conscious mother mothering daughter gazing at each other in a field
Blog Post, Practices

Conscious Mothering and Self Growth

Becoming mother is one of the most significant transformations of self growth a woman will ever go through. Part of our experience as human beings – regardless of whether we’re parents or not – is evolving and re-making ourselves, through all the phases of our lives. For this reason, I am hesitant to use the terminology of ‘self growth’ because I think that is something we’re always in a process of engaging in. But mothering for me has meant constantly going through transformations that mirror the transformations my daughter experiences in her own growth. I have come to view and experience mothering as the ultimate catalyst for self growth.

Mothering as Transformation

Mothering has a way of pushing you to your absolute edges. You can experience the most intensely joyful and fulfilling moments of love, purpose, and meaning. But you can also be so tested, so pushed, that you feel like you’re at breaking point. It is this cycle of breaking and re-making that mothering can propel us into. But finding and exploring the idea of ‘conscious mothering’ or ‘conscious parenting’ has helped me to find greater meaning, strength, and purpose in the most challenging parts of motherhood.

Part of what we’re warned about before becoming mothers or when we’re pregnant is preparing for the onslaught of ‘boring’, ‘repetitive’ or ‘mind numbing’ tasks. The tasks that seemingly go along with mothering a baby and young child. Tasks like nappy changes, cleaning up mess, cooking, washing, and everything else associated in the domestic realm. There is a tonne of domestic and emotional labour that is associated with caregiving. That is not to say that this labour is women’s work (it shouldn’t only be, even we know that statistically, it is. Tune in to episode 3 of TGEM podcast to hear some stats on this).

Yes sometimes these tasks may feel mundane or repetitive. These are all important and taken for granted aspects of mothering-work that we need to make visible and acknowledge. They don’t always feel mundane and repetitive though, and they don’t HAVE to feel this way. I’m going to dive deeper into the ways we can transform our understandings and the value we place on these aspects of motherhood. But for now, what I want to do is put these tasks of mothering aside and talk about what becoming a mother can mean beyond the immediate demands of caregiving. ⠀⠀

The task of mothering is one that is a psychologically intense task of nourishing, equipping, and encouraging the blossoming of another human being. We are simultaneously held responsible for their development and flourishing while also being required to release them into a world that we have no control over. This responsibility and process is one that transforms us just as much as it transforms our children.

Conscious Mothering

What I’m talking about here is conscious mothering. If you’ve never heard of this term before, you’re probably wondering what ‘conscious mothering’ means? Does it erupt an image of a calm, intuitive, perfect Mum who does yoga, eats organically, never yells, and glides through motherhood? Remember to shatter that illusion: the perfect mother does not exist.

Conscious parenting is not about perfection.

It is not about pretending you are a spirituality guru.

It is not about judging yourself.

What it is about, is this…

Letting parenthood catapult us into a greater awareness of ourselves, and the world around us.

Surrendering to what ‘is’ rather than being in a process of constantly trying to change and work against where we find ourselves and our children.

Learning from our children as much as they learn from us.

Becoming conscious of our own thoughts, behaviours, history, and values.

Living presently to appreciate and be comfortable with who WE are as individuals.

Our job is not to mould our children into who we imagined or want them to be.

Our job is to model for them a person who is living their own lives to their highest potential, who can value and live within the present moment without always getting entangled in the past or yearning for the future.

Conscious parenting means working on ourselves and going through our own internal transformations in order to guide and support our children. There is a focus on our internal world as the marker of disruption or challenge, rather than the child. On connecting with our child and peeling back layers of behaviour to see the underlying emotion our child is working through, rather than resorting to traditional methods of discipline and punishment/rewards.

We relinquish control when we realize our children are not an object for us to dominate, but who are actually giving us opportunities to cultivate deeper connections in our world.

Are you the mother of a toddler?

Join my Transforming Toddler Tantrums Course to learn how to respond to toddler tantrums as a conscious parent.

Dr Shefali Tsabury

One of the most popular voices for conscious mothering is Dr Sheflai Tsabary, author of ‘The Conscious Parent’ and ‘The Awakened Family’.

Here are some of my favourite quotes from Dr Tsabary:

  • “When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a ‘mini me,’ but a spirit throbbing with its own signature. For this reason, it’s important to separate who you are from who each of your children is. Children aren’t ours to possess or own in any way. When we know this in the depths of our soul, we tailor our raising of them to their needs, rather than molding them to fit our needs.”
  • “It’s no surprise we fail to tune into our children’s essence. How can we listen to them, when so many of us barely listen to ourselves? How can we feel their spirit and hear the beat of their heart if we can’t do this in our own life?”
  • “Because children are essentially good, when we see a child hit, it ought to evoke in us an empathic response such as, ‘What pain they must be in to feel the need to hit’.”
  • “Often it’s the adjustment of our expectations, rather than reality itself, that’s the hurdle we have to leap.”

One of the quotes that most resonates for me, and that I think about almost daily is that “our children are spirits throbbing with their own signature.” I think of that as I beat to my daughter’s rhythm and she pulsates in response to my energy. This is something I was told and have learnt through the wonderful coaching and teachings of Julie Tenner, owner of The Pleasure Nutritionist and co-founder with Bridget Wood of Nourishing the Mother who are an amazing duo who talk all things conscious mothering.

Using Conscious Mothering

Does this way of seeing the world resonate for you? They don’t have to, of course. Even if they do, I am resistant to the idea of dogmatically following any type of philosophy – especially when it comes to parenting.

But what comes from understanding and exploring conscious mothering as a parenting paradigm is releasing the pressured focus we have on shaping our children, and seeing motherhood as a catalyst for self-growth and transformation, that will ultimately allow us to be the best version of ourselves that we can be for our children.

As parents we can model and therefore infuse in our children the values, tools, and self-love that will encourage and facilitate their own ‘becoming’ in a world that is inherently complex and difficult. Herein lies the reason why the work mothering is so challenging, but also why it is THE most important and powerful work in our world (and yes you can engage in mothering work without being a biological mother – men too).

The work of mothering has the potential to change ourselves and therefore our world, our culture, and our society.

Want to learn how to support toddlers through tantrums from a conscious parenting perspective? Join my Transforming Toddler Tantrums Course to learn more.

Blog Post, Practices

The Vulnerability and Power of Writing

The way we write about our lives and use the written word as a tool to delve into our inner worlds has always intrigued me. So much so that my first ‘major work’ when studying was an analysis of women’s journal-writing as a place for wrestling with questions about identity, called ‘Composing the Self’, which comparatively investigated the diaries of Syliva Plath and Kathleen Folbigg: respectively, the American-English poet who committed suicide and an Australian women who is in prison charged with the murder of her four children. Both women used the vehicle of language to seek to harness their thoughts and feelings to confront and explore the complexities of their lives.

“My ideas change from minute to minute, just like the clouds in the sky that make beautiful scenes. After all, if the skys were always clear blue, it wouldn’t be so lovely.”

Carolina Maria de Jesus. Kept a journal on empty pages of notebooks she salvaged from the trash in the slums of Brazil

For centuries, women in particular have used diaries and journals as a place where they can find and express their own voice in the midst of a world that often denied them one.

Within journals – and now often within blog spaces – we get a unique, raw, and sometimes unedited insight into the unfolding, messy, ordinary, confusing, triumphant, challenging, wonderful aspects of our worlds. Of course the shaping of this experience is constructed, but it is still a quest for meaning-making. Philosophers such as Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault talk about this idea of ‘reality’ and ‘truth’ being constructed and remaining in a constant process of being-and-becoming. There are post-structuralists who argue that language can be both a barrier to expressing thoughts, views, and experiences because it is fluid and dynamic, yet it is the primary vehicle for enabling such things to be expressed.

Roland Barthes has a theory about the death of the author, proposing that once a text is in the public domain – as blog posts are – they are subject to a variety of different interpretations and are no longer the property of the composer. Taking this idea, YOU as the reader, are generating the meaning of this text as you are reading it. It is not necessary to think about what I as the author believed or assumed or intended to communicate – but you are making your own relationship with these words on this page (or mobile device!)

This is one of the reasons why the act of writing in public forums is one that requires vulnerability. You are baring your words on the page for another to scan, pull apart, interpret, craft, and judge. It is a baring of the self through words.

In my study of how women throughout history have used diaries and journals, I found that diarist’s feelings ricochet from repression to liberation, externally celebrating internal successes. The act of writing can also be one used for emotional sustenance and ego support to derive self-validation. There is also often a theme of yearning for emancipation as a subtext, where the act of writing can provoke a number if inner transformations to occur – whether they be consciously or subconsciously.

“Which is the real me? … I am a coward above all else. I want an existence shaped and framed by my own needs. God- I feel so selfish crying out for me, my, mine.”

Robin Garber-Kabalkin. Mother of 4 young children.

The act of writing can feel like a form of both escapism and introspection. Escapism in that it can be a retreat from reality. But it also encourages introspection as a constructed space where thoughts, feelings and experiences are captured, recorded and explored. It is often through the act of writing that we are able to come to a point of clarity or make meaning of an event or stream of consciousness.

In fact, writing has been proven to be one of the simplest, cheapest, and most accessible forms of therapy. James Pennebaker’s research found that those who write about their experiences of trauma heal significantly faster than those who do not. His research has shown that spending 15-20minutes writing about a traumatic event, 4-5times, is correlated with significantly better physical and mental health outcomes after experiences of trauma.

There is a significant amount of research that shows the act of writing re-wires the brain. So rather than necessarily writing to reveal meaning, writing can create it.

Writing opens up parts of ourselves that we cannot consciously ‘think’ about or call forward. It is the act and process of writing that helps these things come forth.

When you engage in stream-of-consciousness writing, you give your feeling-self permission to delve into these areas that your thinking-self has shut off.

Writing becomes powerful and touching to others when our feeling-selves navigate these unchartered terrains of our inner worlds, and this journey is travelled through the written word.

I challenge anyone who is reading this post to:

  • Open the notes section of their phone, pull out a piece of paper and a pen, or open a computer.
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes
  • Start writing whatever comes into your consciousness.
  • Do not think about what to write, do not plan it. Just start writing, and see what comes forth. 

In this type of writing, we can find, uncover, recognize, and/or ignite our power. There is an authenticity in this act of putting parts of our-selves on a page, but of course such an act is also one of vulnerability. But I think back to all of the work from Brene Brown whenever I feel vulnerable.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness” and, “Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.”

Brene Brown