Six years ago, as a mother of two small children, I went through something that previously I couldn’t have imagined. I went through something that I now know many women face after having children; I lost my sense of self. I lost my sense of confidence and seemed to develop low self-esteem, which was pretty new to me. I didn’t seem to know anymore, outside of being a mother, who I was in the world.
Don’t get me wrong; I loved being a mother. I loved the freedom I had to be with my two gorgeous children in those precious years while they learned about the world through their expanding senses. It was magical. I enjoyed making informed and empowered choices about our lifestyle. More than ever, I recognised the need for healthy living and a sustainable world, and now I was a mother I was more inclined than ever to make good choices.
What I didn’t expect was the alienation I felt from everything else that was going on in the world. I couldn’t engage with friends and family in the ways I had previously. I was exhausted and overwhelmed; I sometimes felt lost, lonely and decidedly confused about who I was and what I wanted to do next.
I used to be able to go on breaks away, or sit up late talking it through with friends. I used to have a job that gave me freedom. I didn’t resent motherhood, but I craved something that I could do that would give me the sense of space and connection I so needed. I didn’t just want to do what I’d always done. Maybe before I’d have gone for a drink to let my hair down, now I just wanted something peaceful and healthy without children. It had to be free, and of course, easy to do because I was not working and was always so tired.
One day I’d just had enough, I was tearful and, dare I say it, emotional. My partner was around, and I asked him to take the kids so I could go for a walk alone. Once I was out, I managed a hundred yards before I just sat down under a tree to cry. I sat there for forty minutes, just watching and listening and being still. I listened to the birds, I watched the squirrels dive about on their essential missions, and I breathed in the vitality of nature. At the end of it, I felt decidedly restored.
I was surprised just how energised and happy I felt from that short interaction with the outdoors. It was quite profound. So from then on, I decided to find ways for me to do that every day.
Sometimes it was just 15 minutes before breakfast or half an hour before bed. For the next weeks and months, I committed to myself, for the benefit of everyone around me, that where possible I would do this as a practice every day. As a result, I can honestly say that I felt my sense of belonging soar and my happiness and sense of purpose with it.
Now if that was all, I could stop writing here. Hopefully, it would be a sweet story and a useful suggestion to support women in their emergence from the early years of mothering, and that would be it. But the thing I most want to share is what happened one day after I’d been doing this for a few months.
I was at the same tree, the one I’d made a point of returning to, the one where the birds seemed to know me now and where I felt quite at home. I was sat there mid-afternoon on a sunny mid-spring day when I heard my son chattering away to his Dad as they made their way along the path on the other side of the wall. He couldn’t see me, but it was nice to know he was there.
All of a sudden I heard him again shouting ‘Mummy, mummy I see Mummy’. My partner tried to guide him away from the gap in the fence where he’d spotted me, but we both knew that now that he’d seen me he would not want to leave without me.
It was then that I decided to invite my nearly 3-year-old to join me. My partner took the baby away for a walk. I explained to my little one that I was doing a special thing and if he wanted to join me, he could, but he’d have to sit very quietly and very still, and we were to look out for exciting and magical things around us. To my surprise, he agreed and seemed to sense the air of reverence and magic. He sat there still and quiet for about 7 minutes. Now, if you have ever known a 3-year-old, you will understand that 7 minutes of stillness and quiet at this age is quite a feat. Still, he really did manage this and when he finally spoke it was with a sudden burst of excitement about a little robin he’d spotted on the far bank of the gully.
It became a thing from then onwards to do a little ‘sit spot’ whenever we were out for walks to see what we could see if we were quiet and didn’t scare the wildlife away.
One day a few years later while we were out for a walk, both my children ran up and asked, ‘can we do a sit spot mummy, can we do a sit spot’. I had a tremendous sense of fulfilment and satisfaction. I honestly felt at that point that if I do nothing else for my children for the rest of their lives, I can almost say my job is complete. Well maybe that’s a little exaggerated, but really, I feel proud, I feel so so glad. They have discovered and still have a deep connection to nature in a way that it took me years to re-learn. They have a practice that they can always go back to, wherever they are and whatever they are doing. And with this also comes that sense of belonging, peace, ability to find stillness and pure joy that this practice brings. If you know me, you will know how much this means to me. Nature is a healer. This was my discovery, and now this is my passion.
For more tips of simple things to do in your everyday life to build your connection to nature for healing or restoration or even just for joy, or for simple ideas of ways you can effortlessly nurture that sense of connection to nature in your children I offer 1-to-1 nature mentoring and a programme of personal mentoring to raising nature connected children linked to the model of the Eight Shields.