One of the greatest lessons conscious parenthood has taught me is that to be informed is a double-edged sword.
We need knowledge so that we can make the best decisions for our families. Facts and figures embolden us, especially when we’re following a path less travelled.
Knowledge enables us to parent in the light, rather than making choices out of fear or allowing ourselves to be swayed by popular but often, mislead opinions.
Yet, when we’re so committed to a choice, convinced by the benefits a practice promises, only to find that circumstances beyond our control don’t allow us to take the intended action it can be heartbreaking.
In the case of an unfulfilled intention such as breastfeeding your baby, wearing your toddler or having more than one child, it can be so devastating that it may contribute to feelings of inadequacy, isolation, anxiety or postpartum depression.
Perhaps, like me, you were devoted to educating yourself on a million and one ways to ensure a natural birth, only to be induced at forty-two weeks and then need a caesarian.
Or maybe you understand, inside out and back to front, the countless benefits of breastfeeding, but, for one reason or another, you’re unable to nurse your baby.
Or perhaps you’re passionate about homeschooling but the demands of modern living mean you simply can’t afford to.
In those moments of intention meeting reality, it can feel as if we’re even more alone. Are we natural enough to identify as natural parents? Will our tribe accept us if we can’t or choose not to do all the things?
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I recently watched an incredible TED Talk and in it the speaker discussed the importance of finding our WHY. Identifying WHY we do things is more important than HOW we do it.
Because WHY is what compels us to tap into our instincts and to find the courage to trust our hearts.
WHY is what pushes us to find a solution; to identify an unexpected side trail, when the intended path eludes us. Identifying our WHY must come first because when the HOW is challenging, our WHY gives us the single-minded conviction and unshakeable strength to continue; to find creative solutions and ignore any resistance or judgment that comes our way.
Too often as parents, we fixate on our differences, allowing them to tear us apart as we fail to acknowledge and find solace in our unifying similarities. Because, while our choices may differ, our intentions can be the same; how we parent is different for every family, every parent and every child.
This is an important message because you’d be hard pressed to find a mother who believes she is perfect.
A mother who never yells. A mother with zero emotional baggage from her own childhood. A mother with endless energy and patience and positivity. A mother who doesn’t need to be reminded she’s doing an incredible job, every once in a while.
We are all beautifully imperfect and now, more than ever, we need to find the courage to be real, raw and honest so that we can redefine motherhood. Reinforce sisterhood. Empower parenthood. Let’s create a tribe of like-minded cheerleaders who will rejoice with us when we’re at our best and support us unconditionally when we need it most.
When we parent in the light we’re empowered to drive feelings of darkness and shame out of our collective parenthood. Because shame is an emotion that too easily takes up residence in our souls. I’ve heard Brené Brown describe parenthood as a shame minefield; one in which we will defend our parenting choices as if we’re defending our lives. No matter who it comes from, we take judgment personally and feel disapproval deeply. But perhaps, our harshest critic is our own inner voice.
“Our call to courage is to protect or wild heart against constant evaluation, especially our own.” Brené Brown
I believe the antidote is two fold. Firstly, conscious parenting gives us the clarity we require to see what our children really need; real parents who are fully present in this moment, tending to the needs they have now, rather than worrying about what we wish we could have done differently.
And secondly, a healthy dose of self care. As new parents we fall into the habit of putting the needs of our newborn babies before our own, and for a period of time, that is how it needs to be. But, as our children grow, let’s acknowledge, without guilt, that our needs matter. If you, like me, need a reality check on why this is so important, here is a quote by Carl Jung that stopped me in my tracks, “Nothing has a stronger influence on the child, than the unlived life of the parent.”
So, if you can change, change.
Always aim to do and be better.
Strive to expand your comfort zone.
But if you can’t, don’t add guilt. Add light. Add love. Add compassion.
And know, that in this community, we find strength in our similarities. You are welcome here. Your honesty will be valued. Your vulnerability will be respected. Your voice will be heard.
Our kids don’t need perfect parents; there is no such thing. What they need are REAL parents who mess up from time to time, to have the humility to apologise and lay bare our imperfections. Our kids need real parents who have the courage to be vulnerable and the grit to forge a path for our families no matter how fresh the trail may be. Let’s inspire, challenge and embolden one another on this crazy adventure we call parenthood.
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