Especially for the Mamas

I wouldn’t normally make a special effort to write about a Hallmark holiday but I am cradling a gorgeous  newborn and I did just farewell my mum as she left for an eight-week overseas jaunt.

Mum has been washing our laundry and cooking for us for the past two weeks but that’s not why I’ll miss her. Truth is that even though she is overbearingly caring (and unashamedly opinionated), she is probably my best friend. We talk every day about everything and nothing and we live about 4.5 minutes away from each other. My husband doesn’t get it. I tell him it’s a wog thing and to get over it.

I became a mother at 21. I was in my last year at uni. One weekend I was partying all night and the next I was stocking up on Bonds rompers. My Jordan is the best thing that ever happened to me; she opened my eyes to love and showed me what life was all about. Having her put me on a clear path to self-discovery, yoga, courage and joy. She is my rock, my angel, my inspiration.

And now I have little India; as fair-haired as Jordy is dark. At two weeks old her gaze leaves me breathless.  I want to inhale her scent and forever caress the soft warmth that is her perfect little head.

When I had Jordan I discovered the way I was mothering had a label: apparently I was practicing  ‘attachment’ parenting. Attachment parenting is rooted deeply in traditional parenting styles so it involves  baby wearing, extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping. The theory is that when parents and babies form deep, trusting attachments the children grow into happy, independent, confident adults.

As Jordy grew and or relationship evolved I found I was also ‘conscious’ or ‘aware’ parenting. This method involves parenting with intention, honest communication, honouring and respecting children as spiritual beings and providing firm boundaries.

I will now do all of the above with Indi but she will have the added bonuses of my maturity and my yoga practice; I am far more confident and calm at 30 than I was at 21.

There’s a lot of scrutiny these days around mothers and how we choose to do things. At times it seems that women are divided into separate camps regarding childbirth, breastfeeding, nappies, childcare and work choices. Motherhood can sometimes feel like a lonely, confusing, guilt-ridden competition.

When my friends or yoga students express these feelings I always offer the same advice:

Listen to your heart: Screw the labels and do what feels right for you.  If you have doubts about something then don’t do it. Become informed about issues that confuse or concern you so that you can feel confident in your parenting choices.
Listen to your baby: Not your mum, aunty, neighbour or sister-in-law. All children are different so it makes sense that we will all parent quite differently. What works for my family and I may not work for my best friend and her family. Pay close attention to your child,  get to know them intimately so that it will be easy to follow their lead. Don’t fight against them or their nature, especially when they’re newborns. Let your baby be your guide and ignore everyone else including your doctor and midwife.
Breathe: It sounds simple but when you have a screaming baby, a toddler in a tantrum or a tween in a tizz it can help to take a deep breath and remember that your child is a fellow human being trying to make their way in the world the same way we are. Take some time to reflect on your interactions with your children, the way you speak to them and touch them. Look them in the eye often and tell them how much you love them. Be present as much as you can. I promise it will make you feel good and it will make your child’s heart dance.

Happy Mother’s Day ladies. We rock.

When Women Are Good to Each Other

I love women and I love being a woman. Some people might call me a feminist. On a drunken night out one of my colleagues told me that she imagined me burning my bras. I was flattered.

Feminism has become a dirty word these days. It evokes images of radical lesbians and man-haters who don’t wax their underarms. For the record I love all kinds of men and my armpits are hair-free.

What I don’t love is injustice against women and inequality for women. I simply cannot comprehend nor accept women being treated differently to men based on gender. Cannot. Will not. And I’m vocal about it. This includes the expectation that women will change their name upon marriage and gender roles in the home.

Deep down I believe that women are superior to men on many levels and I believe that men must embrace their natural femininity if we are ever going to achieve equality at home and at work. But that’s another post.

Today I want to write about what happens when women are good to each other because we all know that sometimes we can be our own worst enemies. We can be competitive, bitchy, judgmental, unsupportive and unforgiving of each other in regards to issues ranging from fashion, career, lifestyle and mothering choices.

But when women are good to each other the results are uplifting, empowering and inspiring.

Yesterday I had about 20 women at my home to celebrate the impending birth of my second daughter. She is due in a week and I deliberately made the event as close to the due date as possible because I wanted to bask in the glow of positive female energy as I approach the birth. (This might sound crazy but new studies suggest being amongst female friends releases oxytocin, the brain chemical responsible for producing feelings of love, contentment, calmness, trust and empathy.)

I was surrounded by my mother and mother-in-law, my daughter, two sisters, aunts and my closest girlfriends. We formed a circle around my birth altar, which was adorned with candles and flowers. We let barriers down, opened our hearts and celebrated a new life and the amazing journey of motherhood. We participated in a couple of birth rituals and then did what we do best: talked and ate.

After feasting I beached myself on the floor in the room that I am preparing to give birth in. In one corner a girlfriend breastfed her baby, in another my daughter was beading necklaces for everyone. There was music playing, a small circle of smokers in the backyard and laughter throughout the house.

I believe that our greatest strength as women is our ability to communicate honestly and articulately but sometimes we are afraid of this power or we misuse it. What unfolded in my home yesterday was my version of feminism: women of all ages, backgrounds and life experiences coming together in joy to support and nurture one another. When women dare to reach out to each other we affirm our individual and collective beauty and brilliance. I love it.

I’m still basking in my good fortune and there wasn’t a hairy armpit in sight.

Celebrating Women’s Day the Yoga Way

“In the grand scheme of things, women in the West were permitted to vote last week!”

Mark Whitwell, Yoga of Heart

If I had a guru, his name would be Mark Whitwell. Mark has been teaching authentic yoga in the lineage of Krishnamachrya and his son TKV Desikachar for over 20 years. I first met him in Sydney in 2009 and then did a weekend workshop in January.

I quote Mark because today is International Women’s Day (IWD). First celebrated in 1911, IWD recognises the economic, social and political achievements of women worldwide. Most women today have some knowledge of the way our lives have changed over the past century. We are also aware that the basic rights of women are still being developed in many parts of the world.

A woman’s feminine experience depends largely on the historical and social context into which she is born. I am a 30 year-old Australian woman who has had full access to health, education and political opportunities. I grew up with the freedom to dress, speak and act the way I pleased. As an adult I pursue a career full-time, sharing home and child-care duties with my husband. All my friends have similar lifestyles; we keep our maiden names, work hard and we spend our own money. We have no idea what it is like to have no access to education or employment, to be told what to wear and to serve a man before ourselves. We believe we are equal. We believe we are free. But are we?

In his book, Yoga of Heart, Mark talks about the continuing power struggles between women and men:

“Men are afraid of women’s power and many women are trying to to duplicate men rather than relax and be themselves.”

He believes that yoga has the power to change this and free both men and women from restrictive gender roles. In a nutshell; yoga can help both sexes to soften and recognise our mutuality rather than our duality. It is only when this happens that we can find our true power as humans.

Do you think women try to duplicate men? And do you think that men are afraid of the power of women? What does International Women’s Day mean to you?