My life has changed a great deal in the last couple of years, without toddlers and babies and I find every time I read her blog, I am brought back to days, in the thick of motherhood, where I was constantly faced with the challenge of maintaining my ideals of a Christ centered marriage and gentle parenting.
What strikes me most about this blog, and the reason I asked Hippie Housewife to guest post here can be summed up in two words. Relevant. Genuine.
Particularly peruse the series on attachment parenting.
Particularly pray for her over the next few weeks, while her family welcomes their new baby into the world, in the thick of motherhood, my friends.
Please welcome the Hippie Housewife!
With two young boys and a third child soon to arrive, many evenings I finish the bedtime routine only to find I’m ready to collapse into bed myself. This season, while full of sweet joys, can be relentlessly demanding and exhausting at the same time. I am too often impatient, ashamed at my own behaviours and attitudes that clash with the intentional, attachment-focused style of parenting I know to be best. When I confess these things to other mothers in similar seasons, they often breathe a sigh of relief. Me too, they say. Me too.
During these early years, when dealing with the unique challenges of young children, pregnancy, or both, maintaining those attachment ideals can be difficult. Other demanding or stressful situations, too, can distract from our attachment focus. How do we resist these challenges and distractions and continue to parent in an attachment-oriented way?
First, we stop resisting.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but it is only after we acknowledge our challenges and accept our reality that we can then find ways to work with it. Embrace what is instead of fighting it.
Once we’ve accepted our current challenges, we can move forward with finding ways to work with them rather than struggling against them. How can we maintain our attachment ideals during less-than-ideal times?
Cherish this season. Oh, it sounds trite, I know, but gratitude is the one thing that truly reaches our hearts and changes us. Cherish the small everyday moments: a baby’s sweet milky breath, a toddler’s sloppy kiss, a child’s excited discoveries. Welcome the snuggles in the middle of the night and the endless questions during the day. This is a season where children live in complete faith and with wild abandon; it is a treasure. Truly “the days are long but the years are short.” Soon, so soon, we will be looking back on this season from the other side, and it will be these small moments that we remember; somehow, the challenges seem to fade from our memory.
Look at them. Look at your children. Often I get caught up in looking at myself – what I need to get done, what I am trying to do, how I am feeling at the moment. Or I look at my child’s behaviour instead of the child himself. It is easy at those times to allow frustrations to bubble over. But when I force myself to truly look at my children, I see them as they truly are: unique creations of our Creator God, beautifully and passionately alive, deeply desiring connection with me, needing to be seen and heard and loved. Frustrations melt away and compassion remains in its place, allowing me to respond with love, empathy, and respect. Look at them. See them. Hear them. The stronger our relationships with our children, the deeper will be our understanding of their individual personalities, natural inclinations, hearts, and needs.
Keep it simple. Don’t make things harder than they need to be. Consider your priorities and go from there. Which of your responsibilities can you let go of for a season? How can you simplify your daily life? In what ways are you placing unrealistic expectations on yourself? Where are you comparing yourself to the image you have of other people’s lives? Let go of your “shoulds”, whether self-imposed or placed on you by others, and accept the limitations of your reality. Celebrate the day’s small victories.
Schedule it. Our best hopes and intentions for the day can so easily fail us. During seasons when our tiredness or distractions often get the best of us, simple schedules and routines can make a big difference in our carry through. Plan a small activity for the day and prepare the night before (find a recipe, for example, or place a game on the table to play with the kids after breakfast). Tie a habit to your daily routine (such as listening to Scripture while eating lunch each day). These things don’t have to be big – continue to keep things simple – but they allow us to better maintain one aspect of intentionality, leaving us with fewer “I wish we’d gotten around to that” regrets at the end of the day.
Build a support network. Maintaining a positive attachment focus is difficult enough during challenging seasons, but it can be even more so if those around you are unsupportive or vocally critical of an attachment-oriented approach to raising children. To strengthen resolve, build a supportive network of families and mentors who affirm this attachment focus. While it is preferential to have this support in-person, online support networks can be an excellent supplement or temporary replacement. Support networks are sources of help, information, encouragement, and relevant brainstorming when challenges arise. Intentionally build and immerse yourself in a mutually-supportive community.
Be honest. Whatever the situation, be honest with your kids and discuss it with them in an age-appropriate manner. Acknowledge your weakness and challenges. Apologize to your child, and seek forgiveness when you wrong them. None of the rest matters if we withhold that which they need most: the knowledge and assurance that they are worthy, that they don’t deserve to be treated poorly, and that our mistakes are not excused simply because we’re the adult. Likewise, be honest with your spouse about your needs, and be honest with your support network about how things are going and how they can help.
Don’t neglect yourself. While there are sacrifices to be made in each season of life, your own needs are important as well. Meeting those needs can be a challenge, but look for small things: a few moments in the bathroom to freshen up, fifteen minutes of daily quiet time for everyone, closing yourself in the bedroom with a good book while dinner bakes. Your partner and support network can be invaluable here; the give-and-take of a mutually-supportive community draws us even closer together.
Pray. Pray for strength, guidance, compassion, and forgiveness. Pray before you get out of bed in the morning, before you fall asleep at night, and throughout the day. Constant prayer reminds us of the constant presence of God.
Take the long view. The challenges and sacrifices of this season will bear fruit throughout the years. Early attachment sets the stage for emotional security and healthy relationships later on. Be cautious not to get too caught up in attachment parenting lists and “requirements”; there is a great deal of flexibility within the practical application of attachment ideals, allowing you to balance and meet your family’s unique needs. It is the heart behind attachment, responding sensitively to our children’s needs and seeking ways to build and strengthen a mutually-trusting relationship with them, that is of true importance. Always place the relationship above behaviour, seeking ways to strengthen connection with kindness, empathy, compassion, and respect, rather than breaking it down with dominance and fear. Maintain a lighthearted family atmosphere. Remember that you are all working together, not against each other; even during the challenging times, there is joy in that knowledge.
As the seasons change, new challenges will replace old ones. Always, though, we can make use of these principles. Cherish the unique joys, big and small, of the season. Look beyond the frustrations and behaviours to your child’s heart, truly seeing and hearing them. Seek practical ways to simplify your daily life, allowing you to live and parent more intentionally. Seek out and immerse yourself in a mutually-supportive community. Be honest with your children, your partner, and your support network about your challenges, and remember to care for your own needs too. Pray, and then pray more. Finally, remember the bigger picture, and place your family’s relationships above all else, treating each person with love, compassion, and respect.
With these things in mind, we can walk and grow alongside our children from one season to the next, gently teaching and guiding them towards maturity.
Cynthia is the mother of two little boys, an inquisitive homeschooled kindergartener and an energetic toddler, with a third little one to arrive any day now. She blogs at Hippie Housewife, where she shares her thoughts on attachment parenting, natural living, life as a Jesus-follower, and more, all tied together through her journey towards a more intentional life.