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.

the good enough mother blog introducing mother and child
Blog Post, My Story

Introducing The Good Enough Mother Blog

Hi and welcome to The Good Enough Mother blog. My name is Sophie and I am a single mother to my 2 year old daughter.

I consider myself first and foremost a woman – one who occupies various roles in my life which include that of mother, daughter, friend, researcher, worker, and on I could go! I recognise the ways our lives, particularly as women and Mums, are so often divided into different seasons. We find diverse ways and paths to live out and explore different versions of our ‘selves’.

The ways our lives are divided into different seasons shift and change, and some stages of life require the intensification of certain roles.

Of course for women who are mothers, an example of this intensification is the newborn period and early stages of infancy (and often more broadly, the first 2 years of life and beyond this to the first 5). The language of seasons as part of our experience extends beyond our role as mothers. There are just some phases of life that are more intense!

  • Juggling studying and working full time?
  • Looking after ageing parents?
  • Dealing with the diagnosis of an illness or a disability in yourself or a loved one?
  • Stressed about how you’re going to keep a roof over your head and food on the table?
  • Navigating the terrains of mental illness?

Varying levels of struggle reflect varying levels of privilege, circumstance, luck, education, and social location. So often where we find ourselves in terms of ‘struggle’ is all relative.

But… sometimes the old adage of ‘there’s always someone worse off’ doesn’t necessarily see you practicing gratitude. Instead, it leaves you feeling unheard and invalidated.

There is no limit to the extent or depth of compassion we can offer each other

Regardless of where we find ourselves right now, it is extremely likely that ALL of us are going to face at least some – if not many – of the challenging circumstances and situations that I listed above. Recognising this and acknowledging the often-shared nature of human experience invites not only connection with each other, but empathy for others. Wanting to learn more about how we can help others ultimately also helps us.

The Good Enough Mother blog is a space to record, reflect, and reminisce.

I use the act of writing to both work through, reflect on, and create meaning.

I link lived experience with research and academic scholarship on motherhood, relationships, identity and loss.

I use my professional and personal experiences to delve into honest and intimate story-sharing, and analyse our social world in a way that offers others tools and examples of how they may navigate the shared challenges that so many of us face.  

I write The Good Enough Mother blog posts not with a tone of authority, but with an invitation to open your mind and heart and see what you may discover about yourself and others.

There are three dominant threads that will be woven throughout The Good Enough Mother blog. These are:

1. Life as a Mother

In particular, as a single mother who has experienced deep betrayal and the abrupt end of my marriage at the birth of my daughter. Today, years later, I find myself in a very different place to these early days of motherhood and divorce.

Listen in to episode 1 of The Good Mother podcast for more insight, but I can only describe this transformative period as having my heart broken and filled at the same time, and leaving me with life-long lessons. I want to share these lessons in the hope that they will be of value to others who are forging their own paths peppered by pain and challenge, wanting to cultivate resilience and strength.

2. Research relating to womEN’S LIVES

My background and my first passion is in academia, examining women’s lives from a maternal sociological perspective. I have a passionate interest in talking about and examining motherhood in our society today, women’s experiences as mothers, how we as women navigate our relationships with others, and how we build a sense of self and identity. All of these areas are intertwined of course.

I believe there is an inextricable link between our research interests as academics, and our lived experience as individuals within a community. I know that my life experience informs my research. I know that my research has informed the way I live my life. What I want to do is extend this knowledge into the broader community in order to help give people some of the tools and information that we as researchers and/or educators are privileged enough to have acquired.

In saying this, part of my work is recognising the construction and co-creation of our realities. That is to say – we work together. We learn together and from each other. We have to be sensitive to power hierarchies but acknowledge that each individual brings their own unique knowledge acquired from THEIR life experience that is valuable, interesting, and worthy of recognition.

3. Grief, loss, and disability

I had both a really ‘ordinary’ but ‘extraordinary’ childhood, living with my Mum, Dad, and younger sister in the suburbs of Sydney. We’re middle class, white, and therefore I had a pretty privileged upbringing. My parents both have PhDs and worked in the field of English Education. My Dad also had Motor Neurone Disease – diagnosed when I was just 5 years old and my sister was 1, and he was given 3-5 years to live.

Motor Neurone Disease is a terminal, degenerative, and incurable disease. Basically, the neurons that travel from your brain to the different muscles in your body die. Your mind is completely unaffected and remains as normal, but your body slowly shuts down. It’s like you become slowly trapped within your body. Search ‘MND’ or ‘ALS’ if you want more information – but I’m sure you get the picture that it is an horrendous disease.

My Dad was an absolutely phenomenal, power-house of a human being. Google Dr Paul Brock AM’ and his book ‘A Passion for Life’ if you are curious for more information on him. My Dad and our family’s story will be threaded throughout these entries.

There are things that my Dad did and ways that he lived that we know enabled him to live a full, happy, meaningful, incredible life despite MND. As a family we travelled the world many times together and Dad worked full time up until his death. This was all while being confined to a wheelchair, where the disease left him only able to speak and have slight movement in one of his fingers. He battled the disease, fighting it for 20 years. He died the 25th March, 2016 – changing the course of our lives forever.

I’ll be delving into these topics in The Good Enough Mother blog, reflecting on life as a woman in the world today. There are many aspects of these topics of motherhood, work, relationships, loss and grief, that we share in common.

Recognising our similarities invites a sense of solidarity, connection, and community. We can feel this sense of connection in what is shared, while also acknowledging that these aspects of our lives are highly personal and individualised. It is through understanding and exploring this diversity that we are able to learn more about each other, ourselves, and the world around us.