The Mother Dance

It’s nearly Mother’s Day here in the UK, and I’ve been thinking about Harriet Lerner’s wonderful book ‘The Mother Dance’ that I received years ago from a wonderful colleague, and dip into often. Part of my preparation for this Mother’s Day is going to be putting my feet up with a cup of tea and delving back into this wonderful source of wisdom.

‘From the celebrated author of The Dance of Anger comes an extraordinary book about mothering and how it transforms us — and all our relationships — inside and out. Written from her dual perspective as a psychologist and a mother, Lerner brings us deeply personal tales that run the gamut from the hilarious to the heart-wrenching. From birth or adoption to the empty nest, The Mother Dance teaches the basic lessons of motherhood: that we are not in control of what happens to our children, that most of what we worry about doesn’t happen, and that our children will love us with all our imperfections if we can do the same for them. Here is a gloriously witty and moving book about what it means to dance the mother dance.’

I’m a daughter, a granddaughter and a mother, and recently I’ve been mulling over what this means to me in the here and now, the Russian dolls fitting into each other. My maternal family come from northern France, with the history of upheaval and trauma that entails, through war and struggle. There are family stories of my grandmother having to abandon her beloved red bedcover as the family tried to escape the Occupied Zone because it was attracting attention from fighter planes above.

I’m going to be thinking about the things that happened in my family that continue to affect how I show up in the world and I invite you at this time that is focussed on mothers and mothering to do the same. You might ask yourself:

What are my beliefs about mothers?

Is this different to the mother I was given?

How do I mother the people in my life? (We can all do this, including those who don’t identify as female or feminine)

How could I mother them in a way that better aligns with my values?

What kind of mothering do I need right now?

How can I include more of that in my life?

Online Digital Counselling

I’ve been spending this summer honing my skills in online counselling, working on the Relate Live Chat service. It offers 30 minute chats with highly qualified and experienced relationship counsellors.

digitalcounselling

It’s been a while since I’ve had to type quite so much, and fast, and it’s also been incredibly motivating! Often I’ve been able to help people who would never book a traditional face to face counselling appointment because of isolation, or mobility issues, or sometimes because of the nature of what they’ve wanted help with.

Online counselling, in the form of web chat or email counselling, can be a godsend for new parents, airline crew or anyone working shifts because it’s on demand and people can engage when and how they want to. I’ve spoken with many more young adults than I would when I’m in my counselling room and they’ve told me that our chats have been helpful.

I’m so excited about adding online counselling to the ways I can connect with people because of the frustrations I’ve had in the past in not being able to provide a service for people who can’t turn up to a face to face session regularly. We have a lot of people here in the North East who work offshore so I’ve had many conversations about different ways to access support and this feels like a big step forward.

And of course it’s good for me to keep fresh and challenged, to continue to grow just as I encourage my clients to do!

The Wonder Down Under

I’m always keen to share books and other resources that are useful to people and having read The Wonder Down Under I’m mentioning it to friends, colleagues and clients who I’m sure will all find it useful.

The book, published in 2018, is written by two Norwegian medical students and sex educators who aim to ‘bring genital elightenment to the masses’. So far so good, but in practice I find books about sex tend to be quite dry (take it from someone who’s waded through Schnarch and a lot of Masters and Johnson research, I know, I’m weird!)

This one is written very much with the reader in mind, sentences are punchy and the tone is conversational. There’s no judgement, instead a lot of practical advice and information about what a healthy body and sex life looks like and how to keep it that way.

Books about sex and our bodies do tend to date very quickly as our understanding develops, for example I’d never read anything more than 5 years old about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as the information is very likely to have been overtaken by more up to date research. This book includes up to date information about STIs which is great but once it’s aged a bit I’d recommend reading it in conjunction with a bit of research.

I’d recommend this book to parents of teens of both genders, all educators of children, counsellors, women and the people who love them.

We’re Separating .. Help!

Separation and Divorce are tough, whatever the circumstances surrounding them. Sometimes a couple come to the decision to part ways together; more often one person makes the decision, and in some cases the other person has no idea their partner is unhappy in the relationship until the point at which they make the announcement they want to leave.

separation .. get support

Usually, adults are trying to make important practical decisions that will impact their future while also managing the strong emotions that are completely normal when we go through big changes in our lives.

You might be okay with your decision to leave the relationship but be confused because you’re finding the other changes around the separation a challenge. Things like the loss of your home, a dual income, your pets, seeing mutual friends, or the status of being ‘a couple’. And when other factors like affairs and looking after children are added into the mix sometimes it can feel like being on a rollercoaster.

When we go through any change there are stages we have to navigate. In the example above someone may have reached the end stage of Accepting that for them the relationship is over but still be right at the start of processing the other changes. Their ex partner on the other hand could be in Shock and Denial that the couple relationship is at an end, but be further ahead in coming to terms with the more practical aspects of the separation. People need different kinds of support as they go through the different stages, and if you feel you’re stuck in one of these stages it’s a good idea to ask for help.

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When ex partners are at different stages in this Cycle of Change practical negotiations can often get stuck, as one or both people bring their hearts to the table as well as their heads. This is why I hear often that mediation has been tried early on and failed because one or both partners just aren’t in the right place emotionally.

The challenge is to get to a place where although a couple relationship has ended, a productive relationship as exes has begun.

Making decisions around your children

In an ideal world parents will still be able to communicate together to make important decisions for their children. The Parenting Plan created by CafCass is a really useful tool that maps out most of the important choices parents have to make during childhood. Printing one out each and considering what choices you would like for your child can be a great way to prepare in advance for parenting discussions. Particularly consider WHERE those beliefs are coming from:
Is it because I had/didn’t have that?
Is that choice relevant/appropriate to MY child’s situation?
What can I compromise on and where can I give ground?

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Mediation can be a good next option when both parents are willing to negotiate but talking together might still feel tricky. Agreements made in mediation can be court stamped if parents believe this is necessary.

Collaborative Law focusses on working together with specially trained solicitors for a mutually beneficial result, and acknowledges that often people need to work through their normal emotional responses to the separation in order to move forward. It avoids the expense, disruption and emotional distress of going to court.

And never forget that however difficult things may be, the best way to look after your children during any kind of stress and disruption is to LOOK AFTER YOURSELF. Talk to friends, family and / or a counsellor, get exercise, eat well and rest when you need to. Put limits around the emotional energy you give to the situation.

And never forget to hold HOPE for the future. One day the storm clouds will part and you will see the good work you’ve done paying dividends.

More Resources

Sorting out Separation is part of the Government’s help & support for separated families initiative  . https://www.sortingoutseparation.org.uk/

The Parent Connection . Information about parenting after parting . https://theparentconnection.org.uk/

Mindful Relationships

I was lucky enough to be asked by the lovely people at The Counsellors’ Cafe to write a piece of my choice and I chose Mindful Relationships, because as a practising Buddhist it’s something that I apply to my relationships and to my work as a relationship therapist.

It was fun writing the piece as it gave me a chance to pull out some useful resources for people from the many I’ve collected over the years on being mindful in relationships mindful parenting and mindful families.

Go take a look and let me know what you thought below, or on the Counsellor’s Cafe comments area.

I’m also very excited to be part of the first Mindful Relationships Summit, an online conference from 17 to 21 May 2017 about  how we can create and sustain mindful relationships and embrace love as a spiritual practice. Some of my favourite speakers on mindfuless and relationships like Susan Piver, Rick Hanson and Dr Kristin Neff will be there.

It’s absolutely free and it would be great if you’d consider joining me.

Lotus

Books and Other Relationship Resources

WEBSITES

Relate . http://relate.org.uk . The Relationship People, UK

Project Happily Ever After blog . http://www.projecthappilyeverafter.com/my-blog/ .

“I started this site because I didn’t want anyone to feel the shame, loneliness and despair that I felt when trying to fix what, to me, seemed like an impossible-to-save marriage. You are not alone. You are not a failure. You are not a bad person. Your life is not over. You deserve happiness and you can find it.”

One Plus One . www.oneplusone.org.uk .

“A UK charity focused on strengthening relationships, we create resources for frontline workers to provide relationship support for couples & families.”

Resolution . http://resolution.org.uk .

“Resolution’s 6,500 members are family lawyers and other professionals committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes. Our members encourage solutions that consider the needs of the whole family – and in particular the best interests of children.”

Mike Gray Couple Counselling . https://www.mikegraycounselling.co.uk .

If you’re in the Kingston upon Thames and Surbiton area my wonderful colleague Mike offers individual and couple counselling.

BOOKS

A selection of books and other lovely things that I have recommended to clients to help improve their relationships can be found by clicking here

useful relationship books

If you would like some more advice on useful resources for your specific situation, or to book a face to face session please use the form below or give me a call: