10 Books That Have Made Me The Mother I Am Today

bookshelf 2 - small er edited

Perhaps you know some of these books, perhaps all. We can celebrate our connection knowing we are built of the same fibre. Perhaps there are some titles here that are unfamiliar. May they feed your soul as they have mine.

When I was pregnant with my first child no amount of uncertainty could bring me to read a single book that attempted to offer pregnancy advice or birth anecdotes. I had little interest in pre-empting what my experience as a first time mother was going to be like and trusted that motherhood was an extension of who I was as a woman. In the same way I instinctively knew I had the stamina to get through childbirth (drug free as it turned out) I felt quietly confident that I had the mental, emotional and spiritual resources to feel my way into my new role as a mother also.

The mother we grow into is shaped by who we are as women. How well we know ourselves determines how well we can know our children, how honest we are about our own behaviour directly relates to theirs and the more love we have for ourselves the more we have to give. So, for my own benefit and that of my children I do my homework regularly so that I can show up each day better prepared than I was the day before – more conscious, more content and more accepting.

There have been some highly influential voices that have confronted me on my blind spots, affirmed me when my confidence was shaken and helped me feel less isolated when my views clashed with those of the tribe. Some of these writers helped to shape my thinking as a young woman and their words continue to provide me with a stable, solid base whilst others I have met more recently and have helped me to build a castle on my sturdy foundations. These voices have woven their way into my psyche and have ultimately shaped me as the mother (and woman) that I am today.

Perhaps you know some of these books, perhaps all. We can celebrate our connection knowing we are built of the same fibre. Perhaps there are some titles here that are unfamiliar. May they feed your soul as they have mine.

10 Books That Have Made Me The Mother (And Woman) I Am Today

1. Buddhism for Mothers: A Calm Approach to Caring for Yourself and Your Children by Sarah Napthali

9781742373775 I read this book when I was away alone and had left my children at home for an extended period for the very first time. It was the perfect read to help me focus on self-care and reflect on learning to parent in a calm and peaceful way. (No better place to practice than without kids around!) Having some space meant I could spend time reflecting on the Buddhist teachings of mindfulness, presence, acceptance and compassion to the everyday challenges and stresses of raising children  Rather than focusing on the child’s behaviour, this book focuses compassionately on the inner self of the mother.

 

2.Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

9780712671347This book came into my life at a time of great transition. I was grappling with big questions and much uncertainty around the relationships in my life and this book introduced me to the wild, archetypal concepts of what it means to be female: messy, raw, and full of passionate creative energy.

Estes teaches women how to reconnect with the ancient feminine and their true wild nature. She uses folk tales and fairy tales and teaches us through fable, myth, and allegory. These archetypal women came alive and spoke loudly to me.

My copy has much scribbling in the margins and dog-eared corners. A book I have come back to over and over.

3. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

9780307352156This book is a real gem and a wonderful resource. It cracks open the code that differentiates introverts and extroverts and we are bound to find ourselves, or those we know, within its pages. The insights offered are validating to the introvert but they also help us understand both introvert and extrovert personality traits. We learn to recognise the true nature of our children, our partners, our parents, etc. and thus come to understand them better.

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favour working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Introversion is not a flaw, it is a quiet, uncelebrated strength. Amen.

4. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

9781592858491“We’re afraid that people won’t like us if they know the truth about who we are, where we come from, what we believe, how much we’re struggling, or, believe it or not, how wonderful we are when soaring.”

“The greatest challenge for most of us is believing that we are worthy now, right this minute. Worthiness doesn’t have prerequisites.”

Brené Brown is a researcher who focuses on shame, vulnerability, authenticity and belonging. I came to know and love her work through her TED talks and what I have come to value most about her words, that resonate for a long time after reading,  is that ultimately they hold me accountable. When we see ourselves for who we are, when we strive because we have goals and dreams, when we calm the storms of constant comparison and judgment, we can transform ourselves and our lives.
This book speaks to the relentless inner perfectionist and has helped me navigate this territory.
9780749941208When I first read this beautiful book I felt as though I had discovered my soul grandfather. Thomas Moore taught me about the nature and needs of the soul and gave me permission to value creativity as a way of bringing depth to ordinary life. This book taught me to embrace all of life as a soul experience – the light and dark elements equally.

 

 

6. All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior

9780349005515I read this book during a long summer break whilst my children were off school and we were home together for the entire holiday period. I, Like others I am sure, greatly cherish such uninterrupted lengths of time with my children, and yet simultaneously long for some space and time in between. This book is a body of research and anecdotes that looks at why parenting can feel so onerous, and more than anything raises the conversation.

 

 

7. Navigating Midlife: Women Becoming Themselves by Robyn Vickers-Willis

9780975704240I first heard Robyn Vickers-Willis interviewed on Radio National and her voice and personal story made me sit up and take note. She is a psychologist whose own experiences and extensive research has convinced her that there is a point in a woman’s life when women need to focus on their selves, and make an inner, psychological journey to ensure that the second half of life is meaningful and satisfying.

This book found me when I was at a point in my own life where I was feeling depleted and lacking in direction and I felt the need to renew my sense of purpose.  The book hit the mark and helped me recalibrate..

 

8. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

9780060256654“Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.”

I read this book over and over to my own children.

Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk…and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave and gave.

This book raises questions for me. I wonder if it is a story of selfless love or the story of a mother who doesn’t know how to set limits. It is the tale of a tree who gives literally everything she has to a boy/man who takes and takes, giving nothing in return, not even appreciation.
I wonder what you make of it?

9. Yoga and the Quest for the True Self by Stephen Cope

9780553378351Before I undertook my own yoga teacher training I became heavily interested in the philosophy and psychology of yoga. I was experiencing emotional shifts (and spontaneous teary outbursts) during my own yoga practice and this book helped me understand the deeper connection between the practice and the transformational potential it offers.

Stephen Cope is a Western-trained psychotherapist who lived and taught for more than ten years at the largest yoga centre in America (Kripalu). Whilst there he lokked at yogic philosophy and its connections to Western psychotherapy as a means of uncovering the true self.

 

10. SARK’s books

9780684833767I had just left home and was exploring my own personal definitions of freedom for the first time and SARK was my inspiration. She was brave and wild and I would savor each page as I got to know her better with each book. Her writing was honest and liberating and she taught me to live life to the fullest, to stay open to all possibilities and to break free of the limitations set by society. Her writing encourages every woman to pursue what makes her happy without judgement or criticism.

Her books are as colourful as she is, and she generously lets us into her private reflections and anecdotes. It feels as though you are reading her intriguing personal diary. She still holds a special place in my heart.

 

This list is not even close to being the last word, so I would love you to share the books that have made you the mother you are today in the comments below.

Happy Mother’s Day gorgeous women,

xM

Are you a resilient parent?

file2801302980272
We naturally want to take away the pain, make it better or set it right and the desire to protect our children can make us susceptible to overparenting and becoming overprotective, particularly when our own anxieties are triggered.

The only way I know to fully connect with my children and feel completely fulfilled as a parent is to keep my heart wide open and attuned to whatever is going on for them. I am blessed to be invited to share in the details of their lives: their worries, stresses, pain and struggles alongside their joy, excitement, accomplishments and discoveries. It is in these details that I really know and understand my children, and recognise their needs.

A close parent-child connection helps to give children a deep-felt sense that they are safe, cared for and valued and this bond is strengthened each time we respond to our children’s need for comfort and show sensitivity to their feelings. As parents we want to reinforce these positive experiences regularly. This healthy attachment helps our children feel secure and loved and consequently grow into optimistic, happy adults with a positive self-image and good emotional control.

Having a close relationship with our children means we get an up close look at their world and their experiences within it. Whether it be managing playground bullying, overcoming fear of the dark or coping with a family crisis, a child’s worries are concerning to parents. We naturally want to take away the pain, make it better or set it right and the desire to protect our children can make us susceptible to overparenting and becoming overprotective, particularly when our own anxieties are triggered.

Our children’s struggles may trigger memories of traumatic events in our own lives, or unresolved feelings about our own past interactions, so we find ourselves unconsciously caught up in our own stories when dealing with theirs. Concerns over our children often mask our own displaced anxieties.

Self-awareness and self-observation can help parents to develop mindfulness. We need to check-in and look at how we are directing our attention. We need to identify what thoughts and emotions are coming up for us in the moment – anger, hurt, panic, etc. and resist the impulse to react to these. It is this practice that helps us change thinking patterns, manage behaviours and ultimately develop resilience. 

Rising above our own anxiety helps to reduce our impulse to control outcomes for our children. When parenting with greater self- awareness we are better placed to raise resilient children.

How to practice resilient parenting.
  1. Encourage independence. When children independently complete tasks, they learn to trust and appreciate their own skills and capabilities.
  2. Allow for uncertainty. Worry and anxiety show up when we try something new, different or challenging and rather than helping to remove the obstacles we want to encourage our children to confront them and learn to problem solve.
  3. Encourage a difference of opinion. Children who do not learn to stand up for themselves and express their own opinions are more inclined to conform to negative peer pressure.

Raising children presents us with a profound opportunity to grow and evolve as people. The love I have for my own children is a huge motivating factor in wanting to be a better person. I do not want to burden them with my old, unconscious behaviour patterns, nor impact them with my own insecurities.

Learning to manage our own fears and become more resilient enables us to create an environment that feels calm, stable and secure for our children and ourselves.

If you would like to learn more I am hosting a Resilience For Tweens and their Parents Workshop on May 24th In Melbourne, Australia.
Resiliency helps our children navigate the inevitable hurdles, challenges and triumphs of childhood and adolescence. Resilient kids also become resilient adults, able to survive and thrive in the face of life’s unavoidable stressors.
This workshop offers a unique opportunity to connect with your tween and explore resilience together using art and yoga in a fun, gentle, supportive environment. You do not need any previous yoga or creative experience to be a part of this workshop.  You do however need to bring a sense of curiosity and a willingness to spend some precious, uninterrupted time with your child exploring new terrain.
More info over here...
Michelle Seelig is the proud mother of 2 creative, courageous girls and has worked in health and well-being for 25 years. She is a qualified Yoga Teacher, Health Coach and an artist with a Masters degree in Art Therapy. Using art, yoga and coaching practices in her workshops Michelle combines her skills and insights to deliver a unique, creative and transformative experience.

my holiday crush

Michelle's photos - Jan 2015 308I am a city girl who has a very solid relationship with the hustle and vibe of city life, but I do have a quiet crush. I try to resist acting on my heart’s wondering affections, but as often as I can I just acquiesce. I have a longstanding and not-so-secret crush on a little town that pulls at my heart in ways unrivalled by any others.

Every so often I have a yearning and, as a family we are off, northbound, to a place that my soul recognises as home. A place where one feels safe, embraced and unguarded.

Upon arrival the quiet stillness washes over me and into me and I am reminded that I am in the presence of my mentor, my teacher, my shining light.

This small town wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s unashamed vulnerability and rawness is on public display for all to see -hand-drawn shop signs and unbrushed hair are all part of its honesty.  This little town in the Northern Rivers region of NSW is not known for its Opera House or even a Big Banana. Intimate, open conversations with strangers are, in my eyes, its main tourist attraction.

Whilst I love my life in the big city this is my place of refuge and respite. This is my go-to place when I need to recharge, heal and renew. It is like returning to the family home when the outside world feels hostile and demanding – mum’s cooking and your childhood bedroom provide a familiar comfort, and there is no self-consciousness required.

I am inspired by its humanity. Its causes and community values are paraded through its small streets and humble homes. There is unwritten local lore here, but even as a visitor I am amongst my tribe, and I get it.

I love it, and here are some of the things that make my heart smile and my soul sing….
  • I love when you go to the local store looking for Aloe Vera to treat sunburn but they have run out, someone suggests you walk down to the community garden and pick some fresh.
  • I love that you can only borrow 5 items from the local library to leave enough on the shelves for everyone.
  • I love the menu at the local pool – Miso soup with gluten free toast, or a dandelion tea with soy.
Michelle's photos - Jan 2015 372

Menu at the local pool.

  • I love that the large-chain supermarket (hidden away in the back street) has a ‘trade-in’ system set up for the latest set of cards they are giving away to kids, as part of a reward scheme. Bring in your ‘doubles’ and trade them in for cards you still ‘need’.
  • I love that the guy in front of me at the local store asks Sharon, on the checkout, how her birthday party went. (It was a blast!)
  • I love that the pierced, tattooed doctor at the local hospital (it’s a long story) refers to his patients as ‘brother’ (and ‘ sister’ presumably).
  • I love that the community takes it upon themselves to erect their own street signs.
Michelle's photos - Jan 2015 391

Dear trucks and tradies, please slow down. Kids, pets and wildlife at play.

  • I love that the lovely man who has lost one eye stops to help me as I precariously juggle arms full of shopping, all whilst sharing stories of the flood on his property and his family Xmas.
  • I love that the pool at the house we are staying at has a little makeshift ramp so the frogs can get out after a swim.
  • I love that the woman at the local herbal shop that I go to get some ‘Itchy Scratchy cream’ for a mysterious rash that one of my children has developed in the heat reminds me to check her gut-health. A woman of my own heart.
  • I love that my kids aren’t the odd-ones-out when snacking on fresh fruit and nuts when out.
  • I love that even the street art has soul.
Michelle's photos - Jan 2015 393

Enbrace the power of our consciousness.

How can I be a better human.

How can I be a better human.

  • I love that the local gym offers their community free access to their filtered water (so when a bandicoot dies in one’s water tank one does not need to drink it!!).
  • I love that this same local gym just makes up the Xmas timetable from one day to the next. It keeps one’s yoga practice flexible and prevents attachment.
  • I love that the lifeguard at the pool knows everyone by name.
  • I love that pronouncability is not THE major consideration when naming ones cafe.

Michelle's photos - Jan 2015 394

  • I love being surrounded by rainbow colours everywhere you look. It lifts the spirit.

Michelle's photos - Jan 2015 349

  • I love that as you drive into town at night you are greeted by a small, heart-shaped refector attached to the tree on the side of the road.

Michelle's photos - Jan 2015 456

For now I say goodbye to Mullumbimby, but I know I will be back soon.