Entries in parenting (5)


My annual journey into the dark.

Last Saturday, my youngest child turned 8 years old. One of the most remarkable things about this event each year is that it provides me with a moment of recall and reflection: of a different, tougher time in my life - a time when I barely held on...

... a time when I was in so much pain that taking my life, or leaving my family was the only solution I could see to saving them all. 

Each year on my daughter's birthday I am reminded of her first year of life. I had barely finished breast-feeding her older brother before she was showing in my body.  There was little time (for me at least) to get a handle on the new world I was living in, the choice I had made and the consequences/results of that choice. There was little time for my relationship to catch up and right itself enough to handle a second child. Little time to re-find Sarah to the extent that I could find her again easily enough after a second child arrived.

Each year I recall the people around me who "saw" me. I remember the ones whe reached out to me in small ways to encourage me to hang in there (what for exactly I had no idea at the time), the people who told me it would get easier. 

It was a terrifying place to be. A place of such disconnection from my Self, my partner, my children and my place in the world around me. A lot of it felt familiar: I recognised the signs from feelings I had after the birth of my son.

I stood in my kitchen crying at 3am night after night, imagining my departure from the family and my death, or both. I came up with ways to distance myself further from my children and partner - to ensure that they would not have to put up with me any longer: not suffer my messiness, my anger, my pain, my abhorrence of those parts of my Self I found faulted, lacking, imperfect.

I wanted to run and hide from my incompetence, my inability to feel, my numbness, my psychotic moments. I wanted to save them all from me. I was certain my death would be a better all-round solution. I would do the one thing I could do to help them all - I would take myself out of the equation for good

I believed it was something that so many Mothers had no experience of ... and now I know that SO MANY do.

I didn't talk to anyone about how I was feeling: that would have been the ultimate failure ... to show the crazy shit that was in my mind? No way!

Then one of those 3am mornings I decided that I had to hang on: that an imperfect mother was better than no mother at all, that my 3am madness was just that ... a sickness, a dis-ease. 

I went in and woke up my partner (now husband). I told him the crazy stuff I had been thinking for months. I let it all tumble out into the darkness and cold. I let him see my insides. I risked it: I showed him my dirty, nasty guts, my diseased mind.

(He's a great sleeper and 3am wake-ups are not his forte - so you can imagine what it was like for him!!!)

I talked out all the acid and hate. I shared the black, dark poison inside me. I dumped it all upon him, unable to take responsibility for it all (at that point) or to know what to do with it: I knew I had to get it out into the light if I was going to be able to hang on. 

It was the moment I began the journey back. I knew by my actions that I wanted to live and love more than I wanted to die or leave.

I know now that I always wanted that and always will - but that mental illness has a way of making us think things that are not true. 

I know the value of having someone to turn to in the wee small hours of terror.

I know the importance of facing the fear, shining a light upon it, baring its core, sifting through the pieces to see what is, and what isn't real. 

I know the courage it takes. I understand the risk that it is. I honor and value that journey. 

I take it every year ... to remind myself of how far I went and how far I've come. 

Where does your journey take you? 




Sleeplessness and the need for jeans.

My children are 7 and 9 years old. They sleep the whole night through. My challenge on the sleep front these days is still my children ... but it's changed from being about their sleeplessness to focusing on their needs and the ways in which I am not sure I am meeting them. Last night I lay awake thinking about the need for jeans.

Yesterday, after years of resisting, my 7 year old asked for a pair of jeans. She noticed one of her friends dresses simply (jeans and a top) while she herself has chosen up until now to put on layers (a skirt with leggings etc) and she wants to try something new.

I was a bit surprised by the sudden interest in fashion. Previously she has only wanted to wear trousers of the sport type. Anything too 'flashy' (meaning cool, rock chic, black, jeans etc - ummmm I think that is what she meant by it) was a no-no. Suddenly she has compared herself to one of her friends and found that blue jeans and a white t-shirt is her new mode. All of which is fine with me. I love that she wants to try new things and change up a bit. That part I can deal with.

What I am uncertain about is the unseen parts ... the ones she is unable to verbalise for me.

I realise that parenting is about a constant process of working these things out without many guidelines - except perhaps the ones you can glean from friends with older children. I realise that I don't know what I am doing most of the time. I realise that just when I get a handle on it, it changes again.

What keeps me awake in the night is trying to work out what else might be going on that I cannot see. What needs does she have (beyond jeans) that I am not accounting for? Are love, hugs, regular together time enough? Since I don't really know what I am doing, what am I missing?

We found some new jeans - two pairs her Dad bought her last year that she refused to wear at the time so they were put in the box to give to charity. We got them out and she tried them on. Then we found a few other things she had never worn that are still her size. She was so thrilled and proud of her new look.

The jeans issue was easily solved.

If only all her needs were that visible.




I spent the day today with a motivated group of women, who are also mothers, who volunteer in a specialist parenting organisation in my city. The training topic was the skill of real listening.  Along with it came the awareness of how little we listen to others, and how little we are listened to.

Five minutes into the training, the faces of the trainees are always the same: a mixture of embarrassment, shame, vulnerability, confusion and mystification. They have just been introduced to a new definition of REAL listening - one that challenges almost everything they believe about what it means to be a good listener.

Few of us have been taught to listen properly. Some are naturally better at it than others. The beauty of attending a training course in the skill is that for the very first time, there is a moment to sit and work out what it feels like to be truly listened to, and how hard it is to provide that gift, hold that space for others.

Listening is often best described by what it is NOT rather than what it is. Resources on good, active listening abound on the internet. Check them out.

To become a better listener yourself, start practising on those around you. See how it feels different for you. See how they respond differently towards you when you listen well.

Then work out who in your life truly listens to you. Those are the people to turn to when you want someone to comfortably, but actively hold the space while you talk yourself through anything and everything troubling you.

Listening is a GIFT ... it is a loving action you can take for your partner, your family, your children (most importantly - then they will learn to listen well too) ... and anyone you share your life with.

There are plenty of people to talk to ... but few who will listen.

sarah xx





Learning from our children.

I am amazed and filled by the clarity and simplicity of the writing, vulnerability and insight on the http://www.scarymommy.com blog.

The latest offering of  http://www.scarymommy.com/learning-from-teens/ is a reminder to all of us, not just those with teens, that we need to look at our children as people, individuals - with their own ideas, desires, wants, needs, likes, inspirations, tendancies and trends - and to allow them the space to express those.

Setting aside our own vulnerabilities and fears, our own need to 'fit in' or fit the mould will set us all free - the children AND us mixed-up and mis-guided adults. The idea that we raise our children to fit some socially acceptable grouping or list of attributes and behaviours is a spirit-crushing and creativity debilitating assumption about their inability to work things out for themselves over time with our guidance (not direction).

We need to back our kids and ourselves. We need to trust the process of becoming. We all went through it. We are doing the best we can if we remember to keep ourselves awake and conscious. We will achieve more for our children by focussing on teaching them to stay awake on the journey of life - and to trust themselves and their learnings.


sarah xx



Parenting just about ruined it all!

Don't get me wrong, being a Mother rocks! but not in that "it's all perfect and I love it every single moment of my existence" kind of way.

More in a "holy heck this is hard work and I am learning constantly and don't know what I am doing most of the time and boy oh boy this can be so incredibly confronting and painful" kind of way.

I was so desperate to do a great job and be a "good" mother that I almost immediately started taking the role of Parent way - and I mean waaaaaaaaaay - too seriously. We are told by wise Others that as the Mother, we are the only one who can Mother our child in that special way. While this is surely true, there is quite a difference between the role of being Mother, and Parenting in terms of how much or how little those roles become part of our identity.

I became a Mother, and at the same time took on Parenting as my new, permanent, all-pervasive job and identity. I parented my children, initially in that particular style of an anxious new Mother, and was doing OK (now that I look back without all the anxiety I felt at the time). Then I started parenting my husband. And my parents, and possibly even at times my friends. That was a lot of parenting. I was also parenting myself: playing the critic, pointing out the faults, suggesting new and better ways of doing it all etc. I was exhausted!

After a short while, I got really sick of myself - which I am sure is not hard to imagine when you think about being parented 24/7 without a break for coffee! Even a coffee break had the Parent there reminding me that I was wasting time and I needed to do this quickly so that I could get on with tidying up or being a Mother!!!

As the saying goes,

    "Change only occurs when the pain of staying the same becomes too great"

I am so relieved it finally did! After just about destroying my sense of self, my relationship with my children, my relationship with my husband and becoming way too uptight and Parent-like for friends (who stuck by me nonetheless - god love em!) I realised that all this Parenting was leaving no time to be the Adult. And that while I was being Parent a huge amount of the time, I was also switching to Child when it all become too much.

Now I Parent the children - but not anywhere near as much as I used to. Now I spend more time as the Adult and very little time as the Child. And boy do I enjoy life more!

What role are you spending most time in?


Sarah xx