In my mothers’ writing group we’ve been writing stories lately. I think often about the stories I tell myself and the stories I believe. Some are more strongly ingrained than others. I’m doubtful that there is really any objective truth to any of the stories and beliefs we have about reality. But belief itself goes a long way into making things real (reads and watches I’ve found influential). So I try and be mindful of what I tell myself and what I choose to believe, checking in to see if it serves me.
With regards to my mothering:
- I believe that it is my role and responsibility as a mother to provide security, unconditional acceptance, guidance and space for my child to navigate through this life he’s been given (this belief can certainly serve me but can also place a lot of pressure on me if I go so far to believe that everything that happens to my son comes from my nurturing).
- I believe that my son and I have chosen each other and are interconnected in our own journeys of learning and growth (along with the notion 0f “being given life” mentioned above, these are deep, untestable spiritual beliefs; these beliefs can certainly be helpful in balancing a sense of choice and power with surrender and trust).
- I believe that in order to foster his sense of safety and security, I need to accept my son’s complete dependence on me and trust that his own independence will grow from that solid base and will progress with the trust of that security and growth of his own mastery (this belief helps me to trust that it’s not up to me to make my son grow, but rather that, like a gardener, it’s my job to tend and water and the seedling will grow on its own accord; this belief, however, is often at odds with my culture’s beliefs of the job of parents to cultivate independence in their children – encouraging them to self-soothe, “sleep-training” them so they can sleep on their own, etc., so that even my partner sometimes criticises me of coddling our toddler and shares his worries that he’ll never be able to do anything on his 0wn – although it’s clear to see how much he HAS learned to do on his own over these last 16 months!).
- I believe that there is no one way to parent, just as there is no one way to live. We each have our own unique path, gifts, challenges and needs. Every parent and child pair is different and there is no one size fits all for everyone (this belief helps me to listen inward to what’s right for me and my family and to listen to different opinions and approaches to parenting while taking what resonates and leaving what doesn’t; it helps me make choices that may not be the norm for our society but that I know intuitively are the ones for us).
- I believe that children need to be close to their parents – this need being highest at birth and slowly diminishing as the child’s capability and independence grows over years. I believe that especially young infants who are completely dependent need to sense their parent/caregiver’s closeness to know they’re safe (because of this belief, my son has been very close physically since birth – we bedshare and I babywear. Because this belief is so strong however, it also conflicts with my belief described above and I find I can be extremely judgemental of other parents’ practices. I am ashamed to actually admit how much I actually judge – when my intention is to be as accepting and compassionate of others as I can be. But because my belief is so passionately held, I find myself constantly judging western culture’s common practices of the constant use of devices – strollers, cribs, seats, etc. and find I can be somewhat extreme and rigid about such things).
- I believe that, deep down, we have all the wisdom and knowledge we need for our lives. I also believe many of us have lost the ability to listen to and trust this innate knowing. I believe this is part of the reason many childcaring practices are not necessarily in line with what’s best for us or our children but have become the prevailing, accepted approaches because we turn to the external expert to tell us what to do (because of this I believe my child is still connected and aware of his own wisdom but having spent the better part of my lifetime learning to not trust, I find myself not always trusting him. True it is challenging to trust he knows what he needs when he would gladly choose cheddar bunny crackers for every meal).
As I write about my beliefs, I realise I could probably fill an encyclopedia set with them! I also know I would find a lot of contradictory beliefs as well as those that cause me grief, judgement, sadness, resistance and pain. I’ve found that changing a belief structure, however, is often not so easy to do. Experience and trust are often necessary factors in shaping and altering our beliefs. But even just having an intention of holding a belief structure that serves me rather than inhibits and hurts me (even in subtle ways) is helpful in slowly reshaping my worldview. Learning to accept the paradoxes in life also helps to slowly soften my more rigid beliefs (as I know, that despite my disdain towards fundamentalism of any sort, I can tend towards it myself – sometimes attracted to its appeal of clarity and direction but ultimately realising that nothing is so certain or written in stone).
One more belief I hold that is helpful for me to return to is that, as humans, we are all flawed and fallible. We all make mistakes and we are always learning. This reminds me that it doesn’t serve to judge others’ mistakes (and that it’s not even my place to determine what a mistake is for someone else). Cultivating acceptance and forgiveness – for myself above all – is really the key to a compassionate and loving life. I’m still often nowhere near there, especially when I see how triggered and incensed I can become about others’ parenting practices. But because I care so much about parenting and my own growth and evolution, these more blatant challenges can be used to spark a steeper learning curve. And maybe by airing out my own flaws publicly here, I can help that learning and growing even more!