Good mother welcome

Good Mother, Welcome

I came across this title in one of Leonie Dawson’s workbooks in January.

The title caught my attention, as at the time I was feeling quite at the bottom of my aspirations toward ‘good’ or even ‘adequate’ on the motherhood front.  I thought some wry, sarcastic wit could be just the antidote to my troubled sense of my own imperfection.

When the book came, it was something quite different. It was a book of poetry, tender, heartfelt, real. The first words took my breath away, and brought me to tears. “Good mother, welcome. We are glad you are among us.”

How many of us truly believe we are ‘good’ on the motherhood front? Maybe some of us, some of the time. On a good day. Many more of us struggle to believe we are ‘good’ or even ‘good enough’ in the face of life’s (and our own) imperfections.

“Good mother, welcome.” What makes it so hard? Why do so many of us feel ‘not good enough’?

(And I mean beyond the help of those irritating Facebook memes that assure us, ‘you are enough’. I applaud the sentiment. I’d love for all of us to genuinely feel that all of the time. But if that meme is enough to touch your heart’s sorrow and reverse it, you probably don’t need me or what I have to share here, and I wish you well in your happiness.)

Do you know what it feels like to wake up every day and know that actually things in your life are really not right, that you and your children are suffering from this, and that massive change is going to be needed to bring them closer to right, but feel too exhausted even to begin because the little energy you have is consumed by caring for children? 

I do. I know I’m not alone in this. And it’s not about perfectionism. It’s also not about being inadequate or unskilled or pathologically unwell…and it’s not about being ‘not good enough.’ What I see time and time again is that it is about being in a situation that is hard, and beyond what we feel we can cope with easily or well on our own – and where we nonetheless must carry on.

The details of that situation will vary. It may be abuse or relationship breakdown. It may be a bad birth or breastfeeding experience that leaves us with pain, regret, or on-going trauma. It may be illness or accident. It may be stuff from the past rising up for attention. It may be sheer depletion and exhaustion from the impossible expectations that life (motherhood) can throw at us.

Whatever the cause, so many women, so many mothers are struggling daily with deep heart pain and troubling isolation. And we do our best to keep going, often deflecting and minimising our stories, most of us until we can’t any longer.

Given the experience of motherhood as many of us are living it, I don’t think there is anything abnormal about how we feel. By that I don’t mean that the problems are not real – they are all too real, and all too in need of attention – and change! But what I do mean is this: if you feel crappy in a crap situation, that’s overall a healthy thing – and a good sign that your mind and body are still capable of functioning as they should. And there is a possibility for change.

When there is something out of order in the body or in the mind, there is a natural impulse to keep the body functioning as best as can be. In other words, we compensate. If we have an injured foot, we might walk on the side of it, or hop along, right? 

It’s no different with the emotional stuff. We protect ourselves and our children as best we can. And when we compensate our bodies (and minds) may use convoluted pathways to accomplish what needs to be accomplished so that we can keep going. But over time that stuff builds up. It starts shouting for attention. We are, on a heart and soul level, calling out for what we need most – connection, love, freedom – we want to be whole.

Motherhood makes it tough to process this stuff. Approximately a 1000x harder, in my experience. Because there is nearly no (if any) downtime. How often do you get solitude? A space to process? My guess, if you have small children, is hardly ever. I personally still feel ‘on’ to some degree even when my little one is sleeping. And there is a general devaluing and invisibility to the work that goes on. That work can feel pretty relentless at times.

I had an image of what this feels like to me the other day. I am a bucket, with water flowing in. The rate varies, sometimes more, sometimes less depending on what’s happening in my life. But there are four largish child-shaped holes requiring a constant flow from me. Three of these holes empty into smaller buckets that have some degree of inflow from another parent (in our case this is restricted). One of these is fed almost exclusively by me as he has no other parent. All receive some inflow from social connections, school, other carers – and I’m very grateful for this – but we live far from family, and the bottom line is, most of this comes down to me.

The water (the energy, the intentions, the nourishing of self) that pours into the bucket is always also pouring out to protect and to nurture and to nourish these little people. When the level in the bucket gets so low, and the inflow is weak, or God forbid, the bucket itself becomes damaged, well, I’ll let that image speak for itself. It takes a constant higher level of effort on my part to remain in place than it does for someone who has an undamaged bucket with no holes in it.

We live in a world where most of us have damaged buckets. And even for those of us that stepped onto the path toward motherhood relatively intact, we many of us have had further knocks and blows along that trajectory of ‘motherhood’ in the modern world.

I don’t want to sound too pessimistic here. I do not in anyway believe the situation is hopeless, for any of us. The past years of working with women and working on myself have shown me nothing if not that healing – living really fully, with feeling, with joy and whole self – is possible even when we have experienced some truly terrible things. I believe women (and humans) have incredible capacity for resilience. But for those of us who are mothers, who have ongoing responsibility for little people, the path to that needs to be something that encompasses and includes motherhood, not something that ignores it.

I’ve been working really hard over the past months to raise the level in that personal bucket. I let it get too low, for too long, because I kept expecting help or change to come from the wrong places. I’m getting there, now, with although I will be the first to admit that it’s not a linear process, but one where the levels can fluctuate and where often extra care needs to be taken.

For women like me, the quick fixes will never be enough because we are constantly giving in a way that quite probably is invisible to those who have not experienced it. It is difficult to truly value that. I catch myself minimising it, erasing it, hiding it, as much as the next person. There’s something unseemly about motherhood requiring real effort.

And we end up hiding so much, and denying ourselves the credit of what we are actually accomplishing every day (if you personally are feeling unsure of what this is exactly, I recommend to you Naomi Stadlen’s wonderful book What Mothers Do). In doing so, we also often deny ourselves access to the tools and communities that would nourish and support us.

Motherhood is not a place where we should be left  on our own.

I sometimes wonder if the call to ‘self-care’ for mothers I see on Facebook is a bit like the call to train babies to ‘self-soothe’. Are we (in some cases) looking to cut off and shut down the pathways of communication so we don’t have to see what is happening?

Self-care is essential. But it shouldn’t be about shutting us up or shutting us down.

Human beings are social animals. We are tribal creatures. We need connection and acceptance and love in order to thrive. Mothers who are constantly giving so much need this even more – we need holding (not taking away, or reducing our competence, simply holding) so that we can do what is required of us.

It’s really hard for most of us to open to that truth. Self-sufficiency is valued. Vulnerability can feel like (and be interpreted as) weakness. In the worst cases, that vulnerability can be (and is daily) taken advantage of, leading to greater suffering and trauma. And so many of us carry on suffering in pockets of isolation, feeling like there is something profoundly wrong with us because our hearts are heavy and our bodies are strained, and we do whatever we need to do to suppress it and cope and keep on keeping on…until we really can’t.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Our society – in relation to motherhood and childrearing – is broken. It’s the impact of this brokenness that most of us are feeling when we feel isolated, alienated, traumatised, depressed. These feelings are in essence a healthy response to an unhealthy situation.

We need to address this by acknowledging what parts of this brokenness we are holding within ourselves, allowing ourselves to see and acknowledge what we are actually feeling and experiencing. We need to feel free to access support that doesn’t take our agency and our competence away from us, but that holds a space of safety and resourcefulness where our strength can be restored and our resilience grow. We need to feel loved, valued, held and witnessed – and to be part of things as women as well as mothers.

If what I’m saying here makes sense to you, I’d like to invite you to join me on Thursday, 15 June 2017 at 11am for a free webinar ‘The Wounds of Motherhood’. This isn’t your ordinary webinar! There won’t be lots of slides or teaching. Instead we’ll be holding space for a personal process to reconnect with the (often untold) stories we are holding in a way that makes room for our personal agency in bringing healing, insight, and positive change. This is a process I’ve used many times with my 1:1 clients, and in the “Untold Stories of Motherhood” sessions, but it is the first time I’ll be sharing it live online. At the end, I’ll also be sharing details of the Heart Healing For Mothers programme that’s begining 22 June 2017.

 

Access the free replay The Wounds of Motherhood here.

Full Moon Meditations January: Ancestors

One of my projects for 2017 is to record a healing meditation for each moon cycle, Full Moon Meditations, each of these are a gift for our Rebalancing Woman community.  The first one, for January, brings us the gift of connecting with the strength and blessings of our own ancestral lines.

Full Moon Meditations January 2017 AncestorsFor many of us, our family histories are not easy ones. I know this is the case for me, and much of my own healing and parenting path has revolved around saying ‘stop’ to patterns of anger, fear, addiction, (self-)hatred, and violence.

These patterns are difficult to change because they become part of us on a deep level even before we develop the capacity for speech and reasoned thought. How many of us have sworn, “I’ll never say that to my kids”? and yet suddenly found the very words and voice of a parent or other adult ‘speaking’ through us those exact words, tone, wounding before we even notice it happening.

I believe many of us are called to healing our family patterns and lines at this time. We do this work for ourselves and for our children, but it also echoes up the lines – all healing is ancestral healing.

It is great work, and hard work, but we are supported in it.

January’s Full Moon Meditation is one such support. The focus is on helping us to sort through the tangled mix of threads we have inherited, to connecting clearly with the strength and gifts that are also a part of our personal histories, so we can bring these through, deeply present, into our own lives.

You can listen to this month’s meditation here:

If you can’t see access the meditation above, you can access it here: https://soundcloud.com/rebalancingwoman/full-moon-meditation-ancestors-january-2017

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Why I don’t give unsolicited advice on FB (or anywhere)

Has it happened to you? Recently, a few times over, I’ve posted on social media – not a question, mind you, not asking for help – and the wisdom poured in, “This is the way to do it.”

Of course, if you’re a pregnant woman, or a mother with a new baby, even better, all you need to do is step outside your door…so as a mother of four I’m already an expert in the nod and smile technique.

But truth? I’m fed up. There are few things more irritating to me than unsolicited advice, on social media or IRL. You know why it really bugs me, and why I never, never, never give my opinion unless asked (and even then, I may hesitate)?  Because it presumes the person on the receiving end is less. Because it is an attempt at control over something that quite frankly has nothing to do the kind advisor.

Now I know people mean well, they really do. (If you’ve done this to me, I love you, and I don’t hold a grudge. But equally, please stop.) I know you’re wanting to be helpful, to share your experiences. This is a great thing. If you’re a friend of mine, you very likely have a wealth of experience and knowledge to share. I really welcome that sharing when you frame it as your own experience, not as unsolicited advice.

Because seriously, we need to knock this nonsense on its head. If you are in the helping professions, please understand, no one is going to listen to unsolicited advice (least of all me). Giving advice where it’s not been asked for will be, at best, an irritation. At worst can be devastating to someone in a tough place who is already doing the best they can.

Please, please, please if you are knowledgeable and want to share that knowledge, offer it up in the right way, as the gift it is, where it’s welcome – when someone has asked you for it.

In all cases, let’s start by acknowledging the people we meet as whole human beings, with stories and complex life experiences of their own, and with full responsibility for their own lives and well being. Whether or not we understand them, or whether or not we know what these are.

One of the most powerful teachings I’ve been given as a healer is that we’re not here to make people better. We’re here to see from the beginning the wholeness that is already there. (What this means for you if you come to work with me is, I’ll never look down on you. I’ll never pretend I know more than you about your life, your struggles, or your path. I will honour what you bring, and be your number one ally and supporter. And *if* you ask my opinion, I’ll offer it so that *you* can decide what’s right for you.)

When we begin from a place of wholeness and respect, giving space to the experiences of others and their capacity to handle them, we can create much more genuine interactions with powerful positive impact.

But telling me what to do when I’ve not asked you? It’s disrespectful, and a turn off. Please knock it off.

Inner self-talk and affirmations

Affirmations? I’ve not been a huge fan of affirmations in the past. They’ve often felt to me like smoothing a delicate and elaborate sugar-sweet icing over the top of a caved in, half-baked cake. Anyone who knows me, knows that healing to me is very much about meeting every part of ourselves, not sugar coating or sweeping the pain under the carpet.

That said, I have worked with mantras and affirmations. I’ve had some success with them, but I’ve gravitated more toward mantras in other languages than I have towards affirmations in my native tongue. They felt awkward. Artificial. Wrong. It’s only recently I’ve come to a new understanding of working with mantras or affirmations without denying that inner pain so many of us are working through as we bring healing to our lives.

Believe me, I know pain. We all have inner mantras in our self-talk. These tend to be default, and things that don’t always totally surface to conscious awareness. Suddenly we will surface and hear what we’re saying inside. Often it’s not pretty. It’s not been uncommon for my personal inner mantra in the past to be along the lines of, “I want to die.” (Just keeping it honest, folks!) This is of course another way of saying, “I want to be released from this pain and I don’t know how to move through it right now.”

Life is hard sometimes for all of us, and the gift of most healers comes from lived experience.  In the best sense, living and experiencing the patterns of the wound, making these whole within the self, so that can in turn be shared with others. I’m a-okay in my self and in my self-care, and I seek help when I need it. Yet having worked with many people over the past years, I’m sure I’m not alone in experiencing the darkness of it. A lot of us are carrying deep wounds from childhood and beyond, that are surfacing for healing, and these  wounds, when they begin to speak can hurt.

I believe we need to be courageous enough speak this kind of thing. The pain is real. The key is to see it, and acknowledge it, so we can pass through it and heal. This is what I mean by ‘rebalancing’. I’m not afraid of this pain, or the vulnerability of acknowledging I have experience of it. Pain and suffering are a part of the human experience. The need to stop denying or suppressing it, the need to recover real balance and reclaim the joy and vitality of living is why I won’t shy away from the truth of what so many of us, me included, have carried.

What I do know is that while the pain is very real, and these kinds of inner mantras carry a message for us, they are not helpful or healthy for us to be holding and repeating day after day. They are very much a signal that our bodies and our selves need something. It’s our job to figure out what, and apply that thing it liberally.

Here’s an important truth: The feeling is real. The pain is real. Very often, the story we’re telling ourselves about the pain is not real, and therein lies the key to healing (ie, becoming whole). We are not meant to hold that pain indefinitely. If it is coming up, it is coming up because it is an indication of where we need to look to bring healing.

The best way I’ve found to work with this level of pain is not to deny it. When it hurts, it hurts, and it’s no good someone telling you from the outside that it doesn’t. We can suppress it for a time, but it will pop back up again. And that’s Shadow.

So, how can affirmations help in this picture? I’ve been learning that there are a couple of ways that work for me, both of which acknowledge the energy of resistance and shadow. I’ll share one experience.

I’ve recently been re-reading The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, and pulling out the ‘ultimate success mantra’ from there to work with. I’ve copied it out in the past, said it occasionally, but only this time did I really take in what he says about it in the book – that the act of repeating it, and working with it, is also about allowing the release of the energy we are holding within ourself that is working against it (ie, the ‘upper limit’). That was an ‘Aha!’ moment for me. That in working with this mantra (which is really a kind of affirmation), my goal isn’t to impress it upon my mind or my body, but to watch what energy it releases in me, and what it opens me to receiving.

I’ve been working with this mantra daily this week, and it’s been so interesting to watch the process within myself. The way that I can ‘forget’ the words and get them jumbled at times, the way the energy moves through my body. Sometimes the words prick. Sometimes they feel like a delicious invitation. Sometimes the beginning is easy and the end is hard, or vice versa. I can feel and see energetically what’s leaving my body, and what’s being restored. It’s pretty incredible, and I intend to keep working with it. (If you’re wondering what the other method I’ve used with success on this point is, it’s EFT, but that’s a story for another time.)

Best bit? I was walking into town this morning and I realised that my default inner mantra has changed, effortlessly. The cake is getting remade from within (amazing how that can happen). And that’s a great feeling.

"I expand in abundance, success, and love every day, and I inspire those around me to do the same."I’d love to know, what’s your experience of working with affirmations? Please share with us in the comments below. Thank you!!

Want to join me on this healing and rebalancing of life, at no cost at all? Just add your name and email to the boxes below, and I’ll send you an invite to Bloom! the FREE 9-day rebalancing course for women, where I share some of my best tips and practices for bringing balance back to life. When you do, you’ll be joining hundreds of women from around the world in this shared intention for bringing better balance to ourselves, our lives, and to the world we live in – and that is a real, powerful force for positive change.

Also, once you’re in, I’ll send you an invite, too, to our closed Facebook group where you can share your experiences and insights along the way – we all need connection with likeminded folk and community, eh?! Thank you for being part of it.