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,


Why we need to teach our children how to relax

relaxing - port mac

Childhood has seen a marked change over the past 30 years and so too has our children’s mental and physical wellbeing.

We as parents all want our children to live in emotional balance and to show resilience and stability in the face of life’s challenges. We wish for our children to be happy and well-adjusted and much of what we do is motivated by this desire. Whilst our loving presence, our own example and steadfast support contributes greatly, the levels of stress experienced by children today is estimated to have increased 45% over the past 30 years.

Childhood has changed markedly over this time and so too has our children’s mental and physical wellbeing. There is less opportunity for free, unstructured outdoor play, less time for families to prepare nutritious, home-cooked food, a huge increase in sedentary, electronically-mediated entertainment, and far greater exposure to consumer advertising and adult media.

With these changes come a new range of stressors that children today need to learn to manage in order to experience balance and wellbeing.

Some of these new stressors include:

  1. Overstimulation by online activity, gaming, etc. sees children exposed to more experiences, sensations, noise and activity.
  2. Overscheduling means that children have less down-time in which they can relax and unwind.
  3. Having choice and following their own interests is crucial to a child’s development but with children’s lives increasingly directed by adults they may experience tension around a lack of autonomy.
  4. A sedentary lifestyle which provides little opportunity to release physical tension.
  5. An increase in standardised testing in schools provokes considerable anxiety among students that seems to increase with their age and experience.
Educating our children how to manage the mental, emotional and physical stress they face is an important part of their learning.

It is important they know how to effectively and positively manage their stress before it starts to manage them. Teaching children relaxation techniques provides effective coping strategies.

Relaxation techniques are effective in helping to:

  • ease physical tension and restlessness and calm the nervous system
  • gain power over negative thoughts
  • manage anxiety provoking emotions
  • boosts the immune system
  • helps improve sleep
  • supports children’s minds by sharpening concentration

Relaxation techniques to help reduce stress and anxiety:

  1. Meditation gives children of all ages awareness of and power over their thoughts and feelings without supressing them. It aids in developing self-awareness and self-acceptance and in turn builds self-management strategies. The discovery of an internal sense of calm, even amongst the chaos,  leads to greater happiness and wellbeing. Starting with just 30 seconds at a time of ‘watching your thoughts’ and building up from there can be extremely effective.
  2. Yogic breathing exercises help to slow the breathing rate and calm the nervous system. ‘Watching the breath’ and feeling all the sensations in the nose, throat, belly etc or ‘counting the breath’ up to ten breaths and repeating helps to build concentration and can become a complete meditation in themselves. Placing the hands on the belly can also provide a focal point and helps to ensure deep breathing into the belly is maintained throughout.
  3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation or Yoga Nidra both help to release physical tension from the muscles, lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. It is a great technique to use before going to bed to ensure a restful night’s sleep. Invite your child to close their eyes and breathe slowly as you name parts of the body/muscle groups, inviting each part to tense up for a few seconds before releasing and relaxing. Start with the feet, legs, hips, belly and chest, then move on to the hands, arms, shoulders and neck and then finally the back, neck, throat, face and head. You can also use a visualization of healing, loving light that pours into each part of the body as you name it. This exercise also helps to keep the mind focused and away from negative thoughts and feelings that can cause wakefulness.
  4. Legs Up The Wall pose. Lie down on the floor or on the bed and lift your legs up onto the wall, so your back lays flat on the floor, your buttocks are at the juncture of the floor and the wall, and your legs are up the wall. This yoga pose is known as a ‘cure all’ and is perfect for calming the nervous system, slowing down the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
  5. Hot Water Bottle. Taking a hot water bottle to bed can warm the body and allow it to relax more easily. I also encourage my children to lay it on the belly, encouraging better digestion which can be an issue for nervous tummies.
  6. Visualization. There are some great guided visualizations for kids in the form of books or audio CD’s. Some of our favourite scripts which I love to read to my children before bed have come from the book Nightlights  by David Fontana . The CD Indigo Ocean Dreams by Lori Lite also makes lovely listening for younger children.
  7. Music. Actively listening to or drawing to soothing music helps to focus the attention on the senses and away from negative thinking.
Children who are taught some of the above techniques who recognise that stress is a part of life, and that there are strategies to help them cope with challenges positively and effectively, will develop into healthier teenagers and adults, physically, mentally and emotionally. By teaching them some of the techniques listed above we are setting them up for life.
If you have  a Tween that would benefit from learning some of these skills and so much more you may enjoy the upcoming Resilience For Tweens and their Parents Workshop I am hosting 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.

What Yoga Teaches Us About Parenting

Yoga and parentingYoga, like parenting, is a lifelong practice that confronts us with all facets of ourselves. We have good days and not so good days, but our role is to keep showing up and paying attention.

In making yoga a regular part of your lifestyle, particularly if you have a home practice away from the encouragement and motivation of a class or teacher, you may be familiar with those days when your practice feels more like a stale routine than a discovery tour. You may find your practice lacks that sense of exploration and investigation that brings with it the magic, the freshness, the learning. The little things that keep our attention focused – noticing the subtleties of how our body feels in the pose today, paying attention to the wandering thoughts of the mind or watching the breath, etc. There is much to pay attention to for both the novice and the experienced practitioner alike and by keeping the mind engaged in this way we come to experience present moment awareness and the meditative-like state during our practice.

Repetition, however, often sees us switch to auto-pilot. It is much easier to have a beginners mind when we are new to something. We have a natural curiosity and a sense of awe and wonder that keeps the mind alert and engaged. This is far less likely when we are dealing with the familiar and we feel we can predict the outcome.

It takes a lot of mental skill and mindful attention to approach the familiar with a beginners mind.

As a parent I wrestle with my auto-pilot responses regularly. They serve as a shorthand way of addressing issues that come up repeatedly. It is a way to avoid having to re-invent the wheel every time I am called upon to settle the same arguments or make the same requests. It is very tempting when we have been over this same ground many times before (many!).  It is, however, also a way of disengaging. I am somehow just going through the motions and doing what I have always done. As with yoga, if I am not fully present whilst parenting my children I miss out on gaining valuable insight. If I am unable to approach an all-too-familiar situation with a fresh eye I am unable to find new solutions. I also miss out on staying present to my own experience in the moment. This leaves me more likely to be tossed around by the emotional waves that rush toward me in the challenging moments and lose sight of my parenting values.

Whether we are performing a long series of sun salutations in our yoga practice or repeatedly revisiting the same conversations with our children about unresolved issues, staying present with what our experience is helps us to grow and learn, and ultimately feel more engaged with life and with our children.

If you would like to learn more about yoga and mindfulness I will be holding a series of Art and Yoga workshops in and around Melbourne where we will explore these ideas in a creative and supportive environment. The first workshop in the series is for adults and the focus is on Bravery and Courage, learning to flex our bravery muscles . A second workshop will run for tweens and parents/caregivers and we look at Resilience. No yoga or art experience is necessary.
To find out more jump 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.