My eldest turns 21 today. He is having a birthday in isolation. That means no -one over to celebrate, not going out with mates. He's stuck with me and his brother!
It was today 21 years ago that I became a mother (yes that's me and infamous baby who didn't sleep all night until he was 5)....
I'm so proud of him today and I've shared that on Facebook, but your children's birthday's are also a time for personal reflections.
I look at this photo and I see how young and beautiful I looked. I was 32.
Nowdays I am not so young or beautiful, but I am younger and probably more beautiful than what I'll ever be again.
When I was much younger, I loved going out and dancing. Connecting, and just being with the music and the friends and strangers around me. Whether it be ‘sock hops’ at school, listening to pub cover bands, or going to bushdances. It was fun!!
Then for a while, the music stopped. With the unrelenting fatigue that accompanied the jump into motherhood.
There was no more dancing and the isolation of motherhood became real.
The only dancing was the swaying that happened trying to soothe the babies, or the bouncing and rolling around on the Swiss ball as they were jiggled off to sleep.
And then the babies grew and even the swaying disappeared….
The music changes when you become a mother, well it did for me. Suddenly you have children who depend on you, who trust you implicitly (until they become teenagers anyway) and look to you for guidance in everything they do. And often, we don’t have all the answers, we can’t fulfill all their needs, we can’t even fulfill our own needs of sleep, and that sense of failure to be perfect can lead to isolation and times of despair.
So, although I had my mother and my family, and friends, I lost the music.
So how do you get the music back? You start by giving yourself permission to hear it.
When you embrace your imperfections, your authenticity, and follow your life rhythm you find others who resonate with you, who will support you, challenge you and join in your dance.
You may find as I did, when you make a commitment to embrace your vulnerability, you create space to make new soul connections with your family, your friends, each other.
It's OK, it's normal to lose the music, to get overwhelmed, to reach out for guidance and support. I've been there, swaying in the corner, waiting for it to change.
I get it.
Remember we are all connected, and although you may feel it at times, you are not alone.
The music, the dance, the connections are there. Sometimes we just need a little help to rediscover them.
And then you become older and the music and dance, and often connections, change yet again. It's time now, for me again to rediscover what the sound and the movement are for me, in this next stage of my life.
Until next time, take care of yourself.
ps…. And I totally love my children, and always wanted to be a mother, and I will always be their rock and their comfort. They make my heart sing, even when I can't always hear the music.
With divorce and separation common in our society it can be easy to take it for granted and fail to recognise the stress it provides for children caught in the middle.
The impact this event has on the children involved depends on many factors. These factors can include, the age of the children, how the adults speak to each other, what the adults tell the children, whether the parental split results in a less stressed home environment, the shared care arrangements, and the personality and temperament of the children. There are so many things going on at this time and often children are left to cope in their own emotional turmoil whilst the adults are battling it out.
...imagine how your child may be feeling. ... They don’t know what is going to change, what will stay the same. Where is Christmas going to be? Who is going to come to the school concert? Can they go to a birthday party that is on when it is the other parent’s turn to have them?
Three top tips about parenting (and all other advice books).
1. Check the credentials of the author and make sure you are comfortable with them.
2. With a problem/issue in mind check out a few different books to see which one/s ‘feel’ right. It is OK, in fact good, to feel challenged, but sometimes the ideas the author puts forward are just not right for you.
3. Parenting books are optional. They can inspire, engage, educate and help you feel connected with other parents. Alternatively they may make you feel inadequate depending on how what is happening for you emotionally and what individual struggles and problems your family is dealing with. In these situations particularly, it may be more beneficial to talk one on one with someone and get some targeted advice.
I like the books of Michael Carr-Greg, Andrew Fuller and Steve Biddulph because they tend to have some humour and practical advice. They are easy to pick up and dip and out of them, which is great for busy mums. I also think collections of stories where you here different voices around motherhood are great. (There are a couple of these in the below recommendations).
A couple of books that target particular behaviours are Bully Blocking by Evelyn Field (just be aware there is bad language in parts of it as she writes about what children have said when bullying other children). There are a range of strategies in here that can be used depending on the situation and the personality of your child. Sexts, Texts & Selfies by Susan McLean who is an expert in cybersafety is worth looking at for some understanding of what your children face in the digital world.
I asked some of my colleagues to recommend their favourite parenting book and have listed some of those below. They are in no particular order, and are quite varied in their style and content. The bigger, more complex ones might be great for holiday reading.
Towards Parenthood by Bronwyn Leigh and others. Recommended by Dr Tess Crawley from https://www.facebook.com/DrTessCrawleyAssociates/?ref=br_rs.
Raising an emotionally intelligent child by John Gottman; Getting to Calm; The Launching Years; Wise Minded Parenting by Laura Kastner; and The Drama of being a Child by Alice Miller. Recommended by Natalie Turvey from https://www.facebook.com/DropOfLifePtyLtd/?ref=br_rs.
No Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel. This is recommended by both Dr Hayley Quinn from http://www.quinntessentialpsychology.com and Natalie Turvey.
Momma Zen by Karen Miller; and Everyday Blessings by Myla and John Kabat-Zinn. These two are all very much about mindful parenting, self compassion and compassion
Love Wisdom Motherhood by Jessica Rowe. A compilation of stories of the transition to Motherhood.
The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel.. The Whole Brain Child is great in developing parenting skills but also empathy and compassion. (It was also recommended by Patricia Gee from Gallagher Psychology and Natalie Turvey.)
The above were all recommended by Amiee-Jade Pember A Community Psych at New Directions Psychology Service in Ballajura, WA. The comments about the books are all hers.
Parenting by Kathy Walker. Recommended by http://karepsychology.com.au..
Women who run with the Wolves. Recommended by Jamie Lee from https://www.facebook.com/30daysofgratitudeapp/. Jamie says “I love this book because it has the stories of women from around the world and different cultures to highlight our strength and stories that we carry with us. This book isn't specific to parenting but I love the story about the women that will protect her child but also nurture her child.”
If you have your own favourite to share, you can do so below.
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy..
Kim Dunn is a Child Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds.