It literally felt like my head was about to burst.
She would not sleep. She would not stop screaming. She would not listen.
She would not give me A MOMENT OF PEACE.
Yet, I was a “gentle” parent.
Not only did I identify as a mother firmly entrenched in the realm of attachment parenting, but my work as a peri-natal counsellor had me researching, teaching and supporting other mums to follow the same philosophy.
I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was completely aligned with this kind of parenting. It was so important for me to stay committed to raising children who were securely attached, emotionally regulated and experienced optimal brain development.
But why then did I feel so overwhelmed, exhausted and conflicted?
Why was I so determined to “succeed” as a gentle, attached mother?
Because like everything in my life, as a high-achieving, perfection-seeking “good-girl”, I was approaching mothering from an attitude of black and white.
Success or failure.
Win or lose.
Best or worst.
Healthy or unhealthy.
Proud or ashamed.
Easy or hard.
Build or destroy.
I had created standards for myself that were impossible to live up to.
I’d lost access to the heart of motherhood.
The thing with the standards we set for ourselves, is that they don’t just come from thin air. They are derived from the deep, core beliefs we hold about who we are and how the world works.
Combined with our individual personalities, societal and cultural factors, these inherent beliefs manifest in early childhood and stay with us, embedded in our subconscious.
By the time we become a parent, we have firmly fixed ideas and play out repeated patterns of being thanks to these core beliefs. This means that our approach to mothering will have a definite flavour, even before we actually embark on this new phase in our lives.
So here I was, a new mum with an extraordinarily intense, sensitive child; operating from subconscious messaging that kept me as a slave to my mind and away from the powerful wisdom of my TRUTH.
The “perfect attachment mama” precedent I’d set for myself was completely unsustainable.
I was struggling.
Fast forward to the birth of my second daughter and despite having a newborn again, my eldest was still the tough one.
That first year with two children was incredibly challenging.
You see, it took me a while to figure out that although all the books and the experts I followed were providing me with wonderful tools and resources to support me in my mothering, I was missing a potent opportunity for growth.
Until I began to acknowledge the little voice inside telling me to dive deeper into who I was, I couldn’t see the trap I’d fallen into.
I was completely disembodied and numb to my own feminine wisdom.
I was mothering from my intellect, masquerading as my intuition.
I was mothering from my head, not my heart.
What both my daughters, particularly my eldest, needed from me was not an expert parenting strategy. It was not sacrificial martyrdom. It was not my barely-keeping-it-together attempts at remaining conscious and connected when I was on the verge of meltdown. It was CERTAINLY not the shame I kept locked in the shadows, seeping out as huge adult tantrums when I hadn’t honoured my humanness enough to be honest about my struggles.
They needed me to be REAL.
They needed me to face my demons like a grown-ass woman.
They needed me to honour my pain AND my desires.
They needed me to make space for the things that lit me up and filled my cup, AWAY from their demands.
They needed a mother who could look them in the eye, see her own reflection mirrored back at her and as uncomfortable as it may be, acknowledge what SHE must do to grow.
As I followed the breadcrumbs that lead me towards experiences urging me to step out of the cognitive space and into an embodied one, things became much clearer.
I chose dancing over the gym. Nature over the couch. Self-pleasure over work. Fun over obligation. Adventurous over sensible. Being over doing.
I chose to feel wild and brave and to trust that those experiences would lead me home to my truth.
All of a sudden an aliveness returned.
The kind of aliveness that trumps depletion.
By inhabiting my body, like REALLY inhabiting her – not just existing in my skin, I learned that SHE always knows what’s right.
Yes, it’s a refined intuition, but it’s more than that. It’s a way of dropping into our feminine essence with reverence. Feeling into her complexity, her polarity, her shadow and her light.
An opportunity to feel and then release those feelings, without attachment to the stories; making room for the gift of pleasure that is always available to us.
Suffice to say, I’m a different woman, mum and wife these days.
I’ve found the key and unlocked the heart of motherhood. The motherhood that feels genuine and spacious to ME.
As an embodied mother, I FEEL, RESPOND & REFLECT on everything that happens, with far more acceptance and a shit tonne more love.
I still align with gentle parenting, but I’m sure as hell not feeling gentle 24/7 and this is NORMAL.
I’m conscious, for sure. But there are times I have my blinkers on like nobody’s business and it takes my children and husband to trigger me into self-reflection.
I absolutely stand by mothering from a place of connection. But, I know that some days I need to be present to my own passions, and my girls will benefit from being with others with the emotional bandwidth to nurture them better.
At the end of the day, it’s not so much how I’ve altered my approach, but what I’ve introduced.
Self-compassion and self-devotion.
This wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t pushed through the discomfort of putting myself first and diving into what felt like scary, uncertain and vulnerability inducing experiences that would guide me back into my body.
The kind of experiences that feel compelling, exciting and simultaneously terrifying AF.
They’re the ones you’ve gotta pursue.
Now I know that I can read all I like and listen to all the experts in the world, but ultimately as an embodied mother, my feminine wisdom will decipher what’s for me and what’s not for me.
And that’s ok. More than ok.
It’s integrity. It’s self-knowing. It’s deeply held trust in what’s right for you and your family.
It’s mothering from the heart.
If you desire to move out of your head and into the heart of motherhood, I would be honoured to support you. I invite you to book a complimentary 40 minute call with me to uncover what you want and what stands in the way of you claiming your deepest desires.
Kate Leiper is a mum of 2 daughters, as well as a Master Qualified Psychotherapist & Feminine Embodiment Coach. With a deep and relentless passion for supporting women to unleash and embrace all of who they are in womanhood, Kate works 1:1 with clients and facilitates both online and face-to-face workshops and group programs around thriving in motherhood, softening into the sensual creative feminine, and cultivating an empowered and embodied life.
Kate developed the Diamond Mother Archetypes, a framework for exploring the multi-faceted essence of a contemporary woman.