Childhood is probably the most important time of our lives. It is the time when we lay the foundations of all that will follow in our life and effects our expectations, relationships and our entire wellbeing. It follows from that, that being a parent has to be the most important job in the world.
This week on the podcast Ed and I were joined by Tanya Leary. Tanya has written the most amazing book ‘Time for Bed, Baby’ Illustrated by Lisa Williams. The book is multilayered, aimed at both the child and the mother.
It is hard to get it wrong
When you come out of the delivery room with your first new born baby there is no manual and there are no instructions printed on the babies back, this is all new and down to you. Chances are that the only information that you will have is that which you observed in your own childhood. Unless you have read or studied a lot, or have had some extra input, then what happened to you as a child will be the sum total of your experience, knowledge and expectations. We are normally simply playing pass the parcel as we pass what was taught to us onto the next generation.
It can work the other was and it could be that what happened to you as a child created a reverse effect in the sense that you decided that you would not treat your children the way that you were treated. This is still a response to what you observed and experienced as a child. In that sense we are all the product of not just our experience but of how we responded to that experience. That means that we can, when we treat it positively turn a bad situation into a good one.
As long as we approach life Mindfully, and in this case we are talking about motherhood, fatherhood and parenting, we will, in the end, get it right. I had a difficult childhood, left home at the age of fifteen and did not have a good internal working model of what a parent should be. The result of this is that I got it wrong for my eldest children. Not intentionally but I was learning on the job and having to back fill the deficits in my own observed experience from my own childhood. I think that I did get it right later on or at least got better at it. It just took time to learn.
Training in psychology, especially Bowlby’s attachment theory, made me realise just how important early attachment is to both the primary carer, usually the mother, and the secondary carer, usually the father. In my case it was the lack of positive attachment to the secondary career that created the problem. When it came to me becoming a father I didn’t understand how to do, I had never been shown. The only working models of fatherhood that were in my experience were all negative.
Talking with Tanya, who has had her own difficulties to deal with, it seems clear that when we are open to our true feelings and we are responsive rather than reactive then we have a chance of getting it right.
Women, in the main, put other people first and them self and their needs last. I spend a lot of time encouraging female clients to develop enough self compassion to at least make their own needs equal first with everyone else. These ideas Tanya has included in her book. She suggests some down time for mums and some exercises that may help mums in letting go of negativity and doubts, stress and worry and develop more confidence in being a mum.
When I suggest that if we were all to look after each other then everyone’s needs would be met, I should also include the idea that we need to include ourself in the list of those that need to be looked after.
The punch line of her book, and I would say the punch line of life is that if we can teach our children the skills of being Mindful and we do this by allowing them to observe us being mindful then in just one generation we could change the human psyche to be more inclusive and more positive.
This may sound like a tall order but it is do-able it just needs some persistent and consistent action and the willpower to see it through.
As in all things change starts here and change starts now – but only if we want it too…
Take care and be happy