If ‘all’ mothers had to do was to look after their children, it would be challenging, but just about do-able. But current expectations of mothers are ridiculously high, as well as stopping our children from injuring themselves, we must also:
- Educate them
- Nourish their emotional lives
- Stimulate them
- Soothe their nervous systems
- Boost their immunity
- Support their self-esteem
- Encourage a relationship with nature
- Teach them how to be safe
- Try not to kill the planet
- Return to our previous body shape
- Look fantastic
- Hold our jobs together
- Conform to family codes
- Be a riot in the bedroom
- Have an un-chaotic clean house
- Even have a ‘pretty’ vulva (there are crazy people who will tell you your body is not perfect, ignore them)
- Manage the bills and the household budget
- Nourish our friendships
- Project manage the household
- Set the rhythm for the household
All for no pay and zero recognition. What do you do? “Nothing I’m just a Mum…” JUST??? The expectations heaped on mothers are insane! No wonder it is so hard for us to be kind to ourselves. There’s just no time or encouragement to do this, our self-esteem is on the floor and we’re just too exhausted to even think about it.
I thought I’d ask Sjanie Hugo-Wurlitzer for her take on this. Sjanie, as you can see from the photo above, is mother to two girls now 4 and 7, co-founder of Red School and co-author of Wild Power. She works consciously with her cycle to manage her energy and mother her family with incredible kindness to herself.
She did a cracking interview, but the tech gremlins struck and the video didn’t blooming record! So here instead is my written account of her responses.
Here’s what I asked her…
How do you manage your home life so you can be kind to yourself?
Sjanie explained that she sees her role in the house as the pacemaker, setting the rhythm for everyone. No surprise then that her household pretty much runs around her cycle. (You can learn more about this from the #chartart on Sjanie’s Instagram feed.) Knowing how her energy changes, she plans more work and activities for when she’ll be ovulating in the inner summer of her cycle, for example.
I was most curious about how she managed her inner winter, the time when she’s menstruating and needs more peace and quiet. The inner winter and the quality of rest here can set the tone for the following month, so I was really curious to get some tips from her.
Here’s her secret… This is when all the duvets get laid out on the living room floor and there’s quiet snuggling and peaceful pass-times. The kids know there won’t be trips and visits at this time of the month. It is time to let go of the house being tidy and hunker down. I loved how Sjanie is educating her kids in the seasonal cycle and pacing their energy as well.
All through her cycle Sjanie gives herself choice, assessing what is really essential to do in a day, then giving herself choice about the non-essential things. Creating a little spacious pause to ask herself…
“What would I really like to do now, what would match my energy?”
Instead of seeing parenting as a competition for whose needs are going to get met, Sjanie has a more playful view. She relishes the creativity of finding the sweet spot where both her AND her children’s needs can be met. What a genius idea to choose an on-going, delicious puzzle instead of a competition.
How can we prepare first time mums for the revolution of having a new baby?
Once she had recovered from the shock of the immediate postnatal period after her first baby, Sjanie told me she was really angry:
“Why did no one tell me it was going to be like this?”
Of course they had. But we just don’t hear “Your life is going to change”. Or rather, we think that our life will change in a known way, like changing supermarket or something.
In Sjanie’s words, no one tells you that you’re going to die! And as women, we have to die to ourselves to become a mother; our identity dissolves, we lose the plot and re-form into a different shape. It is an initiatory process just like the menstrual cycle. Every cycle, we die to ourselves as our ego is dissolved through autumn and winter, so we can be reborn into the spring.
Sjanie’s golden nugget?
“I wish someone had told me I was going to die, and that the initiatory process of menstruation would teach me how to cope”.
Top tip for mums-to-be?
Practice menstrual cycle awareness to understand more about how your initiatory process works. (Menstrual cycle awareness is the practice of noting down your feelings each day of your cycle).
What is the best way to survive the postnatal period?
Sjanie’s recommendation is to drop everything except looking after the baby. Where possible forget about:
- Looking good
- Other kids
- Going out
OK, this is not accessible for everyone, particularly for single mothers, but held as a model, I reckon it’s a good one. It can be possible to let go of what we think we ought to be able to do and delegate. Call in favours. Beg for batch baking and lifts. And when all else fails; lower your standards drastically.
Why do so many of us feel guilty about being kind to ourselves?
I was fascinated to hear Sjanie’s take on this question as she has facilitated 1000’s of women in workshops and 1-2-1’s. Here’s her response;
The season of inner winter and the via negitiva* gets a bad rap. It’s not socially acceptable to be all dreamy and quiet and lying around. This is SO culturally ingrained that even resting and being kind to ourselves is not encouraged.
To anyone who feels bad about being kind to themselves I would ask them: “Doesn’t every living being deserve kindness?”
Wowee. My heart just flies open each time I think about this, the next time I notice I’m pushing myself to do something, this will be my mantra:
“Doesn’t every living being deserve sweetness”
What is your favourite kindness to yourself?
We always ask this question of our interviewees and it provides a deep insight into how they live. Sjanie said her favourite kindness when faced with non-negotiable obligations was to imagine to herself a big NO. What if I don’t do this? Freedom, she says, is fantastically important to her.
A massive thank you to Sjanie for her commitment to sharing her thoughts of mothering ourselves with kindness and for putting up with the crazy tech-glitches.
*The via negitiva is the second half of the cycle, the autumn (premenstruum) and winter (menstruation). This part of the cycle connects us with the archetypal feminine qualities of receptivity and relationship to ourselves, our inner lives. You can read more about it and the visa positiva in Wild Power.