This beautifully kind, wise and compassionate book has been a wonderful reminder of the parent I aspire to become. It goes without saying, of course, that I am not a perfect parent. Who is? The joy of this book is that it does not set out to achieve perfection (which would only set you up for failure), nor does it reprimand you for mistakes made in the past. It gently encourages you to explore your words, actions and the examples you set to your child, observing how they might affect your child(ren), how they affected you when you were a child and the possible long term effects on your relationship with your child.
It’s not about how many times you mess up, lose your rag and end up crying in a corner (with at least one child screaming on the floor at the same time). It’s about accepting that these things happen, putting actions in to place to minimise them (ie recognising your own limits and how to manage them), and ‘repairing the rupture’ by being compassionate with yourself and authentic in your restorative actions.
It has great examples and case studies of where parents have struggled with their child(ren), even to the point of wanting to leave the family unit, and offers tender, considerate and often humorous responses to the challenges we all face in our parenting (and indeed all) relationships in our lives.
It ties in perfectly with the La Leche League philosophy of ‘loving guidance’, which is one of the many reasons I kept going back to La Leche League. I knew I wanted to follow the gentle parenting path, I think even before I became pregnant, and it was demonstrated so admirably by the mums present at the meetings.
It reminded me that loving guidance is a long term investment (it also has short term benefits too), that patience is a virtue (no one has taught me more about being patient than my son), and that if you’re not looking back at your life and cringing at certain moments, you’re not learning and growing as a person, parent and human being.
This is a personal one for me, I’m not one for wearing my heart on my sleeve or being in the spotlight but I’ve felt the need to reflect on and share where I’ve been, how far I’ve come and how I want to shape the future for myself and my beloved son.
2.5 years ago I left my husband after our marriage exploded and left me in a heap on the floor (literally). There had been a few rumbles leading up to the explosion, but nothing could have prepared me for the destruction and devastation of that day, or the waves of shite that kept breaking over me and swiping my feet from under me, again and again in the months that followed.
When I got married, I had a house’s worth of savings in the bank. By the time I left, I had incurred more debt than I’ve ever had in my life, and ever will have again. Debt that did not benefit me or my son and yet was in my name. There were other issues during the fall out that caused deep distress and led to ill health, both physical and mental.
I have long been ashamed by the debt and the circumstances that lead to the state I found myself in. This, and the inevitable grief of a relationship ending, led to a period of depression. But as the great Brené Brown says ‘Shame can not survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy’. Which is why I wanted to talk/write about my situation, to shine light into the darkness, for myself and maybe others too.
When I look back on that time in my life, I see a woman who had been trodden down, rolled around in the mud on the floor and expected to be happy down there. I didn’t see it coming, or realised it was happening until I stepped away. And even then it took a while to see just how much I’d been in denial. If I just did this, or that, then everything would be better. It wasn’t better. Not for me anyway.
I am supremely fortunate, and eternally grateful, to have a wonderful mum who took me in (and my son, who was 2.5 at the time) and has supported me in so many ways over the last few years as I have rebuilt my life, piece by piece. I have amazing sisters who have provided loving shoulders to cry on and fabulous friends who have mopped my many tears.
I felt compelled to write this post as there are two significant events that have marked the end of the troubled times and the start of new, exciting and enriching times. The first is the end of my counselling sessions*, that I’ve had on and off for the last 2 years. I highly recommend being brave and digging around your life with the guidance of an experienced, qualified and compassionate counsellor or psychotherapist. It has helped me to grieve, stand up for myself, see situations from a different angle, be more resilient and confident in my ability to handle whatever life throws at me.
The second event is that I will very soon be getting the keys to my own house. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this, and what an impact it will make on myself and my son. I’m also anxious about it, as it is a huge responsibility for one person. I’ve no doubt it will be challenging and stretch me in unfamiliar ways but I also know that I’m up for the challenge and can’t wait to have my own space. A home to put my own stamp on and express myself in creating a warm, welcoming and comfortable interior, and a relaxing, healing garden.
I can see a path of where I want my career to take me, and the people I will help as a product of that. I have ambition again, fire in my belly that I’ve not had for a long time. I can see my son and I building a wonderful home together and making lots of mess along the way. I can see myself going on dating sites/apps for the first time in my life. That’s a very scary thought, but you don’t get to feeling brave without feeling scared first.
Thank you to everyone who has been there for me in the last few years. Thank you to everyone who has offered a helping hand or a spare piece of furniture for my new home. It has been the worst of times, and the best of times. To quote Hannah Gadsby, “There’s nothing stronger than a woman who has rebuilt herself”. Here’s to the ones who have rebuilt themselves 💪.
Wrapping presents, writing cards, eating chocolate and listening to classic Christmas tunes all help to get me in the mood for the big day. But there’s something missing from the picture, one of my senses is yet to be fulfilled, and that’s when I reach for my essential oils to concoct a festive feast for my nose. There’s so many to choose from at this time of year, each evoking it’s own memory of Christmas past.
Pine and fir essential oils remind me of putting up the tree and decorating it, finding those lost baubles I’d forgotten buying and where I lived when they first went on the tree.
Orange and cinnamon bring to mind this delicious Italian chocolate nut Christmas cake by Delia Smith, which is a hit every time. To me it combines my all favourite Christmas flavours in one scrummy treat.
And last but not least, frankincense and myrrh, those most famous of nativity gifts. They bring back memories of my school plays as a girl and more recently my son’s star turn in his play group Christmas play. It was definitely a proud mummy moment.
I add a couple of drops each of 3 – 4 different essential oils to my burner, light the candle and let the scent of Christmas fill my room. If you don’t have a burner, you can always fill a small bowl/dish with water, add the oils to that and carefully balance it on a radiator for the same effect.
Wishing you all peace, joy, love and laughter for Christmas and the new year.