A new round of debates about motherhood and feminism have been spawned by the book, “Conflict”, by Badinter. In The Eternal Internal Mommy Wars, Dell’Antonia describes the debates as an expression of the constant war within mothers (and now more frequently within fathers) between satisfying their own needs and those of their child. This dichotomy is a false one and causes endless suffering. More often than not, what is good for mommy is good for baby and visa versa. A beautiful example of this convergence was expressed by Anna Quindlen in an interview on Fresh Air , in which she spoke about her decision to stop drinking…
” I looked at my kids and I thought, OK, when you drink, your personality tends to change over the course of it. So you have one glass of wine and you’re kind of jolly and you have two and maybe you get a little quieter and you have three and maybe you get a little spiky. I think kids need as much consistency as possible and I don’t think a kid should have three or four different iterations of mom during the course of a given evening, and that’s why I stopped.”
She stopped drinking so her kids would have a consistent sense of Mom, but she also quit drinking because she was waging a battle with alcohol and alcohol was winning. In the end, she and her children won. When you take good care of yourself, you are taking good care of your child and when you take good care of your child you are taking good care of yourself. It doesn’t really matter if you are attachment parenting, or dedicated to a career outside the home. The important thing is that you are able to tune into your needs and those of your child through observation with eyes unclouded by social pressures. This takes some practice. It takes a calm nervous system, confidence and compassionate awareness of yourself and your family. This false dichotomy between self-care and other care is abundantly clear when you practice yoga. You go to your mat to take care of yourself and you come off your mat better equipped to nurture others. Are you trying to make a decision about child care and feel torn between your needs and those of your child? Does it feel as if they are needs in opposition to each other? Try this.
Before your practice write down the dilemma on a piece of paper. Put it away. Let the issue rest while you practice yoga at home for at least 20 mins. or go to a class. While practicing, focus on your breath, alignment, and how your body feels stretching, moving. When thoughts arise, notice them and return to the breath and body, knowing that the issue on the piece of paper will still be there when you finish this delicious practice.
After your practice, when you are ready. Look at what you wrote. See if there has been a shift in perspective, some relaxation of conflict. Notice if you feel more available to your family and yourself than you did before your practice.
Notice when you feel tension between your needs for self-care and your child’s needs. Is there a third alternative that would nurture you both? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes the solution is to add someone else into the mix to expand the circle of care.
Let me know if you have discovered ways to care for both yourself and your child. Have you discovered new resources? Or are you aware of how the gaps in our society have intensified conflicts for you? If so, what would you most like to see in terms of social change that would support healthy parents and children?
“May we all be safe, May we all be happy, may our lives unfold with ease”.
Alison Rogers Ed.D is a therapist in Boulder, CO. She also teaches yoga workshops for parents and sees them individually. When she isn’t at work nurturing a new generation of parents she can often be found scrambling up her beloved Mt. Sanitas, playing in the garden, on her yoga mat, or in the pottery studio.