Parenting is a profoundly sacred task and one that is vitally important for our well being personally and for our species as a whole.
It is also one for which there is no particular training that is offered outside of an ad hoc, intermittent basis and this says a great deal about how we do not look at the importance of raising children well, as an issue of cultural and societal importance.
There is nothing particularly surprising about this considering we are still operating under laws that remain on the statutes that tend to lump “lunatics, women and children” as all ‘equally incompetent”.
In a world still dominated by values that place having and achieving, over nurturing and community building, then the work of families – which statistically still falls – in the majority on women – remains undervalued and under resourced.
It is also true that the family network has continued to falter from wide-ranging, connected
and hands on, extended groups, through to the isolated nuclear family, to a situation now where the rise of people living alone is the fastest growing ‘family’ unit in this country.
So those that were there to lend a hand, to take the baby for a few hours so a new mum could get some sleep, to bring meals and pop them in the freezer, to being in the home with the new mum to help guide and support through that particularly difficult period of the first year of your first child – are predominately gone. They are all still working in jobs of their own, caring for elderly parents and all this in an increasingly time poor world that we have created.
The skills that were known are not being handed on, children are now growing up without learning how to cook, do laundry, clean, budget etc because their mothers are either doing it in the middle of the night before collapsing into bed for a few hours exhausted sleep or help is being brought in to do it and much more is done on the run. And these skills matter because what ever our children end up doing, they will still ideally have a roof over their head and food on the table and need be able to function within that context as well.
And as for children – it is a subject that is rarely discussed between couples prior to having them. They may discuss the when’s of it, or the hoped for gender spectrum involved but it is very rare that they sit down and discuss child rearing as a practice, how they intend to approach it, problems they had growing up with their parents and how to avoid the same mistakes.
It is something that we tend to jump into haphazardly as in, it feels ‘right’ about now, and find ourselves 9 months later with something so profound and joyous unfolding that our lives will never be the same again. Something so consuming and requiring so much time and attention and regularly crying for no apparent reason whatsoever, with that sound that is designed by nature to get your attention “NOW” – while we are sleep deprived and shell-shocked, that our lives will never be the same again.
Research attests that a significant percent of the population of parents – if given the choice again – would have had children, the answer was no.
How is it that we are expected to “know” what to do with a squalling infant. Maternal feelings are profoundly deep in some people and not apparently present in others at all and while we could postulate over many reasons that contribute to this, it is a reality we live with.
And being a mother now is so fraught with rules of how to do it right, from what to eat or not eat [or drink!] during pregnancy, the style and kind of birth we might want to have but fully aware another may be imposed on us, [the caesarian section rate in Australia is the highest in the OECD and a national disgrace as far as I am concerned], the whole breast-feeding issue and getting that right, or not, and then the relentless media driven, madness of what it is to be a ‘good’ parent – without much useful information about how to go about it, that doesn’t induce bucket loads of guilt for being such a failure.
Oh and at the same time we are expected to be ‘hot mummy’s’ – not so much by the equally confused, abandoned and long-suffering fathers – but by trash magazines pushing the celebrity cult obsession with looking good and being right.
All of this in a world that has in a single generation gone from being able to buy a home and create what a family needs on a single income to one where the only way you will ever have a home of your own and provide your family with what you think it needs, is to have both parents working – pretty well full-time. And half of the second wage is paying for child care, where to be able to return to work to support the mortgage – the mother can be driven back to, from the time the child is barely a few months old.
So young families, stressed to the max, having immense pressure to get on, working hard to provide, in a world where the old supports are no longer there, feeling isolated, trapped and alone in a world where just when you get your head around how the child is, as a being, it enters a new developmental stage and the rules change all over again and we are intuitively meant to know when this happens, what it means and how to deal with it.
And we don’t, so we feel inadequate, exhausted , not good enough and guilty.
This is not a useful way of approaching our most treasured resource – the next generation – who will inherit the world from us. What we tend to do in the face of all this outlined – is we tend to do what was done to us. Without thought or analysis, unconsciously handing on child rearing as we know it, by example or practice. And even this is diminishing. Once upon a time female children, and whether you like it or not the first primacy of care of an infant is the mother – from your body does it emerge and feed to grow – used to get a kind of apprentice on the job being around younger siblings or caring for neighbourhood children to earn some cash. However neither of these things happen much now, with overworked mothers outsourcing many basic needs and anxious parents now heavily concerned about leaving their children with anyone, other than equally busy extended family.
We don’t learn the craft in the way we used to and we are beginning to see the results in endemic rates of child neglect and abuse, overwhelmed parents with record amounts of foster care being sought and a media drenched world of consumerism that is constantly pointing out their failings to them.
It is time to change all this. To recognize that parenting is one of the most profound experiences of your life and one that your body holds a blueprint for as part of its involvement in a species that raises its young at heel, longer than any other mammal on the planet. To recognize that we have lost touch with what is instinctive and intuitive in parenting, in a barrage of “how to” books and pop psychology. To understand that young people need help, not just in feeding, sleeping and bathing rituals that involve small people but in understanding their emotional needs and how to meet them. Not just to understand the developmental norms of childhood and what to expect from them but how to navigate through them in the best interests of the family as well as the child. How to recognize your ‘style’ of parenting, how unconscious it is and how to bring it to your awareness, so that you can change it for the better – for your self, your partner and your child.
Most manuals on parenting in the past were focused on the parent and their needs. Then they became almost exclusively focused on the child and their needs. Neither of these approaches is particularly useful for both are locked into how things ‘ought’ to be, not allowing for the massive change that occurs from generation to generation.
And while some developmental norms are just that, normal, there is also the reality that each generation of children at the moment of conception, begins with all of the fathers blood line of knowledge, all of the mothers also and then brings it forward from that moment in to life. So in truth each generation is so much more adaptive than the one that went before it – giving truth to the cliché that our children can be our greatest teachers. And they would be if we were not spending a lot of our time putting them into the same little black box that we were put into when we were children, so that our parents [who had it done to them – ad nauseam back through the generations] could feel comfortable with us.
It is our job as parents to teach our children to navigate the world. For we know more about what it is than they yet do. To do this in a way that they do not spend their lives trying to ‘fit in’ to a somewhat shallow, sexualized, hyper media driven consumerism, but from a set of values of connection to each other and the planet, integrity, loyalty and courage, that we have had the where withal to teach them, while at the same time learning from them what we have forgotten. How to live in the moment, be truthful and spontaneous and living in our bodies rather than our minds, worrying about the future and looking at the past for ways of how to avoid it.
I am sure any parent with young children today recognizes there is something interesting going on with the new kids coming in. They are different to all that has gone before and they are here much more as themselves and awake to who they are. As a grandmother to eight [almost] beautiful little bright lights, I am constantly entranced by what they offer.
So what we need to focus on in child rearing is the nature of the relationship with have with these little mites. How to be conscious in all our interactions with them, how to recognise when it is our ‘stuff’ that is being triggered and how not to react or over react to that – when communicating with them. How do we avoid handing on the same weird and downright crazy messages we got from our parents about all sorts of things.
It is no co-incidence that the incidence of diagnosed cases of ADD/ADHD and the whole aspergers spectrum has increased up to 3,000 fold in some areas. No – it is not that our diagnostic tools have got better. It is because many of these new kids are not coping with world as we know it. They genuinely don’t understand why we behave the way we do with them and so to cope they either rebel [the add/adhd issue] or shut out the only world they can – the external world, by withdrawing [the aspergers spectrum] and in both cases we tackle it in entirely the wrong way by trying to force them back into our world rather than learning to join them in theirs, with all the wealth of information held there in. And if that doesn’t work we numb them into our world with medication.
Parents need to be taught how to be conscious in their interactions with their children which then facilitates a healing of what was done to them as children. By doing it differently with their own children and at the same time by teaching their children how to remember themselves, how to not take on other people’s baggage, how to recognize their emotions and work with them rather than be overwhelmed by them or deny them, which in truth is the reality at the heart of the vast majority of mental health issues in the world today – we can give this generation the possibility of fulfilling their possibilities in ways denied to us.
This approach then facilitates a circle of love, that embraces parents and children, in which all activities become an opportunity for learning and healing the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of the child and the family. To prepare us all for a new kind of world emerging, in which in community with each other and the world, sharing and love, become the way we live.
What we will be offering from Thrive by Design soon is a series of Webinars on Conscious Parenting for it can be very difficult at times to get away to come and do a course and find baby sitters etc. These will be run as a series of interactive lectures with questions and answers about daily issues and problems and also you will be able to download the information provided at the end of each programme. I will also be available in between times for questions and answers via email.
We are very excited to be offering this as it opens it up to lots of people from Perth to Darwin to Sydney and Melbourne and beyond to gain insights and understandings as to what is occurring for them with their children and how to tackle it from a unique and powerfully healing paradigm. So there will be more on what Conscious Parenting is posted soon and details and links will be forthcoming about where to register interest for the first programme. So check out