A lot of the time I worry "am I doing enough with our children"? In the bigger picture sense, things like: are they turning into good people? How much should they know about sex? Are they getting enough life experience? What if they don't have any spiritual practices. You know, small fry stuff like that which swirls round most parents' heads most days.
But even more frequently I think: "now what are we going to do?"
Like. We've got 3 hours till Mr DA gets home. They're bored. I don't have the energy to do anything creative or practical with them. It's raining. WTF are we going to DO to survive the next three hours without mass slaughter?!!!
When, as I was preparing to lead our women's group on Sunday, a lightning bolt struck that I just have to share with you.
That there are only, truly two things I need to do as a mother.
To find my own centre.
And to hold the space.
(Now this is the embarrassing bit where having bigged it up, you're like "durgh! of course, Lucy!") But I've started so I'll finish!
Sure, we all know, on one level that being a "good" parent is nothing about the amount of playdough or painting or nature walks we do with them. We know it in theory, but many of us don't know it on a gut level, in a way that informs our every day decisions.
That is why this revelation was nothing short of a bolt of lightning from the blue. It united a number of previous observations I have made in the science lab of extreme parenting - otherwise known as in my daily life.
So, I notice that when I am below par, tired or ill, that the children go all jangly - as though they can no longer feel their energy being held by me, and so they are pushing the boundaries on every side to try and find where they are, to feel safe. This is the unseen work of parenting, but that which really counts. We can't really SEE when it's being done, but it is really obvious in its effects when it's not.
The equations go something like this...
Mama sick = mad kids. Mama tired = evil kids. Mama happy = happy families.
This is why self care is so important. It's not just feelgood twentieth century mumbo jumbo. It directly contributes to the wellbeing of the entire family.
Holding space takes energy. Concentrated energy, for those of us who are not, this year at least, fully enlightened beings.
Sometimes holding our centre in the midst of the mundane is a lot trickier than in crisis, when the choice is more stark: hold your centre or freak out.
There are times when I know that holding my centre was all I can do. With Aisling's fall. In birth. With other of the children's injuries and illnesses. With many tantrums. Finding my centre. Allowing myself to remain there as everything goes on. As fear and sadness and anger and despair, and not knowing what to do swirl around me.
By holding the space I mean being really, deeply present, emotionally there. Not adding any emotional stuff to the party. Being as pure and transparent and there in the moment as is humanly possible. Being totally there for them. Being responsive, flexible, breath by breath.
Holding the space often means physically holding too. Just holding, not fixing, not clinging. Just body to body, heart to heart, offering the comfort of your presence.
And when I can keep my centre, I can hold the space, breath by breath - hold it so that everyone else feels safe to be the way that life is making them at that moment - then I am doing my sacred job as mother. I am being their womb space, their soft place to fall, their mothersoul, their advocate. I am there, completely, for them.
But when I am off centre, I cannot do this. When I am tired, overwhelmed, anxious then I react. I am pulled into the emotional storm. Or I am trying to escape - mentally physically.
Life has been hard with tantrums and sick kiddies these past weeks.
Sometimes I find my centre, and hold the space, and fulfill my sacred role in a way that I am proud to call myself their mother.
And often I don't. And I feel shame and regret.
But now I know, in really simple terms, what it is I am aiming at, it makes it seem more doable.
And perhaps it will for you too!
Big love and rainbows coming at you!