciousness within myself, she was able to feel safe and held in releasing her feelings to me. She was able to let go of her feelings.

Two nights ago she had a huge ‘tantrum’ before bed. Crying and flinging herself away from me, screaming at me. I knew – and as I teach in transforming toddler tantrums – this tantrum was purposeful, and I could meet her in the ways that she needed.

As a result, yesterday and today our days have been transformed. We have both had a beautiful energy that has been in synchrony and we’ve both felt much ‘lighter’. I know we’ll cycle back into the hard places again – it’s inevitable.

But this is part of the cyclical nature of our whole human experience more broadly, isn’t it? There can be a type of comfort in knowing everything passes. Let this ignite our passion to soak up as much of this life as we can, knowing that the essence of it all is right in front of us in our everyday, ‘ordinary’ moments.

Trust and Gratitude.

Picking flowers on our beach excursion

If you’d like support, guidance, and connection in your own journeying of consciousness and good-enough-mothering, then check out my SUPPORT program.

toddler tantrum tip iceberg
Blog Post, Practices

Tantrums are just the Tip of the Iceberg

Part of mothering a toddler through challenging ‘toddler tantrums’ is processing and dealing with our OWN emotions and feelings. Recognising that their behaviour and their tantrums are just the tip of the iceberg. But this can be hard. When we put so much into our mothering and feel like we’re trying our absolute best, it can be overwhelming and frustrating when we are continually faced with the same challenging behaviour and toddler tantrums.

I have a few major things that I tackle through my work on motherhood. They are:

  • Shining a light on the structural and social aspects of motherhood that make our lives unnecessarily more difficult (with a view to deconstruct and change these forces!)
  • Showing that what we experience is usually ‘normal’. This realisation helps to alleviate feelings of guilt, anxiety, worry and stress. It’s also about reminding Mums that they are not alone – we are in this together.
  • Equipping mothers with knowledge and tools that they can draw on to reclaim their power as mothers. This helps us to feel supported and confident in our mothering.

Mothering a toddler through challenging behaviour during this immense period of growth and change in their (and your) lives, really intersects with all three of these goals.

Social understandings of toddler tantrums

Socially, there is widespread misunderstanding of what we expect toddlers and small children to be capable of in terms of emotional regulation. Think about all the comments about the ‘terrible 2s’. Or the expectations of our small children to sit still and quietly.

There can be an underlying assumption that we are their ruler and they are our little subjects who – when throwing a toddler tantrums – are misbehaving and being ‘naughty’ attention seekers. There may also be the assumption that our children’s behaviour is a direct correlation and reflection of our capacities as a parent.

None of these assumptions help us as mothers, or help our children.

Behaviour is the tip of the toddler iceberg

Toddler tantrums happen when the limbic system – emotional part of the brain – becomes overloaded. The state of your child’s brain means they have little control over their actions – they are not thinking or able to behave ‘rationally’. So their tantrums are literally the tip of an iceberg, and what we’re interested in is what lies underneath.

I think a big part of taking away the feelings of ‘failure’ and frustration we feel as Mums of toddlers and young children is to recognise that these behaviours are normal. That crying, whining, and struggling to regulate emotions are normal and inevitable behaviours for young children. If we know that something is normal, it can help then adjust our expectations and responses to this behaviour.

As Alfie Kohn argues, ““behaviours are just the protruding tip of the proverbial iceberg. What matters more than ‘what’ or ‘how much?’ is ‘how come?’”. When a child throws a tantrum or is struggling to regulate their emotions or behaviour, they often go into fight/flight mode.

In this mode they can no longer access their prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that deals with reasoning and judgement. Dr Bruce Perry who is an expert on childhood trauma says that when they’re in a state of fear, brain scans show that there is virtually no activity happening in the thinking part of the brain. It’s an evolutionary response to be in this fight/flight mode without being distracting or delayed by our reasoning and logic.

How toddler tantrums can relate to us

Children are regulating sponges and sense, feel, and act out the stress of those around them. This is because they rely on co-regulation. Co-regulation is our children ‘borrowing’ the nervous systems of those carers around them.

So if we aren’t regulated internally, if we feel frantic, they often will physically act out our internal chaos.

Tantrums are just the tip of the iceberg. This is why having self-awareness of our own emotional states helps us in our mothering. And is also why compassion and empathy for ourselves then means we are able to extend this to our children.

But also think about the ways your toddler’s behaviour makes YOU feel. Are your children’s triggers mirroring your own triggers? Even more than this, mirror neurons fire off when we see our child in distress, and it makes us feel like we are in distress too. This can be really uncomfortable and unsettling, and sometimes it can provoke us to construct a mental wall to block out this behaviour.

Also, sometimes when we just don’t know what to do and we have no tools or capacity at our disposal, we do nothing. Ignoring a child in a tantrum may exacerbate and intensify their feelings, or cause them to repress them. We don’t want to ignore our children when they’re in distress, the same way we don’t want to ignore our partners or friends when they are in distress.

Interested in learning more? Listen to my podcast episode 11 ‘Toddler Tantrums’ and check out my Transforming Toddler Tantrums Course.

Meghan Markle motherhood
Blog Post, Good Mother Concept

What Meghan Represents for Mothers

I’m not at all interested in the Royal Family, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one. But you’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard and witnessed the fall out and commentary surrounding Meghan and Harry’s decision to be stepping back as senior members of The Royal Family.

This has clearly been a gendered discussion, where the scrutiny and abuse has been predominately been thrown Meghan’s way. In fact, many have blamed ‘manipulative Meghan’ for the ‘Royal Rift’. Because of course, it’s always her fault and he is just a victim, right?

Change Requires Rebellion: For Meghan and Mothers

This isn’t new. There is a certain social script for success and belonging and veering away from that will see you reprimanded and sanctioned in some way.  

But part of our progression as a society has always been through breaking and rebelling against these social scripts. This is particularly the case for women as they confront patriarchal culture.

Meghan is pushing back against ‘tradition’ in the same way that mothers push back at ‘traditions’.

Putting ourselves first is often seen as a radical act as women and as mothers, who are seen as (and expected to be) the emotional gatekeepers and caregivers within our community. 

Relationships are Important, But at What Cost?

Yes the relationships we hold with our loved ones are incredibly powerful, and they influence WHO we are. As human beings, we are relational creatures, and our relationships with others and sense of belonging is vitally important for our health and happiness.

However, what is also vitally important for our health and happiness is living a purposeful and authentic life where you can exercise as much autonomy and control as your socioeconomic circumstances will allow.

It is okay and actually important to make choices that may disappoint other people, if it is part of you standing in your own truth and authenticity.

As a woman, you do not exist to serve the needs and desires of other people: including your family.

Your choices, wants, wishes, desires, dreams, and goals matter too.

You cannot let fear of disappointing someone else stand in the way of living your life.

Living our life according to the desires and expectations of others is not only a disservice to ourselves, it is actually a disservice to them. Because despite feeling as though you can hold all of this together, that you can keep pedaling to keep your head above water while below the surface your legs are wearily and frantically racing to keep up, you will build resentment towards those who you feel obligated towards.

Meghan’s Mother of a Sacrifice

This applies to motherhood too.

There is only so long that we can keep juggling all of the balls in the air until our arms shake from exhaustion and a ball drops. We don’t do anyone any favours when we martyr ourselves. It is a short term sacrifice for a long term loss.

Do you know the problem that women, mothers, and Meghan all face?

  • There is no ‘right’ choice.
  • There is no way to ‘win’.
  • We always seem to lose one way or another, regardless of how we live and the choices we make.  

When you martyr yourself, when you put everyone first before you, when you quieten your voice, when you nod along, when you keep saying ‘yes’, when you shrink back and don’t cause any issues and keep up with tradition and keep it all going without ever stopping… then at some point you will fall apart. At some point you will start to resent this work. You will feel emptied and drained.

The truth is: it wouldn’t matter what Meghan did or didn’t do, she would never be good enough. She didn’t fit the idealized, white, image of what it means to be part of the Royal Family.

Just as so many mothers feel they will never be good enough.

Because they don’t fit the image of the ‘perfect mother’. According to our social script, the perfect mother never burns out. She always comes last. She anticipates and responds to needs before they even arise. She serves her community. She’s there for her friends. She is the backbone of the family. She has it all, she does it all, and not only that: she does it happily with a smile. She wants to do it all.

The Myth of Perfection

Except she can’t. Because the perfect mother doesn’t exist. The perfect Royal Family member also doesn’t exist.

The fictional character that exists in our minds, in our culture, and in our media, cannot be a real life human being. Human beings are inherently flawed, dynamic, complex, and layered creatures. When we set our standard as being one of perfection as a wife or mother or Royal (and any other role, actually) then we are setting ourselves up to fail and fall short.  

Accepting being ‘good enough’ as we are means saying ‘no’. Stepping back. Putting ourselves first occasionally. These are not only compassionate acts towards ourselves: but are compassionate act for our children.

The Gift of Imperfection for Meghan and Mothers

When we show our children that we accept ourselves for all of who we are, and stand proudly and confidently in this, we show them that we will accept and love all of who they are, even their imperfections. You show them that they don’t have to slice away and quell pieces of themselves in order to be accepted and loved. That traditions do not matter more than they do.

This is what Meghan is showing her child. That they don’t have to tolerate being treated as less than. That they have a voice and a Self that is not contingent on the accepting opinions of others, and they do not have to live their lives in service of other people’s wishes.

I think this is a pretty incredible message to be sending, and it’s this messaging that I hope mothers can hear and embrace.

That you are good enough, and that YOU matter.

Follow more from Dr Sophie Brock through her Facebook and Instagram @drsophiebrock and listen to more about The Good Enough Mother through the TGEM Podcast

toddler
Uncategorized

Why to Stop Mocking Your Toddler’s Tantrum

I think everyone who has a toddler can recall a time where their child has had a ‘meltdown’, ‘tantrum’, or shed tears over something seemingly insignificant.

You gave them the wrong coloured plate with their lunch. They wanted to button up their own jacket. Or maybe they couldn’t catch the ball that was thrown to them.

An example recently from my daughter was when she wailed before bedtime that she wanted her Wiggles balloon. She hadn’t seen the balloon in weeks, the concert was a month ago, and I explained this to her and explained how balloons deflate over time. It only intensified her cries.

Our Perception of a Tantrum

How we respond as a parent in these scenarios depends on how we ourselves are feeling at the time, and the perception we have of this ‘tantrum’.

Check out my Transforming Toddler Tantrums Course

If you view the tantrum as uncalled for, over the top, ‘silly’, and an overreaction, AND you are in a place of stress or frustration yourself, you may respond with anger. Maybe their tears and overwhelm provoke the same response in you, with your own feelings bubbling over. There can be an irritation that your child is acting ‘irrationally’.

Or if you’re in a regulated place yourself and perhaps you find this hilarious? Maybe you even whip out your phone to record it to send to your family or post on social media?

I get it. I’ve been in this place too where I’ve found it particularly funny that my daughter can get SO upset over something seemingly SO small (to me).

Shift Your Perspective on Tantrums

What I’d invite here though is a perspective shift.

A perspective shift helps you stop overreacting to your toddler or laughing at their emotional distress. It will also facilitate their emotional development, invite compassion, and deepen your connection with them.

This perspective shift is about recognizing that your toddler is rarely upset directly over the ‘thing’ that provoked their tears. This ‘thing’ is simply their trigger to release the deeper feelings that were already there.

Think of an equivalent being you’ve had a hard day at work or at home with your kids, and little annoyances, irritations, or upsets add up throughout the day. Each time something happens you ‘keep it together’. You deal with it and move on. You shake it off.

You swallow down the discomfort until something seemingly minor happens… then BAM. The annoyance, irritation, and upset burst out of you. Road rage is a perfect example of this. Something seemingly minor can set off a cascade of emotional reactions in somebody.

It’s the same process in our children. They experience upsets, difficulties, frustrations, and difficult feelings throughout their days. They don’t have the space, capacity, or support to express those emotions. So when they have their emotional outburst because of a seemingly ‘insignificant’ or ‘ridiculous’ trigger, the emotions bubbling over are deeper than they appear.

What Are The Tears Really About?

We can’t always know the reasons behind the feelings – although we can ponder them.

Perhaps when my daughter was so upset about her Wiggles balloon being gone she was releasing a deeply held feeling of loss and displacement? Of how hard it can be as a child when you lose something you love. When something is gone that you weren’t prepared to let go of. When you don’t get the chance to say ‘goodbye’.

Tears can be about their frustrations around not having a ‘choice’, not being able to exercise their autonomy or make decisions. Tears can be about grief and sadness around the changing of a relationship with their caregivers if a new sibling has come along. Tears can be about feeling unheard, lonely, frustrated. Any number of emotions.

Our little children can only process their emotions through tears, laughter, or play. They don’t have the language or the reflexivity to fully express and process their feelings through language. This is something that we as adults still struggle with, and we have fully developed brains!

What I Can Do Instead

The next time your toddler cries over something seemingly insignificant, listen to them. Support them the same way you would support a friend sharing their tears with you (even if you think their tears aren’t warranted).

You wouldn’t laugh at them, dismiss them, tell them to stop being ‘silly’, distract them, photograph them, or get angry at them. You would try to listen, empathise, show compassion, give them a hug, or just ‘be there’.

I know this is hard and I know we won’t be able to respond in this gentle way all of the time. But this is such meaningful work, holding space for them, making them feel safe, heard, and connected, and teaching them that all of their feelings are okay.

Check out my Transforming Toddler Tantrums Course if you’d like to learn more about:

  • The real reasons why toddlers have tantrums
  • How to release yourself from stress and guilt related to tantrums
  • How your own emotional state relates to your child’s
  • Strategies to not only support your toddler through their tantrum but help prevent the frequency of these outbursts

The course is just $44, takes only 15mins a day over 14 days to complete, and the first 5 to sign up also get 5 days of free one on one support. Sign up here.

purposeful habits
Blog Post

Creating Purposeful Habits

How are you going with your new year resolutions for 2020 so far? Research shows that 25% of people abandon new years resolutions within a week. A way to help combat this, is abandoning the idea of ‘resolutions’ in favour of purposeful habits.

There is a large body of research on goal setting and habits that provides insights into why there is such a big failure rate, and why focussing on habits is more effective. Dr Arianna Uhalde and Dr Benjamin Houltberg research motivation and found that we need to be thinking about the purpose of our goals, rather than just the goals themselves.

Re-frame challenge as opportunity for personal growth.

Think about what it is that you truly want: what your purpose is. Ultimately, you will only ever achieve broader resolutions through specific purposeful habits – practicing steps that will take you closer to achieving your goal(s).

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here are 5 strategies you can implement to dig into these questions of what you want, what your purpose is, how to create purposeful habits, and what your goals will be and your roadmap moving forward into 2020.

1. What do you actually want, and why?

First think about what it is you actually WANT, and then dig a little deeper into the ‘why’.

So an example: you may want a holiday. Okay. Why do you want a holiday? Is it because you’re craving emotional connection and time with your partner and children? Is it because you’re really not enjoying work and want to be able to look forward to a break from it? Is it because there’s a particular place you’ve dying to explore? When you dig into the primary want behind the goal, it can help to then strategize a plan to get there.

Considering a ‘why’ behind a desire may even prompt you to consider other goals and intentions that can help serve your needs and desires in other, smaller and more tangible ways throughout the year. So if you’re wanting that time for emotional connection as a family – are there ways you could scaffold to create this week by week as you work towards that goal of a holiday?

2. Set goals. Multiple.

Then set your goal – ideally goals. Dr Carla Marie Manly a clinical psychologist says that the psyche can become overwhelmed when presented with one major goal. Which is interesting, isn’t it? This idea that sometimes having tunnel vision on just ONE goal can actually make it more daunting and less likely to achieve.

So what we want – is to have several goals. Or break that one larger goal into separate and more tangible goals that will inch you closer and closer to that bigger one, through embedding purposeful habits into your life. It is also empowering and motivating when you set really achievable goals and this sense of reward and pride can help propel you forward. The ‘SMART’ guide to goal setting can be a helpful way of constructing your goals.

  • Specific: for example, ‘being healthy’ is really subjective. Get specific. Quit smoking. Or walk daily. Or eat something green at every meal.
  • Measurable: so quantify your resolution. Have it as something you can actually measure so then you can recognise when you have actually achieved your goal
  • Attainable: be realistic. Reading a book a week might not be realistic for you if you’re not reading at all right now. Try one a month. Or if you don’t exercise at all currently it might be unrealistic to say you’ll ran a marathon this year.
  • Relevant: keep it relevant – not only to your priorities but also to your values.
  • Time-Sensitive: actually give yourself a specific time-frame and break your goal down at least month by month. Of course you give yourself some compassion and flexibility, but ultimately you will not achieve the year-long goal if you don’t get a move on your daily to-do list. It’s always about the one next step that you can take.

3. Form your purposeful habits

Once you’ve developed your goals, you then develop your habit formation that you will create to achieve these goals. So thinking about each specific goal – what habit are you going to put in place that will help you achieve this goal?

Habits ideally need to be part of your everyday life. They need to be built into your routine. They need to be something relatively easy and realistic and ideally something that you enjoy. You’re unlikely to continue something as a habit if you get no sense of reward, satisfaction, or enjoyment from it.

Habit also needs to include carving out time, space, support, and location. If your goal is to write 500 words a day, WHEN will you actually do this? How will you set yourself up for success? Habits are all about consistency and without matching your goal up with a habit formation, it will be very difficult to see it through to fruition.

Lalley et al found with their research participants, that missing one opportunity to perform a habit forming behaviour did not affect the overall habit formation process.

4. Plan for your failure

Changing our lives through goal setting and forming purposeful habits is of course about consistency, but it’s also about resilience and self-forgiveness. That’s why this next step is about anticipating failure. Because failure is part of your success.

Flip your narrative on failure and see it as actually likely an integral part of you achieving your goals.

Everyone experiences failure.

Failure propels self-evaluation and growth.

Failure keeps us accountable.

Failure is part of life.

It’s also an inevitability with goals that are year-long because you know ‘life’ will get in the way, in various ways… Illness, challenge, relationship issues… Especially if you have kids or have caregiving responsibilities. You had a bad day? A bad week? Fine – accept that. Be with that. Actually see it as GOOD.

See your challenge an opportunity for further growth. Don’t let it form part of a negative self-talk narrative about how you’re failing or can’t do this or may as well give it all in and away not bother. No – don’t self-sabotage. Just keep going. It’s all about your one next step.

5. Celebrate and embrace the present moment

Lastly, celebrate. Being able to celebrate means recognising when you’ve had a ‘win’. When you are proud of yourself. This means that your goals need to be measurable and something that you can hold yourself to accountability for. When you feel you’re getting closer to something you’ve been working towards – do something for yourself that feels particularly nourishing and replenishing.

Be kind to yourself and come from the same place of compassion, empathy, and gentleness that you would come from when encouraging a friend or a child. If we don’t acknowledge where we make great leaps forward and achieve, then it can mean we’re dulling our light. Quelling or turning away from your own power and brilliance. So give yourself permission to celebrate, be present, and be proud.

I would love for us to build a narrative of celebration into our everyday lives, as a way to enable us to connect more with the present moment instead of always chasing the future. Be with what is, right now. And know that it is about every step that you are taking. That is what gets you to the next step, the next moment. And we don’t want to live our lives in a perpetual state of a sense of ‘lack’. I believe we can feel the fullness of our whole selves right now in the present moment, while also striving to better ourselves and our lives with self awareness and reflection.

Listen in to The Good Enough Mother (TGEM) Podcast Episode 16 on ‘Creating Purposeful Habits for 2020’.

When you do nothing, you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved, you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better.

Pauline R. Kezer
mother and daughter maternal guilt
Blog Post, Practices

Maternal Guilt

Maternal guilt seems to be almost an inherent part of modern, intensified motherhood. The idea that maternal guilt is just part of the component of mothering is really widespread in our culture and it’s almost like a right of passage you go through. Guilt about everything, right?

There can be guilt even from (pre)conception! Then guilt about decisions you made or circumstances surrounding your birth. Guilt about how you choose to feed them. Guilt about them spending too much time in the pram/car and not enough floor time. Guilt about whether their food is organic or made from scratch. Guilt about how much you talk to them or engage with them. Guilt about leaving them in the care of others.

Guilt for going into the paid workforce. Guilt for not going into the paid workforce. Guilt that you’re neglecting your partner/friendships/whatever other significant relationship you have in your life. Guilt over too much screentime or not enough books or that you yelled.

The guilt of when you go from one to two to three to more children. Mothering more than one child at a time is basically just guilt central. You are already split off in a thousand different directions and it is actually impossible to meet all of their needs, all at the same time, all by yourself.

Maternal Guilt and being ‘Not Enough’

Motherhood is supposedly just one. Big. Guilt fest. And a love fest – obviously. Because we say that what outweighs the guilt is the love. And that even part of the love IS the guilt. Are you doing it ‘right’ if you DON’T feel guilty? What kind of mother would it make you if you enjoyed leaving your child at daycare and didn’t feel one shred of guilt for going off to work?

The common thread that ties feelings and experiences of guilt together is usually the (inner/outer) judgement of ‘not being good enough’.

Not being enough. Lacking. Comparing yourself to a standard – a measure of achievement. Whether that be through comparison with an external person or standard or guideline. Or whether it be because of your own inner barometer of what you expect from yourself.

Difference between Guilt and Shame

Here I think it is actually really useful to mention the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is about negative self-evaluation. So there is some specific act, behaviour, or decision, and then guilt stems from that for you to reflect negatively over yourself. Whereas shame is more a negative reflection of the self that is a reaction to public disapproval specifically.

An example of guilt: “I feel really awful about feeding the kids McDonalds for dinner” versus shame of “I feel really awful because Janet asked me if I was giving the kids McDonalds for dinner”. So there’s that subtle difference in guilt as self-regulation, and shame as awareness of regulation from others

So in some ways we could think of the negative feelings of self is the same with shame and guilt, but shame is from others’ disapproval, and guilt is from self-judgement. I think a core issue of this whole conversation is that the self-judgement is actually based on social constructions, and is therefore something we can work to let go of and redefine.  

What Research says about Maternal Guilt

Sutherland (2010) argues that mothers experiencing guilt and shame in relation to their roles as mothers is the most prevalent finding in mothering research. The experience and feelings of guilt was also a predominant and consistent theme among participants in my own research on mothering children with disabilities.

Hays in the Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood spoke of the ‘guilt trap’ where mothers experience vastly more guilt than fathers – even when care is equally shared. I mean – how often do we hear about and see memes about ‘Dad Guilt’? Other key maternal scholars Douglas and Michaels (2004) talk about guilt as occurring in mothers alongside feelings of inferiority, exhaustion, confusion, fearfulness, and anger.

Adrienne Rich said of mothers in Of Woman Born:

“the guilt, the powerless responsibility for human lives, the judgements and condemnations, the fear of her own power, the guilt, the guilt, the guilt.” (217)

So you could pull many things out of the literature but hear this:

If you feel Mum guilt, you are not alone.

There’s a great quote by Douglas and Michaels:

“…motherhood is a collective experience. We want to erase the amnesia about motherhood – we DO have a common history, it does tie us together and it has made us simultaneously guilt-ridden and ready for an uprising.” (25)

Historical Influences

There are also significant ways that historical attitudes have shaped the way we feel internally in 2019 – almost 2020 – about our mothering guilt. There has been (and still is) the perception that a child is a reflection of their mother. If there is something ‘wrong’ with the child, then the mother must have done something ‘wrong’.

In the 1950s there was a phrase called the ‘refrigerator mothers’ – this is truly awful! It was posited that children with autism had their autism caused or induced because their mothers were lacking empathy or supposedly ‘cold’ towards them.

Of course this has been discredited. But echos of such mother-blame continue, and it’s what contributes to experiences of maternal guilt. I remember one of my research participants said to me something to the effect of: my biggest fear is my children sitting in a therapist’s chair one day saying, ‘well it all started with my mother’.

Maternal Guilt is based on Mothering Myths

Embedded in this discussion is the realization that we are comparing ourselves to an idealized image we have formed of ourselves – or maybe it isn’t even ourselves, maybe it’s a fantasy woman or even another mother who we know.

Researchers Liss et al from their 2012 publication explain ‘self-discrepancy theory’ as a way of understanding guilt and shame. Basically, they say that these emotions all come back to being scared about the judgement of mothers, and comparing yourself to an idealized version of yourself (or others) that only exists in your head.

Because there is no ideal mother.

There is no perfect mother.

The Liss et al study results are literally framed and discussed in reference to the “detrimental effects of internalizing idealized standards of perfect motherhood.” (1112)

Maternal guilt is about the institution of patriarchal motherhood. It keeps it sustained.

Maternal guilt is about the ‘good mother’ myth.

Maternal guilt is something that we can actively and reflexively examine and reframe as mothers.

To hear more about this tune in to my podcast episode, ‘Mum Guilt’ where I talk about 3 strategies to minimize and reframe guilt.  

feminist birth pregnant woman
Blog Post, Pregnancy and Birth, Uncategorized

Birth is a Feminist Issue

There are many ways that mainstream feminism has not adequately addressed the concerns and needs of mothers. This is what maternal scholars have been challenging for some decades now. Part of a feminist interest in motherhood means an interest in how women experience birth. Birth is a feminist issue because the systems that women birth within are causing them (and their babies) harm.

The Maternity Consumer Network in Australia are doing amazing work in this area on uncovering the abuse, trauma, mistreatment, silencing, and violence that occurs in birth care settings. Ms Staines from the Maternity Consumer Network said that feminists have dropped the ball. This is because of the focus on abortion rights at the exclusion of women’s treatment during birth. Birth is of course the biggest example of an issue that ONLY impacts those who are female.

What is a Feminist Birth

Embedded within patriarchy is an inherent connection of females and femininity with weakness, vulnerability, and fragility. That women need rescuing. That we are plagued by a lack of confidence in ourselves and our bodies – this rippling out much further beyond the birthing realm.

Interlinked into these narratives of patriarchal passivity is the question of: okay well how do I DO birth as a feminist? As an empowered, strong, confident woman?

Would a feminist birth look like a highly medicalized one where we take advantage of the modern medicine and opt for the epidural straight away, and challenge the martyrdom of pain?

Or would a feminist birth look like rejecting all medical input in what is a normal physiological progress and opting for a freebirth?

You know what the answer is? Both, and neither.

Giving birth like a feminist does not mean birthing in a particular way – as Hill puts it: “just as doing anything else – career, relationships, parenting – ‘like a feminist’ doesn’t require a one-size-fits-all approach.” 

Birth, Systems, and Choice

A feminist birth is about how YOU frame your birth and yourself as a woman in labour. But it is also about the way you understand the system that you birth within. It is the challenging of a system that perpetuates the expectation of laboring women to be vulnerable, complying, cooperative, powerless vessels who are under medical authority.

I am mindful here of highlighting the language of CHOICE. I think it would be easy for me to say that a feminist birth is about CHOOSING the way you’d like to give birth. That it’s all about CHOICE. But there are problems with choice feminism. There are problems when reducing our conversation of birth decisions and outcomes as boiling down to choice.

Hill highlights this through drawing our attention to this age old debate between highly medicalized birth versus completely natural and intervention free. As to which is more liberating and empowering. Or ultimately, which is ‘better’.

Once this argument has gone round the houses a few times, at some point you’re bound to hear the refrain ‘Of course, it’s all down to personal choice’, and everyone will nod with satisfaction as if the matter is settled. But personal choice is complicated. We all like to think we are making free choices but, of course, we are all a product of our culture, of the stories we have heard, the adverts and TV programmes we have seen, and of the expectations we have therefore built of any given event.

Milli Hill, Give Birth Like a Feminist, from Chapter 2, page 23 of the e-book

I think that HAVING these discussions can be highly loaded and can also be received very tenderly by women who have given birth depending upon how their birth went. There are those who were prepared for their labours. Who made conscious decisions about care providers and had the resources and perhaps privilege to make certain decisions around care providers. And these women were able to birth in a supported, positive, and rewarding way. So they may highlight their experience to demonstrate what IS possible.

But this can be received as judgement and insensitivity for women who also made all of these same preparatory decisions and steps but faced complications or interventions.

Similarly, for women who faced challenges or trauma and did not have the knowledge, awareness, education, resources, or support to make informed choices, hearing these stories can accentuate the grief and pain for a loss of their experience that perhaps could have been.

Birth as Polarizing

Talking about birth therefore CAN be polarizing. Of course these polarizations are in and of themselves constructed. They are based on stereotypes. Individual women are more dynamic and complex than to fit into a prescribed boxes. Hill argues that these polarizations only act to be divisive and to distract us from the real issues. A focus on real issues would drive change of the SYSTEM to collectively improve birth experiences and outcomes for women in the future.

I think that this division in relation to birth reflects the polarizations and divisions cast over women and mothers in many other spheres. Take for example the supposed division between breast and bottle feeding mothers. The perpetuation – or idea of perpetuation of shame on formula feeding mothers AND shame on breastfeeding mothers. It also supposedly plays out between stay at home and working mothers. It can even go beyond this if we think about Wolf’s the beauty myth and the competition and comparison between younger and older women.  

These polarizations serve only to disempower and disperse the collective wisdom and force that is women who are united.

Trying to turn us against each other only serves to distract us from looking outwards at the broader structures and systems that oppress us and try to strip us of our voice and autonomy.  

I am a huge advocate of physiologically undisturbed birth and know the research on the risks of intervention rates to both mother and baby, and all of the benefits of a so-called ‘natural’ birth. I have an innate belief in a woman’s body to birth her baby. I am also grateful and fully supportive of medical intervention when consented and required. I am thankful that we are afforded medicalized and sometimes life-saving options when millions of other women and babies in the world are not.

But in saying this, and reaffirming my belief in the normal physiological process of labour, I also know that we cannot keep telling women to ‘trust their bodies’ without examining, critiquing, and changing the problems with institutionalized birth.

mothers matter
Blog Post, Pregnancy and Birth

Mothers Matter too. It’s not only about a healthy baby.

A healthy baby is not ALL that matters. Mothers matter too. The past week has been significant for maternal researchers in Australia interested in birth. Just released is the first Australia-wide study to examine outcomes of births according to where women birthed.

I’ve also been diving into the book ‘Give Birth Like a Feminist – your body, your baby, your choices, by the founder of the Positive Birth Movement Milli Hill. She aims to start a conversation about women’s birthing rights and putting birth on the women’s rights agenda.

Saying that mothers matter is not equivalent to saying babies do not

It’s a pretty safe assumption that all mothers care about and have THE most vested interest in the health and wellbeing of their baby. Of course for most of us, the thing of primary importance in our birth is that our baby is healthy and well. I think suggesting anything other than this is borderline insulting.

Saying that YOU also matter and you are interested and/or concerned about YOUR wellbeing and health does not equate with you suddenly not caring about or prioritizing your baby’s wellbeing and health.

The phrase “a healthy baby is all that matters” is often used either to denigrate and ridicule pregnant women. Particularly when they do any research into or preparation for their births. It is also used to silence, dismiss, undermine, or invalidate a woman’s pain and trauma when she talks about her experience post-birth.

There is also the aspect of this that Hill highlights, when she says the unspoken message in the “all that matters is a healthy baby” is the message of “women do not matter.”

The health of a baby is of primary importance. But it’s not ALL that matters. Mothers matter too.

You matter.

A healthy Mother is linked to a healthy baby

If we are so concerned with highlighting the health and wellbeing of a baby, we would see the mother’s health and wellbeing as critical to that of her baby. The interconnection and importance of the mother-baby dyad means we should be focussing of the wellbeing of both mother and baby, and this means a focus on how she birthed.

I think we’re slowly coming to accept the idea of ‘if mum’s not okay, then baby’s not okay’ as part of the move to shine a light on postnatal depression and anxiety and mental health issues.

But we need to be going one step further. We need to connect the birth process with these mental health issues, and therefore focus on the importance of birth because of this! Not dismiss it or minimalize it because ‘you have to get the baby out one way or another and all that matters is a healthy baby’.

The leading cause of maternal death

Do you know what the leading cause of maternal death is after a woman has a baby?

Suicide.

This is from data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, where if we look at causes of death of women during pregnancy or within 42 days after the end of a pregnancy, suicide is A leading cause along with haemorrhage and heart disease. But if late maternal death is included – so looking at the first 12 months rather than first month – then suicide is THE leading cause.

Part of the findings of this latest research into birth in Australia has found that 1 in 3 women experience birth trauma and 1 in 10 emerge from childbirth with post-traumatic stress disorder.

These have enormous repercussions not just for the individual woman, but for her baby and their relationship, and the debilitating impact of birth trauma and PTSD has also been found to contribute to women leaving their paid work, and contributing to marriage breakdowns.

The way women birth is important

So the way women birth matters. It is an experience that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Witnessing the first breath of your baby is significant. HOW babies are born into this world have psychosocial and physiological impacts – on both mothers and the babies.

Our culture and our medical systems need to stop disregarding and dismissing all of this by distilling the experience of a birth down in meaning only according to whether the baby was healthy or not.

Whether women birth in a bath at home or through an elective c-section, the way they are treated, respected, spoken to, is so important.

The way we FRAME and understand their trauma is critical.

One of the leading researchers on this is Professor Hannah Dahlen. She likens women who suffer PTSD from their birth with the suffering of war veterans. She says when young men come back from war with PTSD we counsel them, support them, and offer psychological support. We certainly don’t send them back to the place that caused their trauma.

Whereas for women who experience this in birth – they’re ushered in and out of the system with little regard.

As Professor Dahlen says “If we don’t get it right for the hand that rocks the cradle (mothers), we as a society are going to see the implications of the repercussions.”

Listen to an discussion of these themes in my podcast episode 8 “A Healthy Baby is Not All That Matters”.

crying toddler in distress response
Blog Post, Practices

The crying child and how different parenting styles respond

There are as many styles of parenting as there are parents and how we respond to our crying child is subject a range of factors and contexts. I know that talking about how we raise our children and respond to a crying child can be a highly emotive – even moralistic – conversation.

It feels deeply personal because of our relationships with our children, and the high investment (in every sense of the word) so many of us put into childrearing. Why this topic can be emotive is also connected with the ways motherhood sets us up for comparison, judgement, and critique – from both others and ourselves.

In my latest podcast episode – 6. Parenting Paradigms – I give an overview of some of the major styles of parenting and give an overview of the characteristics of each style.

Parenting style examples

If you’re curious about what I refer to when I talk about different parenting styles, here is a little snippet of insight into some styles and their differences:

  • Authoritarian: you value discipline as part of parenting, often involving punishment and reward strategies. You can see a crying child as using crying as a form of manipulation.
  • Attachment: you believe in the close attachment of parents with their children. A crying child is communicating an unmet need that you should meet.
  • Free range: you respect your child as an independent, autonomous, and capable person. You resist structured and planned activities and programs, instead encouraging learning through free play.
  • Aware/Hand in hand: you see your child as a whole and separate person. Your job as a parent is to support their growth through recognizing and working through emotions (both your own and your child’s). You see your crying child as using a normal and healthy mechanism for stress release.
  • Conscious: you believe your children mirror you, highlighting and thrusting you onto a path of transformation. You parent through strategies of both modelling and encouraging inner work on resilience and growth.

Many of the prescriptions of parenting around ‘THIS IS WHAT YOU SHOULD DO AT ALL COSTS’ are culturally constructed, rather than necessarily being based in evidence and research.

We can also say that the way that we mother matters, and the attachment needs and need for connection of babies and children matter, while ALSO critiquing the various cultural and social interpretations of different parenting methods.

How we perceive our crying child

One of the big points of difference in how we parent according to these different styles, is how we understand and respond to our children when they are distressed. This distress is often expressed through crying, or a ‘tantrum’. Different parenting styles reflect different ways of understanding what crying and tantrums actually mean. I think it also depends hugely on the age of a child. People’s perceptions can shift and change according to what age-group we are talking about.

There is the belief that crying is a form of manipulation. Children – from infants onwards – cry in order to coax their parent into giving them something they want (or ‘giving in’ to them).

There is the perception that crying is a form of communication. A child’s tears are a sign to their caregiver that they have some need that is not being met. This idea is most typically prevalent in infants but continues throughout childhood. We may even think about how this perception plays out with us as adults when we see another person crying and scramble to find something we can ‘do’ to make them feel better/stop crying.

There is also the idea building from this, that crying is a form of communication, but not ONLY a form of communication. Crying can sometimes be a way of releasing stress, tension, fears, and as a mechanism of catharsis.

There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ interpretation

I have to say that after reading widely on these different perceptions and understandings, I can understand and relate to where each is coming from. I can see myself and my daughter in every one of these perspectives.

The other day, my innocent child who I felt would never ‘manipulate’ me through her emotions, was perfectly happily sitting in her car-seat when I was outside the car. But as soon as I opened the door she feigned upset and sadness but then burst out laughing. She was crying to ‘manipulatively’ invoke a response in me.

She woke up last night crying and rolling around chewing on her finger. Between the sobs I heard her muttering ‘sore’ – referring to her teething pain. She was crying to communicate a need for comfort and pain relief.

Then there was the other week when she had a ‘tantrum’ (oh she has them all the time of course, but I’m just using this one as an example!) because she wanted to try put her own shirt on instead of me helping her. I said fine here you go, and then she started wailing that she wanted me to put the shirt on for her. Back and forth we went.

Her crying was not about the t-shirt. It was her way of releasing stress and tension. We’d had a big day where I’d been asking her to follow a lot of instructions, spend a fair amount of time in the car, and she’d had little time for free play and making her own choices. So this extra request tipped her over the edge. I sat and listened and empathized and after 5 or so minutes of crying she came in for a cuddle, and then happily let me dress her and on we went.

So these examples are to say: limiting ourselves into identifying with one style of parenting can limit the perspective and scope of understanding we have of our children’s dynamic, changing, and complex behaviour.

How we can respond to crying

Although a contentious parenting topic, I would argue that there is pretty compelling evidence available that would caution us against leaving our children and babies to cry unsupported and alone. If you’re interested in exploring this evidence further I’d encourage you to check out my free eBook here and click on the links included at the end of the ‘sleep’ section.

But the reality is: there will be times where our babies will cry and we have done everything humanly possible to meet (and anticipate) every one of their needs. Nothing we do can help them, and so we feel helpless. But what you can do?

You can be with them. Hold them lovingly as they cry and let them know that you are there for them and it’s going to be okay. Crying in the arms of a loved one is a very different experience to crying alone.

This is supported by research, such as that of Gunnar, who found that when crying infants are held by a caregiver their stress response (the HPA-axis) doesn’t happen, compared to when they are left to cry alone with spiking stress-hormones. More than this: think about your own feeling of distress and crying, and how you feel when supported and listened to by a trusted loved one.

All children cry, regardless of what style of parenting you use.  

For children who are older, not only will they cry, but we as parents will make them cry. This is whether our style is authoritarian, gentle, attachment, or conscious, we will cause our children to cry for a myriad of reasons – including setting boundaries. But it is how we set those boundaries and respond to this distress that is important – not whether our children are crying or not.

We remain empathetic, understanding of their needs and respectful of our own needs and boundaries as parents too.

Reflect on your parenting style

I also think an interesting exercise to do is examine your own internal response to your child’s tears. Question where your beliefs came from? Do they come from your parents and your own childhood? From what you think is the ‘right’ thing to do according to baby books or parenting guides? Is it how you see others in your social circle respond to crying in their children? What emotions bubble to the surface for you?

Most of all: tune in to you, because when you meet your own feelings you are better able to manage and meet your children’s feelings.

Feel the freedom of rejecting the pressure to box yourself into one parenting style. I hope opening up this conversation encourages you to reflect on your own beliefs and practices, and go gently on yourself as you travel down this ever-shifting path of mothering.  

feminism resistance feminist
Blog Post, Practices

Feminism 101

What is feminism? In what context do you hear the word ‘feminist’ being used? Do you identify as a feminist? Who do you know who identifies as a feminist? Were you taught feminism at school? Is it ever a word used by your family? Do you identify with feminist ideals but feel uncomfortable calling yourself a feminist?

What is Feminism

There are many different branches of feminism, as well as a spectrum of stereotypes and labels that have been applied to feminism. At its heart, feminism is a social movement that believes in the political, economic, and social rights of women. Feminists believe men and women deserve equal rights and opportunities in a society. Importantly though, equality does not necessarily equate with ‘sameness’.

We don’t have to accept or advocate that there are no differences between men and women in order to call ourselves feminist.

Based on this broad definition, I would ask: who would NOT identify as a feminist?

Don’t Call me a Feminist

Although feminism is changing and a wave of celebrities such as Beyonce have aligned themselves with the term, there is still stigma attached to calling yourself a feminist in our popular culture. Look here for a discussion on how young people are identifying with the feminist label. There has also been important discussion on the relationship that feminism has to the mainstream.

Part of this involves critiques that the claiming of ‘feminism’ into a mainstream space has actually denied the work of radicals who have dedicated their lives to the feminist cause, and whose work has enabled the freedoms that young women today enjoy.

Jessica Crispin argues in her controversial book that “the matricidal impulse of young women to denounce these ‘feminazis'” has depoliticized the movement, that women have become complicit in their own oppression, and the feminist movement is stalled.

There are a number of reasons behind the backlash against the term ‘feminist’ in our popular culture that may contribute to some of the changes Crispin talks about. It is also unsurprising that a movement that advocates overthrowing a system that benefits the most privileged and elite faces some resistance.

Feminism has been (or is?) associated with the stereotype of a forceful, angry, man-hating woman. Many women will create distance between themselves as such labels, because they are highly aware of how women who are perceived as angry or assertive are discriminated against or marginalized.

We are socialized into being quiet, small, ‘nice’, and ‘kind’ women – not assertive, opinionated, ‘bitches’ who take up space and make our voices heard.

A study by Grenny & Maxfield found that if a woman in the workplace is perceived as being ‘forceful’ or ‘assertive’, then her perceived competency drops by 35%, and her perceived worth falls by $15,088.

There are real – and sometimes dangerous – consequences for those who speak out against sexism and challenge traditional gendered norms (and gender itself. There is also a clear difference between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ that is so often confused in these discussions, but I’ll delve into that in a post to come).

Quick Feminism Myth-Busters

  • Feminists hate men.

Feminists don’t hate men; they contest a system and society that privileges men and the masculine and denigrates the status and experience of women. Feminism works not only to liberate women, but critiques the constraints men face with the narrow definitions of ‘masculinity’ and what it means to be a man.

  • All Feminists are bra-burning lesbians

First, how is being a lesbian an insult? This in itself is homophobic and discriminatory, and part of what feminists work against! Being feminist doesn’t have anything to do with your sexual orientation.

  • Women and men are already equal. There’s no need for feminism

The most unsafe place for a woman is in her home.

The majority of men who are killed are killed by strangers who are men and the majority of women killed are killed by male intimate partners and family.

As of 16th October, 2019, 44 women have been murdered in our country this year. In the time it took me to put together this blog post and my podcast episode 3 on this topic, 5 women were killed. with statistics statistically showing at least 1 woman a week is killed in Australia

Some facts from the Australian Human Rights Commission:

  • 1 in 2 women have experienced sexual harassment during their lifetime
  • 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence since the age of 15
  • Women account for 70% of primary unpaid carers for children
  • Women spend twice as much time on unpaid work as men
  • Women are more likely to live below the poverty line
  • Australian ranks 48th in the world in terms of female political empowerment, and we represent only 26% of representatives in Australian parliament despite being 50% of the population
  • 1 in 2 mothers reported experiencing workplace discrimination
  • Women retire on half the superannuation of men  

There also may be the perception that you don’t need to care about feminism because you are not sexist yourself? Interestingly, even those of us who actively call ourselves feminists still hold unconscious bias. A great explanation of this comes from Kristen Pressner’s TEDx talk on “Are You Biased? I am”.

Feminism is also about calling out intersectional discrimination as our race, class, ethnicity, education, geographical location and whether we live with disability, will shape our understanding and perspective on feminist issues.

Where did Feminism come from?

The first wave of feminism arose in the late 19th, early 20th centuries, mobilised by the suffragettes who campaigned for women’s right to vote.

The second wave came about in the 1960s and 1970s and these feminists campaigned for things such as equal pay and reproductive rights for women such as access to contraception and safe and legal abortion.

Shockingly, as I was writing this post, it was only a few days after (26th September 2019) that abortion was finally de-criminalised in NSW, Australia. There are many aspects of the fight of the second wave feminists that we are still fighting today, where full-time working Australian women earn on average 17.5% less than men working full-time.

Third wave feminism took off around the 1990s, branching out to consider the ways feminists need to recognize and consider the roles race, ethnicity, and sexual identity play in the marginalization and discrimination of women.

Fourth wave feminism is said to have begun only recently, and focuses on greater representation in politics and business, arguing that policies and practices need to incorporate perspectives of all people. There is also a focus on calling out assault, harassment, focusing on bodily autonomy, and speaking out about abuses of power. Think #metoo.

There are many feminist battles left to fight, not only for us, but also for our children (both boys and girls). I hope you will join me on this front. It is sometimes uncomfortable – and of course it will be when we are pushing against the social norm. But it is also empowering and important work.

More on this to come when I talk about the relationship between feminism and motherhood, and the practice of empowered mothering. If you want to hear more about this straight away, head over and listen to my podcast episode “Empowered Mothering”.