I wrote an article for Wellbeing Magazine a couple of years ago, titled ‘Rewilding Motherhood’. It was about my transformation from a free-spirited, world-travelling type who ‘trusted the universe’ to a controlling, anxious ball of worry with a sprinkle of helicopter on top when I became a mother. The article went on to explain how I climbed out of my rut to recapture the free, creative spirit that I once was. Like most magazine articles, it offered tips for rewilding motherhood and tied the subject up in a neat bow. End of story.
But life isn’t like that. Rewilding motherhood and regaining a sense of autonomy, creativity, wildness and authenticity within the experience is an ongoing challenge. Lately, I’ve been revisiting the subject and diving deeper into why I lost myself and became so suddenly controlling when I became a mother and exploring the cultural messages that influenced me. As someone who has always had a strong intuition and a certain willingness to follow it, I’ve become curious as to why I found (and still find) it so difficult to follow my intuition within the experience of raising children. Looking back, I see with sadness how I handed my intuitive knowing over to ‘experts’ from the minute my first child was born. And by experts, I mean pretty much anyone with an opinion (and you know what they say about opinions…).
The drift away from what I knew in my bones to be true was so gradual I didn’t see it. Instead, I felt a gnawing sense of inadequacy that I couldn’t quite get on top of. The last few years have been a slow homecoming away from the ‘experts’ and back to what I know in my bones. It’s been a scary, exhilirating, joyful, challenging, hopeful and humbling adventure back to trusting myself, and it’s still going. But I have learned a few truths about maintaining a sense of wildness and wellbeing – a semblance of self – within the chaos. Here they are:
The only parenting strategy that counts is alignment with your true self
I learned the concept of ‘alignment’ from Abraham-Hicks, a spiritual teacher I’ve been listening to for a few years. Alignment is based on the premise that you have an inner being who is essentially the ‘real you’ – who you are without the personality constructs, beliefs and stories that form your image or idea of yourself. According to Abraham-Hicks, your inner being is always directing you, thinking wonderful thoughts about you and coming up with brilliant ideas. It’s basically the same as your intuition, and the way to align with this all-knowing, beautiful you is to match your ideas, beliefs and feelings up to its ideas, beliefs and feelings.
How to get in alignment with your inner being is a science and something that one could study for an entire lifetime but my experience of experimenting with it in my own life has been nothing short of extraordinary. For me, getting into alignment means first being aware of how I am feeling and the thoughts that are running through my head, then actively choosing to pause and ask for guidance. This may sound super woo woo, but very single time I feel aligned with my inner being, I find that don’t need to exercise any control of my kids or anyone else in my life. I don’t need strategies! Things just magically fall into place, children listen and incredible solutions arise, seemingly from nowhere. The best, simplest, clearest way you can help your children (and the part of yourself that desperately wants to be a good parent) is to turn off all channels except those that connect you to the part of yourself who knows.
Emotional pain is not a monster, it is your friend
The only reason this sounds strange is because most people have been raised to run from or numb emotional pain. Simmering away below the surface of modern society is the idea that all emotions except happiness, gratitude and love are wrong or bad. So we avoid them. We pretend, numb, run, fight, blame or push on, thinking that the emotions will just disappear, and when they don’t, we just do more of the same.
In reality, the minute you begin to work with pain, rather than against it, huge transformations happen. Anyone with kids can see this in action – kids rarely hold onto pain, they move through it (often very quickly). I learned that if I was able to listen without injecting my thoughts and opinions, or trying to make it better for them, that their emotions would pass through them every time. This is one of the greatest lessons my kids have taught me: That if you don’t mess with pain and try to get rid of it, it really does move through you like a wave. The paradox is that it leaves when you don’t try to get rid of it!
When you begin to see pain as a friend who is trying to deliver an important message rather than something nasty that needs to be squashed, it gives you the message then glides out the door.
Real self care includes a willingness to examine all stories that leave you feeling not good enough
I feel like our primary role as mothers is to examine and transform the cultural stories that leave us feeling not good enough – because none of them are true. I’m all for gratitude and affirmations and yoga, but only if these are combined with the deeper inner work of identifying and transforming stories. We are marinated in a broken culture that feeds us the idea that we will be good enough when we lose the weight, start our own business, when our kids achieve success or when we achieve ‘balance’ (code for ‘keeping everyone happy’) and so much more.
The bar for mothers is constantly raised. It’s not enough to raise normal kids in an ordinary suburban home. There’s this pressure to be special, to be different (but only in a good way). You need to live sustainably, eat organic, limit screen time, be an entrepreneur, get fit….Once you achieve one thing, you’re onto the next.
Magic happens when you step out of it all and learn to affirm that you are worthy simply because you are alive. You don’t need to do anything to earn your worth. Sounds crazy, right? Like anything worthwhile, stepping out of the hustle for worth is a lifetime process, but an exceptionally rewarding way to live.
Your imagination is your greatest tool for creating a big, wild life within the experience of motherhood
So what do you do after you’ve examined shitty stories and begun the wild path of sidestepping the hustle for worth? You imagine something more beautiful for yourself in every single area of your life, including motherhood. Imagination is a powerfully under-utilised tool that many people have been discouraged from using. Instead, we are told to be realistic.
Everything beautiful, fresh and new was first created in someone’s imagination – someone who was willing to dream. Make that someone be you. One of the best exercises you can do to design a wild, creative, rich life for yourself is to make a habit of saying, ‘what is the best possible thing I can imagine in this area of my life?’ Imagine your kids blossoming, your marriage thriving, your work life feeling good. Paint the details in colour and work on your imagining until it feels just right. Then look for evidence of this sense of thriving in your life. This is how you rewild your life, by becoming the artist of your thoughts and visions.
Rewilding motherhood is not about ‘being good’, it’s about you leaning into the wildness that already exists in your rich inner world and letting it shine from your pores.