As the year slowly draws to an end, I have been spending more and more time looking inwards to the year that has passed, and considering some gentle intentions for the year ahead. I’d like to share a little of my process of reflection with you here.
Over the past year…
- Frida has continued to delight us every day, and it is such a joy and a privilege to watch her grow more and more into herself with each passing year. Mothering her is easy; she makes it so (although growing into the parent I want to be and showing up for that messy inner work is hard). I have loved watching her develop new interests and learn more about the world, observing her as her brain changes and adapts and thrives.
- My husband Sam has continued to be a rock, encouraging and supporting me throughout the good times and the more challenging ones. A few months ago he quit his job as a social work manager, and has since been studying with an eye to doing something more data and research driven, so I’m excited to see what the new year will bring him.
- I started learning to drive, overcoming a big mental block to do so.
- We moved Frida into her own bedroom after three years (!) of bed and then room sharing. She’s ended up in our bed exactly twice since we moved her, once after she’d been sick, so I think I can now safely say the move was a success!
- I read some brilliant books, and slowly started to feel like my brain was repairing from the sleep deprivation I suffered over the first 18 months of Frida’s life.
- I gained real clarity around the impact I want my work to have, and I worked with hundreds of awesome parents through sell-out courses, a membership group, one in-person workshop, and privately too. This has been amazing and a real crash course in the logistics of running a business.
- My anxiety has really kicked my backside.
- Our families have mostly been in good health which I am so grateful for, and we welcomed a perfect new niece into the world who has filled our hearts with a lot of joy.
- I have met some really, really amazing women, both online and offline, who have unequivocally made my life better.
Some reflections as my work has evolved and changed
This past year has been one of huge change and growth, both joyful and challenging. Personally, 2018 came off the back of a really hard year: for any new readers, I essentially spent most of 2017 either pregnant or losing pregnancies, with five back to back losses. Although I feel much better now after a year, I still think about these losses and wonder about what shape our family will take in the future. This time last year I felt pretty lost, unsure with what I wanted to do with my life, apart from home educating our daughter. The new year I had assumed would be filled with pregnancy and a new baby suddenly loomed emptily at me, and I was filled with a creativity I wasn’t sure quite what to do with.
My work as an antenatal teacher no longer called to me in the way it once did but I wasn’t sure if I felt brave enough to truly create my own work which really called to me. I knew I wanted to keep working with parents, to support them long after their babies were in their arms, but putting myself out there felt vulnerable and terrifying.
A year later, and my work has evolved beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve been so privileged to work with hundreds of amazing parents from across the world, all from different walks of life but all united in their wish for a slower, more peaceful, more beautiful childhood for their children. This work has been immensely fulfilling and has brought me a huge amount of joy and a quiet sense of satisfaction that I am doing work which aligns with some of my deepest beliefs and values. It has stretched me intellectually, and has made me really rethink some of the stories I told myself about my own capability. It has shown me I have the capacity to learn, to grow, to overcome challenges, to uphold boundaries.
But I want to be honest. It hasn’t been easy. I think there is a real glamorisation online of being self-employed and starting a business which can obscure the fact that as well as being great for many reasons, working for yourself is really, really hard work. For me, working for myself has stretched me and pushed me in ways I had never experienced before. The highs of working with a brilliant new client, or the joy when I receive an email from someone on one of my courses explaining how much it’s helped them, are paired with the crashing lows of fear and anxiety. What happens if I get sick and I can’t work? Why can’t I stop thinking about work when I’m playing with my daughter? Why am I finding this so tiring when it also makes me so happy? Why don’t I feel like I “have it all” despite on paper achieving the things I want to be achieving? There’s also the sense of frustration when I can’t work out something on my laptop and have no IT support to call, the fear of messing up and having no-one to hide behind, the panic that comes when I have to say no to someone or something in order to protect my boundaries. It’s a wild ride!
I wasn’t sure if I should share these struggles, for fear of somehow sounding ungrateful or like I’m unhappy. Because I’m not. I am beyond grateful for the huge amounts of privilege I have which has allowed me to carve out this kind of joyful work for myself. But I also feel uncomfortable adding my voice to a myth that working for yourself is all roses and sunshine. For me, at least, it’s been a messy, difficult, glorious, painful process, and one which I am still very much in the middle of (writing that out, no wonder at times it feels like new parenthood all over again!), but which has been very much worth the hard work and sleepless nights.
Some of the writing I loved the most
I am ending the year with a strong intention to prioritise more time for reading, listening, learning, and challenging myself. Here are a handful of books, essays, articles, and podcasts which have had an impact on me this year (they’re not all new, but they’re all things I’ve read this year). If you haven’t already read them, I wholeheartedly recommend them all:
- The Argonauts. Hands down the best book I read this year (yes, I know I am super late to the party, I also read The Goldfinch for the first time this year). I was genuinely sad to have finished it, and it stayed with me for a long time.
- Daring Greatly. I realise it’s probably super cheesy to include a Brene Brown book, but this book shows brilliantly just how damaging shame can be to humans, and how vital vulnerability is to forging meaningful connections. A powerful book for parents, although it is not a “parenting book”.
- Nonviolent Communication. This is the book that has had the biggest impact on me this year. Everyone should read it – if they did I feel totally confident in saying the world would be a significantly better place. After reading this I loved it so much that I have since undertaken training in Nonviolent Communication, and hope to do more next year.
- The Gaze. Whenever I doubt our decision to home educate our daughter, I come back to Carol Black’s superlative essays and binge read them. It was hard to pick just one essay of hers to share – go and read them all, whether you plan on home educating or not.
- Everyday Blessings: Mindfulness for Parents. This book on mindful parenting is just so excellent. Mindfulness has become such a buzzword recently but Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn’s book shows how showing up in our parenting with presence and non-judgemental attention can transform our relationship with our children.
- “Addressing structural racism in the discipline will make for better history and better historians.” This brilliant short article in the LRB makes a powerful point about who writes and teaches history, and the impact of this on sustaining systemic racism. The same could also be said of many more subjects.
- All of Tara Brach’s talks and meditations. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to discover her! I especially love this talk on anxiety, this one on fear, and this one on happiness. She also has a super short meditation which I love and come back to all the time called Learning to Stay.
- Democracy for Young People. This podcast episode is really worth a listen if you haven’t heard it already (I’ve shared it on social media a few times). In it, Runciman makes a brilliant case for why we should – in all seriousness – lower the voting age to six. I’m also really enjoying his book How Democracy Ends at the moment.
- Liberating Motherhood. I have recommended this book so many times this year, and everyone who has read it has come back with a “WOW, this is what I needed to read”. A brilliant argument for why staying home with children can be a powerfully radical feminist act.
My hopes for 2019
Personally, I will continue my inner work to be more present – with myself, Frida, and Sam. Our rhythm has been a bit all over the place recently due to some changes in our schedules, and I want to get back into a strong rhythm which works for all of us. I want to spend more quality time with Sam (his Christmas gift from me was a night away together at the end of January) and put more energy into actively nurturing our marriage, rather than just coasting because nothing is wrong. I also want to get serious about protecting my mental health, as this year I’ve really noticed the effects when it’s not been so good.
Practically, I want to pass my driving test before my next birthday in May. Once I have passed my test I’m going to start learning an instrument, as despite some dabbling in my childhood I can’t currently play one. I’m thinking probably the piano, but I’m also considering the cello. We’re also having some work done to our home early next year, and I’m hoping this will spur us on further as we slowly work to free our home of clutter and mess. I’ve started physically turning my phone off in the evenings until the next morning, and it’s the one habit I am really adamant that I want to continue well into the new year, gifting myself time and mental space.
Professionally, I am already looking forward to working with many more families over 2019, as well as exploring new ways to make my work more accessible and far-reaching. I want to write more, teach more, speak more. I want to meet more of my brilliant clients face-to-face. My brand new course called Making Sense of Screens will go on sale in January which I’m really looking forward to teaching alongside my existing courses, and I have got some exciting content planned for 2019 in The Peaceful Home (which will open again to new members on the 29th December!)
I am also committing to increasing the support I have around me. I recently hired an accountant, and I’ve been having some conversations with someone who I hope will be able to help me with the admin side of running of my business from early next year. I’m thinking hard at the moment about how I could bring others in to help me grow the ways I can offer support, content, and community too.
So, that’s a little chunk of my reflecting. Overall this year has been wonderful, but not as easy as I would have perhaps imagined (or it perhaps looks from the outside)! I am ending it full of gratitude, and very much looking forward to the new year which is stretching out ahead of us.
If you are looking for practical support, easy to digest information, and a kind, non-judgemental community to walk beside you on your peaceful parenting journey, The Peaceful Home will open to new members on the 29th December. I look forward to welcoming some of you into our community!