Turning 40 – some reflections

 

Some treats of turning 40! Photo by Marija Smits

Some treats of turning 40. Photo by Marija Smits.

I’m not particularly worried about getting older, but there’s something about the number 40 that doesn’t particularly appeal to me. You see, in my quirky little overthinking brain, numbers have personalities. 5 is probably my favourite number because it’s a little bit curvy but it also has some straight bits. I consider it a friendly (but upstanding) number. It’s odd but, somehow, warm. The number 4 is all straight and cross and it looks rather irritable. And 0, well, that could be taken as a disappointed ‘oh’ (as in ‘forty, oh dear’). Or perhaps a rather surprised ‘oh’ or perhaps it’s sole function is to look like the shape of the mouth of the person screaming in Edvard Munch’s famous painting. I don’t know. I digress.

Yet, time marches onwards and it doesn’t care for my own particular preferences when it comes to what my age is now. So… I’m 40 now, and it’s time for a little reflection on the past decade and the forthcoming decade.

At thirty, I was pregnant with my first child, my darling girl. She was born in April, approximately a month before I turned 31. That 31st birthday was not particularly memorable to me because my life didn’t seem to be about me anymore. Instead, everything was about this tiny being who had entered our lives and time itself seemed to have shifted. I have photo albums which, instead of being labelled by months (or years), were instead labelled with my daughter’s name and by how old she was (in months). It took me quite a few years to shift back to ‘normal’ calendar months, which, I guess, shows just how much my life back then revolved around her.

So, in essence, the past decade, for me, has been very much about becoming a mother, first to my daughter, and then three-and-a-half years later to my son. It has been about breastfeeding, coping with little sleep, finding my own path as an HSP parent, finding a ‘tribe’ of like-minded mothers and lots and lots of nappy changing.

But it’s also been about finding a new surge of creativity within me and learning hundreds of new skills (some of which I used to set up and manage my small press, Mother’s Milk Books – but that’s a whole other story!). And throughout this hazy decade, I’ve been reading and writing, which has helped me hugely with reflecting on who I am, my place on this earth, and what I want to spend my days doing. The non-fiction books I wrote about here helped me enormously with my reflections, but I realize that not everything is done, soul-work wise, so I’m sure I’ll be adding more to this list soon. I’m aware, too, that I want to read more about politics, psychology, feminism and history; Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks and Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond have been on my reading list for a while. And I’ve also just got Love and Limerence, by Dorothy Tennov, which I hope will help to clarify some of my (as yet) incompletely developed ideas about love, lust and romance and what they mean to me as an individual.

Writing-wise, I *think* I’ve served my apprenticeship having written an okayish first novel (which will most likely stay hidden away in a drawer), lots and lots of poetry, a fair few short stories, a children’s chapter book, several children’s picture books and lastly… a good beginning on an epic fantasy trilogy.

So, what will the next decade be about? Well, my last decade taught me a lot about time. And how it’s very precious. And finite. So, perhaps, my oh-so-very-urgent desire for ‘better’ or ‘success’ was understandable. I was child-like in my impatience for wanting to be ‘better’ at art NOW! Or ‘better’ at writing NOW! But when it comes to mastering a skill, time and patience and dedication to the skill are the only things that will make a difference. So I am definitely going to be more accepting of that fact. And I have to face the fact, too, that if I don’t make time for my creativity it won’t happen. And I don’t want to live with the regret of not having tried my very best to master a creative skill and then shared the fruit of my labours with others (although my view on how to share the products of my creativity is still very much in flux).

So… as ever, boundaries will be important. It’s too easy to let social media, never-ending work and other societal pulls drag me away from what’s really key to my wellbeing: time spent with my loved ones (at home, and in nature) and time spent on creative endeavours.

I know I have a tendency to overthink things (the horrors of OCD rumination never seem too far away) but I am cautiously (I’ve got to be cautious, right? I’m an HSP!) looking forward to this decade. And what more can I give myself than the gift of being open to the challenges and gifts of the next decade? None.

Forty, after the party. Photo by Marija Smits

Forty, after the party. Photo by Marija Smits.

 

And a huge welcome back to Maddy from Writing Bubble after her week’s internet break. It’s good to have you back!

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Dear highly sensitive soul

Welcome to the June 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Talking to Yourself

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written letters to themselves. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

***

Dear Ten Year-younger-self,

You are about to begin a new phase of your life. You are excited and a little fearful, but mostly excited. You look back on your life, your childhood, your teens and twenties, and somehow know that they were leading to this moment.

All those years of desperately NOT wanting to get pregnant well they seem ridiculous to you now, because getting pregnant is ALL you can think about.

Don’t worry, it will happen, and it will be all that you wished for and more.

The deep ache of maternal love that you can already feel the one that tugs at the fibres of your heart will grow and expand as your first child grows in your womb. This love will, at times, be all-consuming. This love, so pure, so uncomplicated by ego or shame or guilt, will make all the romances of your past ridiculous they will seem as flimsy as the film of a newly-blown soap bubble.

Mother and child sketch, by Marija Smits

Me & my girl (Mother and child sketch) by Marija Smits

But there will be more that you won’t have anticipated. Fear will be an ever-present companion to this deep maternal love. For by witnessing, and being an active participant in the miracle of birth you will also understand death better. You will catch a glimpse of your mortality, and your child’s mortality, and it will shake you to your core.

I’m sorry. I don’t mean to scare you. This knowledge, so vast, will be useful. It will deepen your understanding of the world and yourself. It will help you to grow as a person. And your husband will always be there for you, to help you absorb this new, vast, knowledge. He will hold your child with great tenderness. He will support you. He will protect you.

But fatherhood will change him too, although the change won’t be as drastic. You will have to work harder at communicating with each other. You will have to trust your instincts and parent your children in the way that you both want to, rather than how anyone else wants you to. You will have to learn how to assert on behalf of your new family unit and your husband will be your most loyal ally.

Yet it won’t be a smooth journey. You will have to learn how vital clear communication is. You will have to be creative in how to meet the needs of your little ones and your needs as a couple. Be patient, listen to each other. Know that your husband is ‘always on your side’. You will find a way.           

There will be more too… more things you won’t have anticipated. You will find birth to be an empowering experience. You will be amazed by the strength of your birthing body. You will also find breastfeeding and co-sleeping and carrying your little ones in a sling to be deeply satisfying. You will find a tribe of like-minded mothers and share the joy of breastfeeding with them. You will become passionate about helping mothers to breastfeed and the necessity of normalizing breastfeeding in our society. You will become a breastfeeding counselor and meet some wonderful women who will play a large part in your life. You will discover life-changing books and then set up a small press with the aim to publish books that normalize breastfeeding and celebrate empathy and femininity. You will sometimes wonder at how your life so suddenly changed direction, and for the better.

My girl and me, photo courtesy Marija Smits

My girl and me, photo courtesy Marija Smits        

And lastly… along the way you will come to understand and accept your true nature. Remember all those many, many times, and those many, many years, when you thought that there was something wrong with you because you somehow always felt too much, much more than anyone else seemed to? You will come to understand that there isn’t anything wrong with you. Other people have those feelings too but you (like many others out there too) experience them with a greater amplitude.

Some days you will hate being what is now recognized as a Highly Sensitive Person, because you’ll hate not having a ‘dimmer’ switch in your brain; you’ll hate that when you get an illness or an ache in your body it will niggle at you constantly and then turn into a monstrous fear that there’s something seriously wrong with you. You’ll hate that guilt and shame for past misdemeanours will often threaten to cause you to want to rip yourself apart, out of life itself, and you’ll hate that sometimes you feel as though human interactions aren’t worth bothering with because they’re a minefield of subtle physical and verbal gestures (yours and the other person’s) that are just so complicated that they send your mind reeling. And as much as you love, love, love your children, you will hate that there will be days when their arguments, shouting and never-ending stream of questions and requests will jangle your nerves so much that your normally patient self will snap! and then you’ll feel so bad that you’ll want to crawl into a hole and never, ever come out. You will hate that shopping or the school run is a big, big deal because of the noise and the possibility that something untoward might happen. You will hate the feeling of powerlessness you’ll experience when you know that politicians and giant corporations are doing scary, scary things to our planet and inhumane things to the humans and animals in it. You will cry when you see another human in pain on the news, and you’ll have to turn it off, and you’ll hate yourself for being overwhelmed by the pain and overwhelmed by the feeling that there is very little that you can do about it.        

But then there are the days when you wouldn’t swap being an HSP for anything. Those are the days when you’ve listened with empathy to a loved one and felt that you’ve helped them a little; the days when the sight of a blue sky can cause you to weep with joy; the days when you write something you’re pleased with or you make a good job of editing something for someone else; the days when you create art (something you’d always wanted to do but was frightened of doing for fear of it being wrong); the days when someone out of the blue says that an act of charity or an act of kindness you performed a while ago helped them; the days when the love for your family flows out of you and you thank God and all the stars in heaven that you got to be blessed with this beautiful family who love you so much.

Mother and son, by Marija Smits

Mother and son, by Marija Smits

I know that you’re probably weeping as you read this; I know because I’m weeping as I write. But you know, that’s okay. This is who you are. This is what you always will be, and it is better to know yourself than to not know yourself. This is the bittersweet gift you have been presented with: self-reflection.         

Try not to spend too much time worrying the future. Get yourself a couple of books Quiet & The Highly Sensitive Person (they will help you to learn all about yourself and people like you) and People Skills (so that you can learn how to communicate better and assert for yourself since passivity is another unfortunate trait of the HSP). Get hold of a couple of good books about mothering and breastfeeding (The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding 7th edition and What Mothers Do for a start) and then you’ll pretty much be sorted. Oh, and keep on reading all that fiction – especially fairy tales – that sustained you through your childhood and early adulthood. It will be a constant source of comfort and a magical escape from the everyday stresses and strains of being a sensitive soul in a life full of noise, cares and people who say you need to get a thicker skin. (You don’t, you’re fine as you are, [but knowing that a useful critique of your work is not a criticism of you as a person will help!]

Sending you much, much love.

M x

 

***

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Dear Me. — Meegs at A New Day writes to her decade-younger self offering a good reminder of how far she’s come, and she addresses some fears she wishes future her could assuage.
  • Reflecting on Motherhood with Parental Intelligence: A Letter to Myself — Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. at Parental Intelligence writes about raising her two loving, empathic sons with Parental Intelligence and finding they have become industrious, accomplished young men with warm social relationships.
  • A Letter to MyselfThe Barefoot Mama writes to herself in the moments around the birth of her daughter.
  • A Letter to Myself — Holly at Leaves of Lavender offers a missive to herself in the past… three years in the past, to be precise, when her little one was only four months old.
  • Dear me: Nothing will go the way you’ve planned — Lauren at Hobo Mama gets real with her just-starting-parenting self and tells it to her straight.
  • A Letter to the Mama Whom I Will Become — Erin from And Now, for Something Completely Different writes a letter to the Mama whom she will one day be, filled with musings on the past, present, and future.
  • Dear Me of 7 Years Ago — Lactating Girl at The Adventures of Lactating Girl writes to her pre-baby self telling her about the whirlwind she’s about to enter called parenting.
  • Talking to My 18 Year Old SelfHannahandHorn talks to herself as she is just entering college.
  • Dear highly sensitive soulMarija Smits tells a younger version of herself that motherhood will bring unexpected benefits – one of them being the realization that she is a highly sensitive person.
  • Talking to myself: Dear Pre StoneageparentStoneageparent enlightens her pre-pregnant self about the amazing transformations life has in store for her after having two children
  • Dear Me: I love you. — Dionna at Code Name: Mama wrote herself a few little reminders to help her be at peace with who she is in the moment. That may give her the greatest chance of being at peace in the future, too.
  • My best advice to the new mama I was 8 years ago — Tat at Mum in Search shares the one thing she wishes she’d figured out earlier in a letter to her 8-years-ago self (that’s when her first baby was 6 moths old).
  • A Letter to Myself — Bibi at The Conscious Doer sends a letter back in time eight years to her darkest moment post partum.
  • To me, with love — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama makes peace with her past and projects what a future her will need to hear.
  • To Myself on the Last Day — Rachael at The Variegated Life tells her panicked last-day-before-motherhood self not to worry.

Pencil, paper… bright ideas!

Welcome to the November 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Indoor Play

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared ideas and inspiration to keep families happy and healthy while cooped up indoors.

***

Like many other mothers I love to create. I enjoy baking, painting, drawing, sewing, knitting, writing and gardening. The list is endless! However, since I gave birth to my first child seven years ago I’ve realized that many of those creative pursuits seem to be (or are) incompatible with the actual business of mothering.

Yet over the years I’ve also learnt how important it is for my own wellbeing to have a creative hobby. So, like many other mothers I’ve learnt how to find pockets of time for my own creativity. Some mothers find that they need quiet, solitary time to create. Naptimes and evening times work best for them. I certainly appreciate quiet for drawing and writing, but I can no longer always rely on sleep times now for my own creative pursuits. Which is why I like to get creative alongside my children during the day. By doing this, I can guarantee that I get a little time for creativity each day.

As painting and drawing is something that we all enjoy this is something that we all tend to do if we have one of those days when it’s so cold or windy outside that no one feels like braving the weather.

Two things I’ve learnt from my ‘art sessions’ (as I like to call them) is this:

1) ‘Messy’ art that has the potential to stain clothes, carpets and surfaces are probably best avoided if I don’t feel I have the patience (or energy) on that particular day to be philosophical about the mess. (And by the way, I’ve tried various covers, table cloths, floor covers etc. but my son is too much of a genius of the random splash to fall for any of my cunning protective paint traps!)

Likewise, an art activity that uses very expensive materials is most likely to cause me to worry about how much of that material each child is using, and so again, perhaps making the experience less fun for everyone!

2) Having too high expectations of how much I can get done alongside my children is almost always a recipe for an unhappy mother. I’ve found that starting the art session with a ‘let’s see what happens’ attitude is much better than an ‘I’m going to get at least this done, and then this, and this…’ attitude.

So what do we like to do? LOTS!

At the moment, we’re very much into simple pencil (or pen) and paper fun.

  • One of the easiest things to do is the (what we call) ‘one line’ game. Each person has an A4 (or A3) piece of paper which they draw just the one line on. The line can be curvy, or squiggly, or spiky, though it’s best if it goes right across the paper, from one end to the other. When each person has drawn their line they pass it to their partner who draws something incorporating that very first line. It can be a landscape, or a portrait, or a funny doodle, or a something else — just use your imagination! Once you’re both finished, show each other your works of art. You’ll be amazed at what’s been created from just one line!
RB 'One line art' mountain range

RB ‘One line art’ mountain range

 

MS 'One line art' face

MS ‘One line art’ face

 

  • Another family favourite is the ‘crazy dudes’ game. Again, each person has a piece of paper (portrait orientation works best for this) and you each draw a head in the top quarter of the piece of paper. You then fold the piece of paper over the head (so that your partner can’t see the head, but only the base of the neck) and then swap pieces of paper. Each person then adds a torso below the neck in what is, roughly, the second quarter of the piece of paper. Once you’ve drawn the torso, fold the piece of paper over the torso (so that no one can see what has been drawn before) and then swap again and then draw the legs from the base of the torso. Fold the piece of paper over the legs once you’re done with the leg drawing, swap pieces of paper and then finally, draw the feet. Once you’ve both done the feet, swap and open up each folded piece of paper so that you can admire the ‘crazy dude’ you’ve drawn!

[WARNING: this game can get addictive.]

 

Three 'crazy' dudes (drawn by all the family)

Three ‘crazy’ dudes (drawn by all the family)

 

  • Which brings me on to more collaborative fun. As I particularly like to draw faces I can quickly sketch a something which I then pass on to one of my children. They add the body and the surroundings and voila! a new being has been created.
'Swimming teacher in the garden' collaborative art by MS and 6 year old daughter RB

‘Swimming teacher in the garden’ collaborative art by MS and 6 year old daughter RB

 

MS + JB collaborative art

Collaborative art by MS and 4 year old son JB

For more inspiration on this theme, do check out this incredible post:

http://busymockingbird.com/2013/08/27/collaborating-with-a-4-year-old/

 

  • Origami fortune tellers are also a lot of fun.
Origami fortune teller

Origami fortune teller

Here’s a good link for how to make one:

http://handmadebyjt.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/tutorial-origami-fortune-teller.html

But again, a warning — they can get rather addictive!

  • Then there’s the time-honoured ‘guess what I’m drawing’ game. Both kids like to snuggle up on either side of me and try to guess what I’m drawing. The first person to guess correctly what I’m drawing gets a point. And the first person to get to 5 points gets to be the next one who does the drawing. As we’re all quite attune to what we each like to draw from our imaginations (or surroundings) both guessers often guess the correct answer at the same time!
The drawing guessing game

The drawing guessing game. The object on the bottom right is a very old and deformed candle!

Willy Wonka's chocolate factory board game, by TCB

Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory board game, by TCB

 

So that’s just a small sample of the fun we have with pencil and paper (or magnetic sketching pad). However, once you bring in just one or two other items e.g. scissors and glue then you can start on all kinds of other fun arty paper crafts such as paper cutting or making collages from random bits of paper. (Cutting heads and bodies out of magazines and then adding your own drawings to them is really good fun too!).

  • I really like the idea of using up all the old paint swatches I have hanging around. I think this would make for a really fun project:

http://www.erindarcydesign.com/blog/rainbow-day-creations

(By the way — as you’d expect — my seven year old is more into paper crafts than my four year old who’s most happy with paper and pen, or paint. Actually, he loves glue, but the main game then becomes ‘what can I smear this on’!).

Of course we have days when we don’t just want to draw. Then we have lots of fun with paints or printing or marbling — all sorts! I’ve also gleaned a lot of ideas from the wonderful Amy over at Amy Hood Arts. Her e-zine ‘Art Together’ is inspirational!

The main thing is to have fun. I’ve been so inspired by just watching my children, and doodling alongside them. Their creations and their limitless imaginations feed mine; I always take away a whole bundle of ideas for future drawings/paintings after we’ve been having arty fun together. I’m sure that this stems from the fact that we have no great expectations, no fixed ideas on ‘how things should look’. The main emphasis is on play. And that’s how it should be.

Do let me know if you have any of your own favourite paper and pencil games — I’m always on the lookout for more!

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct arising from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the object it loves.” — Carl Jung

***

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon November 11 with all the carnival links.)

Preserve

A week ago yesterday school broke up. On that last day of term I took my eldest (youngest in tow, as usual) to school, and the mood in the playground was celebratory. Children, and parents alike, were glad that the holidays were almost here. Yet there were tears too.

On the way to school I had noticed a mother sitting in her car, having already dropped off her child, crying secret tears. I guessed that she had a child in the last year of primary school and that this could well be her last school run.

Sigh… the last school run.

The move from primary to secondary school is a big one. There are many such moves, or transitions, in life and for those of us blessed with a sensitive soul they can be particularly fraught.

For mothers these periods of transitions — milestones if you will — are another reminder of things past… a phase in our child’s life that will never be repeated. And as much as we rejoice in their achievements and look forward to the good times in the future it is bitter, this cup.

There are many times that I’ve thought that I’d like to preserve my children, just as they are, right now. I would like this moment in time frozen, preserved forever, like the swirl of glass in a marble. For a happy childhood is a jewel indeed.

Yet it is not to be. And it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. This is what it is to be human.

But still… I long for control; to be more-than-human, to have the ability to speed up, or slow, or freeze time.

Yet it is not to be.

I can no more preserve this moment in time than a glass-blower can produce a marble without heat.

 

Marble, by Marija Smits

Marble, by Marija Smits

 

***

With many thanks to Amanda at Writealm for continuing to provide this writer with inspiration 🙂

And p.s. if you want to draw a marble like mine above, go check out: http://www.art-is-fun.com/how-to-draw-a-marble.html It is an absolute treasure-trove of useful art-related stuff!

 

‘The Other Mums’ and The Great Illusion

Welcome to the January 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: The More Things Stay the Same

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have talked about the continuity and constancy in their lives. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

***

'The Other Mums' sonnet and image by Marija Smits

‘The Other Mums’ sonnet and image by Marija Smits

The Great Illusion

Illusion is ever present; us mothers are both magicians and members of the audience, all of us taking part in the great big magic show of human life. It is our very human fascination with illusion that appears to be a constant through the years.

As a child I was unaware of the illusion – I simply knew that I desired to be like my peers. I wanted to fit in, to blend in with the crowd. I was fascinated by the illusion of “normal”. Normal was not having foreign parents. Normal was having sausage, beans and chips for dinner. Normal was having an English name.

Studies and work came and went. The illusion shifted slightly – my colleagues were more successful than me, or so I thought; they were happier than me, they were more fulfilled than me. The illusion of success was a good trick indeed.

Romance came and went. When I experienced challenges in my relationship everywhere I looked I saw happy couples. No one else had problems to contend with. Ah, this illusion was rose-tinted indeed!

And then I became a mother. The first year of being a mother was particularly challenging and this time the illusion was manifold. I looked to others to see if my mothering was normal; if I was getting it right; if I was successfully raising my child.

***

When we consider our daily lives we often look to others to see if we are successful. Comparison with those we consider more successful than us can be useful – it can help us to reflect on our own choices and implement change. Perhaps we see a mother who appears to be endlessly patient with her children. Does it make us consider the times we’ve been short-tempered with our children? Would we like to be more patient, like that mother?

Sometimes we focus on the material illusions, on the appearance of other mothers. Do we want to look like the mother who is beautifully made-up and wearing stylish clothes? Is clothing and make-up important to us?

And what about activities? Do we feel as though we’re not doing enough with our children? Do we envy the family who goes out most weekends and takes holidays throughout the year?

These questions are useful if there are answers and if positive change comes about from those questions. But if no useful change is brought about, we assume ourselves to be failures, heaping more and more blame on our shoulders.

Equally, comparison with those we consider less fortunate than ourselves can be useful too. Perhaps we consider a woman who is experiencing fertility issues. Our heart goes out to her and we count our blessings. We hug our children a little tighter. We consider those who are experiencing financial difficulties and are thankful for the food on our table, the roof over our heads, the warmth in our home.

Yet if we use these comparisons to hold us back from achieving our dreams then they are not useful either. A mother may long to run her own business, say, but it may bring financial uncertainty to her family, so perhaps she says to herself that she should simply count her blessings and forget about her dream for a bit. The only problem being that “a bit” can sometimes be a long time!

And then there is the ever-present matter of illusion. It takes thoughtful reflection and a relaxing of our knee-jerk judgements to really see the shimmer of illusion. We see a mother who is apparently well organized, always on time, and if these things are important to us, we immediately assume her to be a success in all areas of her life. Perhaps we’re tired and crabby. We’ve had a hard night with our toddler who’s been teething and we mentally fight back. What a control freak! we say to ourselves, lashing out in an attempt to defend our own woeful timekeeping. Maybe we see her later, at the school gates, and she asks: “How are you?” We put on a fake smile and say, “I’m fine,” immediately shutting down the conversation. ‘A gag o’er honesty’ is now in place.

Yet is this mother really a success in all areas of her life? No doubt an honest conversation would highlight some difficulties in the mother’s life. For nearly everyone has their secret sorrows: their past regrets, present difficulties and future challenges, as well as joy and success.

I would like to think that perhaps this gag o’er honesty is loosening; certainly when I’ve met with other like-minded mothers in a comfortable setting, the mother-host a good facilitator, the discussions are honest, the mothers empathetic. Yet back in the great big “real world” I can almost feel illusion wrapping it’s silvery arms around me. It is both helpful and harmful: it protects me and potentially isolates me from others. I am the magician who weaves illusion through my own appearance and in the way I interact with my children in public. I am also the entranced audience member when I view “The Other Mums” out and about, and online, their photos capturing glimpses into beautiful, calm and creative lives. I sit at home, amongst the toys and clutter, getting nothing done, my children bickering, and I can’t help but wonder: Why me? Why is everyone else leading a more successful life than me?

I really should keep a joke book to hand, because for me, humour is one of the most powerful dispellers of illusion. First, I must laugh at myself for being so ridiculously melodramatic and egotistical in my slanted view of the world and then I must employ my skills as a storyteller. For the magician always has a story, just as each audience member has a story too. One day we will all tell our stories and perhaps one day the magic show will end – all illusion gone forever.  Yet us humans are dreadfully fascinated by the show – it is one of the reasons for the cult of celebrity. So will it ever end? For now, I believe, it will remain…

***

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Always an Artist — Some kids take longer than others to come into themselves, so you have to stick with them, as a parent, long after everyone else has given up, writes Douglas at Friendly Encounters.
  • Not Losing Yourself as a First Time Mom — Katie at All Natural Katie continues to stay true to herself after becoming a new mom.
  • Using Continuity to Help Change {Carnival of Natural Parenting} — Meegs from A New Day talks about how she is using continuity in certain areas of her life to help promote change and growth in others.
  • Staying the Same : Security — Life changes all the time with growing children but Mother Goutte realised that there are other ways to ‘stay the same’ and feel secure, maybe a bit too much so!
  • Harmony is What I’m AfterTribal Mama gushes about how constant change is really staying the same and staying the same brings powerful change.
  • A Primal Need For Order and Predictability – And How I Let That Go — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how she overcame her primal need for order and predictability once her awareness shifted, opening her eyes to the impact this had on her young daughter. Take a short journey with Jennifer and she bares her soul, exposes her weaknesses and celebrates her new outlook and approach to living life, even in the face of total chaos.
  • Breastfeeding Before and After — Breastfeeding has come and gone, but Issa Waters at LoveLiveGrow finds that her relationship with her son is still just the same and just as good.
  • A Real Job — Back in high school That Mama Gretchen had a simple, but worthwhile career aspiration and today she is living her dream … is it what you think?
  • Comfortingsustainablemum never thought she would want things always being the same, but she explains why it is exactly what her family wants and needs.
  • ‘The Other Mums’ and The Great IllusionMarija Smits reflects on the ‘great big magic show of life’ and wonders if it will continue to remain a constant in our lives.
  • Unschooling: Learning doesn’t change when a child turns four — Charlotte at Winegums & Watermelons talks about the pressure of home education when everyone else’s children are starting school.
  • Finding Priorities in Changing Environments — Moving from Maine to a rural Alaskan island for her husband’s military service, Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work found that keeping consistent with her priorities in changing environments can take some work, but is vital to continuous health and happiness.
  • Keeping it “Normal” — Kellie at Our Mindful Life has moved several times in the last two years, while doing her best to keep things stable for her kids.
  • The Evolution Of Our Homeschool Journey — Angela at Earth Mama’s World reflects on her homeschooling journey. Homeschooling is a constant in the life of her family but the way in which they learn has been an evolution.
  • Sneaking in Snuggles: Using Nurturing Touch with Older Children — When Dionna at Code Name: Mama’s son was a toddler and preschooler, he was the most loving, affectionate kiddo ever. But during the course of his 5th year, he drastically reduced how often he showed affection. Dionna shares how she is mindfully nurturing moments of affection with her son.
  • Steady State — Zoie at TouchstoneZ writes a letter to her partner about his constancy through the rough sailing of parenting.
  • A Love You Can Depend On — Over at True Confessions of a Real Mommy, Jennifer has a sweet little poem reminding us where unconditional love really lies, so it can remain a constant for us and our children.
  • Same S#!*, Different Day — Struggling against the medical current can certainly get exhausting, especially as the hunt for answers drags on like it has for Jorje of Momma Jorje.
  • New Year, Still Me — Mommy Bee at Little Green Giraffe writes about how a year of change helped her rediscover something inside herself that had been the same all along.
  • One Little Word for 2014 — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs has decided to focus on making things this year, which is what she is loves, as long as she doesn’t kill herself in the process.
  • The Beauty of Using Montessori Principles of Freedom and Consistency — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares the continuity of her teaching, parenting, and grandparenting philosophy using a combination of freedom and consistency.
  • My Husband’s MiniCrunchy Con Mom shares which of her sons looks more like her husband’s baby pictures — and the answer might surprise you!
  • Growth Happens When You Aren’t Looking — Lori at TEACH through Love is treasuring these fleeting moments of her daughter’s early adolescence by embracing the NOW.
  • A New Reality Now – Poem — As Luschka from Diary of a First Child struggles to come to terms with the loss of her mother, she shares a simple poem, at a loss for more words to say.
  • Making a family bedroom — Lauren at Hobo Mama has decided to be intentional about her family’s default cosleeping arrangements and find a way to keep everyone comfortable.
  • New Year, Same Constants — Ana at Panda & Ananaso takes a look at some of the things that will stay the same this year as a myriad of other changes come.
  • I Support You: Breastfeeding and Society — Despite how many strides we’ve taken to promote “breast is best,” Amy at Natural Parents Network talks about how far we still have to go to normalize breastfeeding in our society.

Zen in the art of writing (and mothering)

I recently finished reading the book Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury and was sorry that it had come to an end. What I really appreciated about the book was Ray’s enthusiasm for the process of writing, and him illustrating (with such poetic phrases) how so much of our childhood experiences – and all manner of life experiences – can inform and give inspiration to our writing.

Sometimes I daydream about having chosen writing as a career path way back when I was a teenager, but as I try to remind myself, if it hadn’t been for all those other things that I did along the way, like my science degrees, school teaching, getting married and becoming a mother… well, my writing probably wouldn’t have been as experienced-soaked as it is now.

I felt a real affinity with Ray because he was so enthusiastic about putting ‘gusto’ and ‘zest’ into writing. The only drawback to the book was that he invariably labelled writers as ‘he’ and rarely mentioned women writers. This is such a shame… but I guess he was of his era, and I’m not keen to analyse this too deeply.

Anyway, I thought that a lot of his useful words could be applied to mothering. I particularly like this paragraph about the people around a writer who are meant to support the writer:

Who are your friends? Do they believe in you? Or do they stunt your growth with ridicule and disbelief? If the latter, you haven’t friends. Go find some.

RAY BRADBURY

***

Zen in the art of writing book cover

Zen in the art of writing book cover

So much of a new mother’s life is about finding the right path for her and her baby. Mothers will look to other mothers for reassurance and support in this momentous task that is ‘mothering’. So let me rephrase that paragraph:

Who are your friends? Do they believe in you and your baby’s need for each other and your close – almost telepathic – bond? Or do they stunt your growth as a mother with ridicule and disbelief? If the latter, you haven’t friends. Go find some.

When I found myself going through challenges in the first few years of becoming a mother (mostly due to lack of sleep coupled with mothering a sensitive child who was happiest at my breast or in my arms) there were very few people supporting me in my mothering choices. So what did I do? I went along to my local LLL group and found some friends. (I wrote about this in My Sister, My Guide.)

Being a mother, and carrying out the task of mothering is joyful, yet it is also full of challenges. Having friends who support you and believe in you can make all the difference. If you haven’t any friends who fit that definition, as Ray says: you haven’t friends. Go find some.