You never stop growing up: An interview with Lisa Reagan of Kindred Media

FreeImages.com - agastechegEvery one of us is on a journey through life, and each of us is at a different point on that journey. Some are at the very beginning: expecting their first baby or in the midst of the newborn months. Others, like me, are somewhere in the middle. I have 3 children, the oldest who is 9 years old. I have gone through the newborn and toddler stages 3 times, and I am enjoying the calm of middle childhood. Still others have teenagers or grown children, grandchildren or even great-grandchildren.

Each parent is constantly learning and growing in their role. At any point in our parenting journeys, we can reflect back on our early days as mothers or fathers and glow in the knowledge of how much we have changed since that…first positive pregnancy test…or our oldest child’s birth…or a seemingly endless night of breastfeeding…or our struggle with learning how to do positive discipline…or the first day of school…or our daughter’s first basketball win using her new sneakers we got her online…or our son’s first crush…or our child’s high school graduation…or our daughter’s wedding…or our son’s first child, by the way if you are looking a car for a gift in any of this celebrations you can use this convenient car finder tool if you’re in a hurry.

Did you ever think, before becoming a parent, that you — personally — would change so much by having a child? Before I became a mother, I thought that the basic course of human development went something like this: You are born, you grow and learn, and then you are an adult — a fully developed, done-grown human being.

lisa reaganBut, as API Resource Advisory Council member Lisa Reagan — Executive Editor of Kindred Media and Community and cofounder of Families for Conscious Living — explains in this API interview, we are never done growing and learning. Just as babies and children aim to hit certain milestones in their development, so are parents reaching their own “developmental” milestones.

API: Becoming a parent can be so transformative. How many children do you have, Lisa?

LISA: I just have the one, and he’s 17 now. I was telling some of my friends who would understand what am I saying without any kind of cultural mommy judgment — people who understand attachment and know me — and I said, “You know what? I feel like, it’s over — in a good way, though. I kind of feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, that mommy phase is over, and I have a young man in front of me.'”

[Joseph Chilton] Pearce [author of Magical Child] says you know you’ve done your job when they walk away and don’t look back. And when he [my son] does that to me now as a teenager, I am thrilled. I am, like, great!

I know when you have little ones, it is hard to imagine that this moment will come, but I told some of my friends that, and they said, “You know, you went through your developmental milestones as a mother, too.” So I grew up as well.

API: What a good way to say it.

LISA: And they’re right. Because of following the attachment model, I got my needs met to mother him, and there is nothing hanging on now. I did it. I met my needs to be his mother, and I met his needs, and it’s a completed thing now.

It is kind of a dangerous thing to say in our judgmental culture where people want to bash the heck out of moms for any reason at all, like, “Oh, aren’t I a neurotic clingy mom, especially coming from an attachment background?” The opposite could not be more true.

In fact, as Robin Grille [author of Parenting for a Peaceful World and API teleseminar guest] has shared with me, the helicopter parenting phenomenon is the polar opposite of Attachment Parenting, (AP), which recognizes and respects the child’s developmental needs, not the parent’s need for control and dominance.

I recommend that parents who can’t believe their children are ever going to grow up and leave — and you’re going to be thrilled to watch them fly out of the nest — to read John Breeding’s book Leaving Home. He is dead on right. It is harder for us than it is for them, because their whole job is to grow up and leave, but there is a way for us to meet our own needs in this process because we are growing as well and we are developing. That was a revelation.

API: I love how you say that we, as parents, are growing as well, that we are hitting our own milestones. I think there are so many people — myself included at a point — that think that you grow and then basically you are fully developed, that you are done, and then you become a mother. Really for me and for a lot of AP parents, we figure out that there is a whole lot more to go. That realization is really profound.

LISA: I wasn’t thinking about any of this big picture stuff when I had a child. I wasn’t. I just wanted to be a mom. I loved my baby, and I loved my husband and I was so grateful that I got to delay having a child until I could stay home.

But I, like many parents, began to question and felt there was something not right about a culture that did not support family wellness — going back to what Pearce calls the “bio-cultural conflict,” meaning we are torn between our biological imperatives to make wellness choices for our children, and our cultural imperatives for approval and acceptance.

But when we have context for what is happening within us and around us, when we have some kind of historical context, cultural context, even our own personal context, it is the context — the Big Picture — that can help us to shake off despondency and move toward empowerment and joy. And early on, this is what I saw in myself, a new mother who was unaware that my conscious choices for connection — with myself, my child, my husband, my community and planet — mattered.

Peace coverRead the entire API interview with Lisa Reagan in The Attached Family‘s online “Nurturing Peace” issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*First photo courtesy of FreeImages.com/agastecheg

Expecting your first baby? Talk about parenting now, before baby arrives

1208286_baby_loveHenry and Isabel had been married for 3 years when they found out they were expecting their first child.

They had dated for 4 years in college before getting married, and they were sure that they knew everything about each other. They were very excited about becoming parents and did everything the parenting magazines suggested: attended birth classes, completed registries, attended baby showers, interviewed pediatricians and pored over to-do lists to ensure that their house was ready for their new arrival. Isabel gushed to anyone willing to listen that Henry was going to be the best father in the world and that this baby was going to be the best thing to ever happen to them. You need to make sure everything is prepared in advance before the baby arrives, the baby room, the night monitor, anti-allergic Dapple detergent for baths i.e

In the delivery room, the doctors and nurses raised concerns about Isabel’s desire to birth naturally. Henry was raised by a doctor and learned to always defer to the medical community. So when the doctors recommended a Cesarean section, Henry was ready to get scrubbed and don the surgical attire. Everything happened so fast that Isabel never had a chance to voice her fears and concerns.

Isabel’s mom was waiting for them when they got home and immediately started taking care of her daughter and new granddaughter. Henry wasn’t sure what to do. He seemed to be constantly in the way, what with all the visitors and help they were getting, and he started feeling like a third wheel. He decided he would go back to work since Isabel seemed to have plenty of support. It’s important to have a rattan bassinet Australia for the baby to sleep comfortable.

After the extra help went away, Henry didn’t know what his role should be. Isabel was breastfeeding, the baby slept in their bed, and Isabel seemed to have all the answers. Henry had moved down the hall to the guest room, so he would get enough sleep for work. The baby needed Isabel all the time, so he decided he would just put in more hours at the office, because after all, it was his job to provide for his family. He was a father now.

Isabel, on the other hand, had slipped into postpartum depression. After everyone left, she was isolated because she was too afraid to breastfeed in public and never left the house. All her friends had disappeared, because they didn’t have kids and they didn’t understand why she couldn’t just leave the baby and go out with them. Isabel was angry about her C-section and resented Henry for his willingness to do whatever the doctors suggested. Isabel now described Henry as an uninvolved father whose only interest was advancing his career.

Three months after the baby’s arrival, Isabel and Henry were headed for divorce.

Henry and Isabel fell into parenting patterns as a reaction to their daughter’s birth, because they had not discussed what parenthood would be like and how they would face the challenges. In their 7 years together, they had never shared what they thought a father’s or mother’s role should look like or how they would support one another. They jumped in blind, and the whirlwind and emotional roller coaster of parenting led them down a hole of loneliness, misunderstanding and resentment.

There is never a better time to get to know your partner or spouse on a deeper level than when you are expecting a child. In every family are 2 very separate adults, each with different upbringings, different world views and different experiences. The time and energy you have for intimate conversations now may be missing for years once the baby is born. Before baby comes is the time to really look into Attachment Parenting International‘s First Principle of Parenting — when you can think clearly and begin to look at some of your childhood wounds, identify areas that may be difficult as you raise your own children, share your insights with your partner and become a team as you enter the uncharted waters of parenthood.

Many new parents don’t make the time for these conversations. Like Henry and Isabel, you may get caught up in the minor details of parenthood: where baby will sleep, what stroller to buy, how you will spend time together after baby is born, how you will keep up with your friends. These are what I call “surface conversations,” because they are safe and fun. They are part of the joy of expectant parenthood. But these plans may go awry when baby actually arrives. You cannot predict what this new person will be like and how that will change your plans.

Mommy & Baby babywearing in rockerI remember going crib shopping during my first pregnancy, insisting that we needed a crib, a play yard, a bassinet and fancy strollers. In my head, the baby would be breastfed and rocked, then laid down to fall asleep. I would go for long walks, hand-in-hand with my husband, with our baby in the stroller. Me and my husband also where thinking about signing our baby on after hours daycare because we are going to need to work more hours to maintain our kids.

As it turned out, my daughter would only sleep while nestled in someone’s arms. The crib and play yard quickly became fancy laundry baskets. In order to stay asleep, the baby had to be in someone’s arms, which led to shift sleeping for my husband and me until her system finally calmed enough so that she could sleep when not in motion.

Even though our plans for our daughter to sleep in the bassinet were thrown out the window, our value of always meeting her nighttime needs didn’t change at all. We had decided before she was born that we would always respond to her, that we would never use the cry-it-out method, and that we would stay in the same bed as a couple. Our original picture of how that would play out with cribs and play yards was easily cast to the side to accommodate our larger goals. And as our family has grown and tested us in new ways, we have been able to constantly ask one another for help to achieve our bigger goals, aware of the hurts we are trying to heal in the process and knowing that we are a team working towards a joint goal that we set together.

When the realities of new parenthood set in, you will be thankful you didn’t stop at the surface conversation. You will be glad you kept talking after the discussion about what crib to buy turned into a discussion about how your parents handled sleep and how you felt when you were left alone when you were scared, or how good it feels when you can reach across and hold your husband’s hand when you’ve had a nightmare.

Go under the surface and explore the big goals of parenting and your own emotional wounds from childhood. By having these conversations, you begin to understand where you and your partner are vulnerable, what your likely triggers may be and what kind of support you may need from each other along the way. You can also take time to review current research together, from a variety of sources, about birth, sleep, disciplineinfant daycare and other aspects of parenting you find important. If you take the time while you are expecting to talk about your most important goals and values, then when the big day finally arrives, you will have a joint vision in mind, making the start of parenting much smoother.

Start your parenting conversation today:

  1. What is your favorite childhood memory?
  2. What kind of relationship do you have with your parents and why?
  3. What were the rules in your house when you were little? Which ones are important to you, and which ones do you want to let go?
  4. What emotional wounds do you still carry from your childhood?
  5. When you misbehaved or got into trouble as a child, how did your parents discipline you, and do you think that helped you to change your behavior? What might have worked better?
  6. How did your parents relate to one another when you were around? What do you want to do similarly, and what do you want to do differently?
  7. What are your fears and worries about childbirth and parenting?
  8. What traits do you value in yourself and your spouse? Are there traits you wish you had that you want your children to have?
  9. What are the most important values, behaviors and attitudes you want to bring to parenting?
  10. How has current research and information about parenting changed some of the beliefs you held about parenting and the way you want to parent?

Control or the lack thereof

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Sept. 24, 2008, but it puts into perspective why new motherhood can sometimes be hard to adjust to.

lady---childrens-art-2-1422726-mI’ve always liked to feel in control of my life. In my pre-baby days — back in the mists of time — I used to work full time in various office environments. My desk was always tidy, my in-tray cleared by every evening, my out-tray filed away neatly. Any outstanding work issues were jotted down in my diary at 16:45 so that my head was clear of work details, and when I walked out that door every evening, I left work behind me!

And then I became a stay-at-home mammy.

This job is 24/7. My desk is a mess and covered in unmatched baby socks — don’t ask!. There’s no in-tray, which I suppose that’s a good thing, as it would be overflowing. There is no out-tray, although also no need for one as no task ever gets completed. My work diary has been replaced by a meal planner and a wall calendar.

My new boss is…how can I put this…quite changeable in her outlook on life. I never know, each morning, whether we will be continuing the project we started yesterday — covering the patio in chalk drawings — or liaising with other bosses and their employees — toddlers & their mums — or lunching in exotic locations — the garden, the porch, the stairs — or indeed whether I will be given the opportunity to sit down for lunch at all.

Yes, this new job is much more complex than my previous positions, and it is almost impossible to feel as if I am in control day-to-day, because truth be told, I’m not!

It’s been a huge change for me, and to be honest, it’s been a bit hard to get my head around at times. One minute I’m managing projects, organizing schedules, socializing with workmates and in control of my life. The next, I’m holding this tiny helpless bundle who I love so completely yet have no idea how to communicate with.

It’s been a huge learning experience for me and coming up to Littlepixie’s second birthday, I only now feel that I’m starting to catch up with myself.

But I’m learning to accept that I don’t need to be in control of everything. Littlepixie has taught me that.

I am slowly learning to stop sweating the small stuff. There are some things I like to keep control of: For example, we have a sit-down dinner every evening. And there are some things I let go of: For example, our sit-down dinner may involve sitting on the floor at Littlepixie’s kitchen table.

I know many of our friends and family think our parenting style is too intensive, that long-term breastfeeding is too much work, that cosleeping robs myself & my husband of our marital bed, that carrying Littlepixie will make her clingy and break my back, that having our dinner at a child’s table is pandering to her needs and spoiling her, and so on.

But I think the fact that all of this feels so right to us has made this new job easier. We haven’t had to fight against our instincts. We are letting them lead the way.

So I suppose while my head is only just now starting to catch up, my heart has been in control the whole time!

Half Pint Pixie

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