I wanted to drop Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering to Maryanne a friend who requested it as she prepares for birth number 3. She lives in Welcome Bay near that beautiful Waldorf School which always makes me smile when I visit it, its Pukeko Nest shop with the wonderful German colouring pencils and its annual Advent Fair.
Number 2, 3 and I knew if out that way we were practically at Great-ma’s place – so Te Puke here we came.
It was good for the heart to visit Tricia – who celebrated her 90th a few years ago. She greeted us in a sapphire blue dress with white fading cropped curls ready for her next set – she looked beautiful. We came armed with good goods from Love Rosie Bakery – the best Auckland cafe out of Auckland. The morning was blissful. I told her about little YOGA festival. And she confessed to trying it once or twice when Madeline carted her off to night school, about the same time she learnt to weave the cane chair in her bedroom, she said.
About 20 houses up the road from Patricia lives Jan and Mark. I met these two joyful souls at the last Joseph Campbell Roundtable i was offering about 4 years ago. I then lost them. It wasn’t until i read Dr. Mike Godfrey’s book that mentioned the healing woman in Te Puke that we connected again.
I circled round their driveway, knocked on the door to the homestead whilst the motor was still running and kids buckled in, cos it was after number 3’s sleeptime.
Jan and Mark hadn’t met my tamariki before. Mark stood at the wound down window without talking. He was there. I buzzed about Jan sharing and listening. We like two animated tui beside the big black pathfinder. We talked about the next festival. She talked of the healing power of hula in the water.
Later, I facebooked her ‘the link’ to little YOGA festival. I confess i felt proud of this collection of brilliant teachers i was orchestrating to be in one space for one weekend of wellness.
I find Jan like an angel. Someone who sees something i don’t. I’m always attracted to people who have an ease about them, who can look at me, who giggle, or laugh, or look into me and who stand in themselves. My husband is this (when I remember to see). Erin from Satsang is this. Kate Hamblyn, Tom McCrory. Lama Samten, Giovanni Fusetti. There are others whose names are not arriving.
Jan and I had a web conversation where she invited me to:
Enjoy my children.
I felt exposed it that invitation.
I felt misunderstood.
I felt understood.
I felt an assumption was made because i’d created this festival i must have not been present to my kids. This was true and this was false. I have probably only worked 10 hours over the past three weeks in front of the kids. The rest has been from 7pm-midnight or later. And I have ‘farmed them off’ to playdates with Grammy and Poppa and friends for parts of a weekend, but this and our wedding, and some occasional date nights would be ‘it’.
I am a stay-at-home Mum.
I’ve been wondering recently whether the real benefit of being a stay-at-home Mum is the fact of staying at home. Perhaps it’s not so much not being with Mum or Dad at a young age, that’s not beneficial when critiquing day-cares. Maybe it’s not being at home that’s detrimental to one’s development. How many stay-at-home-Mums stay at home? Some parents have designed it so their young children ‘have something on’ every day e.g swimming, mainly music, playgroup, gym tots… When we are at home we can go slow. There is security, consistency of ‘matter’. There is the ability to venture further into the garden, but know where to come home to. The familiar smells that satisfy and orientate our animal self. Bed is there with the smell of our snot and other bacteria. This predictability helps us feel safe. Food (we know) is a moment away. Familiar bird and insect calls. We know when it’s sleep time by where the light rises and falls in our rooms. The sound of the neighbour’s truck is part of the tapestry. Or do we re-learn this for a day-care? We are highly adaptable beings? Are children raised in high-density areas ‘at home’ in a similar state of stress that evidently babies in daycare are?
FYI I’m not killing the cockroach that’s cruising over the table past the daphne. I’m not even going to repatriate it to the bush out the window. This is too interesting.
Supposedly a stay-at-home Mum is ‘available’ to their children. When our first born was young, she was 13 months, around the time i stopped breastfeeding her – I started blogging. I confessed to Tom McCrory I felt guilty writing, and enjoying it, and that I felt I should be with my child. He said stop the guilt and blog your arse off. When our children see us enjoying an activity they learn, to enjoy, is important. We are the model. They do what we do. If we are living satisfied happy inspiring lives, then perhaps they will be downloading the recipe to do so too. I do/did wonder whether there is an ideal age for this to start happening though. And thought about the balance. Ah the balance – some me time, some them time, some husband time.
I realised he was right, when I stopped to think that I didn’t feel guilty when I did the dishes instead of playing with the kids. And that anytime I did something ‘for myself’ I did feel this shame, this sense of the imperfect mother. There was some sort of self-sacrifice, this dying, in order to give life.
I know i give to our kids. I am physically in the same space as them, almost as much as myself.
But Jan’s invite woke me up.
It made me think of something Claire (Happy Birthday Claire) shared with me, from a session with her life coach on some Journey work she’s embarking on. Be present to whatever ‘environment’ you’re in. If you’re at work, be there (not responding to texts from friends, feeling guilty about the kids at kindy). If you’re with the kids, be there (not feeling irresponsible for the reports which didn’t make deadline). If you’re having ‘time out’, be with yourself, not wondering if the partner has brought in the washing or wondering if you should arrange a playdate to make it easier for them).
I pondered – how much am i here?
This weakness has threaded through my life. It’s not simply something I’ve inherited as a parent. When did i start to learn this? Is it tied in with ambition? Or is a reluctance to be present more about ego and control and craving? Or are these things what builds ambition?
My children (all of them) are most definitely ‘here’. 5 year old, 3 years old 18 month old.
I was telling Hermione about a little YOGA festival – it’s a personal challenge to (with my voice) invite 100 people to come relax, yoga and smile with me. We were talking about the vortex that is the smartphone. I was sharing with her the magical after effects of laughing yoga and how peaceful the 10 children (who’d never met each other before) were. I questioned whether they were so relaxed therefore happy because we were present to people and to joy. I talked about how my kids want to start to talk with me or climb on me when i talk on the phone, use the computer or am mid-text. She said, but we all hate it when someone’s ‘on their phone’. And it’s true. I react the same way as my kids do, when i enter a room (especially once the kids are asleep) and husband’s eyeballs are staring in the direction of his screen lapward. IMAGINE if as i walked into the room his eyes met mine? Imagine? We circumspected. Have people always felt this way about ‘text’? I think i felt this most Saturday afternoons when I could only see the top of Dad’s David Hasselhoff mop, his tanned knuckles and his hairy legs, crossed at the ankle. He had a black and white newspaper torso. He was unavailable and i hated it.
If instead of using the phone, I was most often playing the piano, chopping wood, sleeping, painting a canvas, scrubbing the house, composing symphonies would my children still be trying to seek connection?
When I’m with the kids – am i present?
You see when Jan offered for me ‘to enjoy my kids’ I thought – how is this possible?
I was defensive. Later, constructive.
Defensive – i lept to:
It’s difficult to enjoy kids when:
there’s so many chores to do to keep everyone well, able to create and ‘in operation’ and believe me I don’t have an exceptionally tidy, and certainly not very clean house.
when they make emotive heart-rendering sounds at each other, like they’re being killed or killing someone regularly.
when there are so many rules to follow – school bells, uniforms, book bags, playcentre duties, library books due, doctors slim windows, drink bottles, clean faces, non-bird-nested hair.
there are 3 of them and they all need me (to themselves) at the same time
when they say ‘no’ repeatedly and loudly, when i’m at my wits-end
when they say ‘i can do whatever i want’ and i realise it’s possibly true
when i’m the only adult responsible for them when they or life is as above
when i need some time to myself but the only other person who’s offering is their dad who could also do with some ‘undemanded of’ time.
when i’m stuck in this righteous yet seemingly unanimous (current?) ideal of ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and i wonder whether we’ve or who’s all scared the villagers off?
Constructive i calmed to:
bloody brilliant suggestion
my – how much happier am i now. Now, that i’m looking into the eyes of babes.
right – how to?
I find it difficult to enjoy my children when:
I am trying to achieve ‘anything’ be it for them or for me and i haven’t set them up with an ‘activity’ or involved them in the task.
I am dis-organised or haven’t got up early enough to do things slowly and therefore calmly.
I am still waking up or I’m unwell i.e. my body hurts, or my mind isn’t ready to go fast to keep up with diverting the demands and dramas.
I think my children find it easier to enjoy me when:
I communicate with them by making eye contact what I’m wanting to achieve and why?
e.g. I can’t help you now with looking for the glue, because I’m making your lunch so you can eat food today, because Gina is coming and you need to leave when she arrives so your friends and teachers are not waiting for you.
I stop and connect with them e.g. play their game, draw with them, chase them, safe-play-rough-house with them
I find it easy to enjoy my children when:
I have one on one time with each of them.
We are outside or in nature.
We are with other families (sometimes the dynamic isn’t harmonious it must be said).
I am one of two adults engaged with the kids.
We are doing something all together e.g. dancing, drawing, kicking the ball, cooking, playing music, looking at photo albums
We are sharing dinner together.
I watch their faces and bodies.
We try and make each other laugh.
I do make time to spend time with myself.
When I get the satisfaction of completing a task.
When I slow down and let go of ‘achieving’ anything whether it’s an email or the washing
When I observe and keep my mouth shut for 2 seconds more before speaking
And find it easy to enjoy them and indeed enjoy life whether it’s going the way i want it to , or not, when I remember this may be the last moment, hour, day with them. For i don’t know when i, or their body, or this planet as we know it, will cease to exist.
I return to the daily rhythm…The reality of this (and i’d love to hear how people truly realise this differently) is as an exceptional teaching colleague once said. Vegemite sandwich. It’s important to have many vegemite sandwiches. We need teachers to stay in the business. A gourmet sandwich with the works, the feta, the wild mountain rocket, the roasted pumpkin and hand-made aioli is un-sustainable, on a daily basis. Maybe once a week. The rest vegemite. I dare you to be ‘shit’ she said.
This was a good elixir.
When things are falling apart come back to the basics. Dear Helen the nurse and mother of 4 beautiful girls says, “Food, Shelter, Clothing. Are you doing this? This is enough right now. Keep focused on food, shelter, clothing until you manage more”. This same saint continues to inspire me. Every weekend she, her husband and the 4 girls have quality family time together. Every weekend, and more in the school holidays, they do an activity all together. They may go for a walk. They may all sit down and draw pictures. They may all act out a play another has written. The Mum, the Dad, the 4 sisters. What a gift this family are giving each other – honouring each other and showing each other they want to be with one another and this is more important than any task, creative, business, phone, house related. An inspiration.
These words of saints. Of people encouraging us to ‘be’. Enough.
Will I even post this? Sometimes I think to myself. I can’t post this. This is too much of me, especially for someone I don’t know. But other times I think. I have told of many people helping me. Maybe I can help another?
And before I go the funny old thing is i thought. I could use this question for my other relationships.
I enjoy my husband when?
I enjoy our dog when?
I enjoy the housework when?
I enjoy my parents when?
I enjoy tax returns when?
So, thanks Jan. I am enjoying the kids. I am looking at them. I am going slow. I am communicating.
I’m also aware of the tales parents share who work part-time or full-time. They say they’ve surrendered to quality time versus quantity time. As Claire suggests, when we are with the kids – we are with them. Undiluted. I’m gonna watch myself on this. Guilt-free creative/business time and phone-free present time with my kids, husband, people.
Our 5 year old said this week: A Mummy’s job is to hang around and be happy. Interesting on many levels.
I know what I know and I don’t know what I don’t know.
Revelation post-post, inspired by this quote from Tauranga Yoga Centre:
We can never really be at peace until we learn to enjoy our own company. After all we are the person to whom we are the closest. We are with ourselves every second of every minute. If we can’t enjoy, value & accept that person, how can we possibly experience inner peace.
I enjoy me when?
I enjoy life when?
I enjoy being when?
I was wondering why i felt compelled to map my thoughts last night around parenting, enjoying the kids and making yoga festivals. Sleep realised it. I am happy when i’m relaxed. I’m relaxed when i’m out of the house away from all the jobs to do and i have a break in the feeding, washing, cleaning, feeding, washing, cleaning cycle. I’m happy when i move my body mind and soul. I’m happy in yoga, meditation, massage, dance, laughter, singing, nature, and with people who are happy doing the same. That’s why i’ve homemade a little YOGA festival. To give people a place and space to be happy. Enjoy.