Motherhood and architecture

Motherhood and architecture

Do you ever have random thoughts crop up at you from nowhere?

I most certainly do. And so it was that last night, I was lying awake in bed, watching the rhythmic rise and fall of my three year old’s chest when my thoughts, as they tend to do, turned towards the concept of motherhood. Anyone who knows me or has read a few of my blogs would know that I’m fascinated by the topic of motherhood. It intrigues me – the politics, the intrigue, the martyrdom, the drudgery, the misconceptions, the mummy wars. All of it. I often find it consumes my thoughts and, perhaps I’m simply a boring conversationalist, but yes, my conversations with people generally tend to navigate back towards motherhood too. It doesn’t help that my work revolves around motherhood and mothers. So I’m surrounded by it. Obsessed, my husband says.

But back to last night. At 2.30am, I was for some reason, comparing in my mind motherhood to other formal professions. And I came up with this random analogy of the role of a mother in comparison to an architect.

Bear with me here.

I was thinking about the theories, concepts and rules that underpin all those things good mothers “should” do. And I began to wonder about how many of these “shoulds” are actually 100pc essential, must have, must do, non-negotiables. And how much of motherhood is completely up to us? Totally at our own discretion, upon which to exert our own creative licence, to adorn with our own preferences and beliefs, and to orchestrate according to our own wants and needs.

And it made me think of architecture.

Granted, most of my architectural knowledge comes from binge watching Kevin McCloud on Grand Designs, but here’s how I see it:

Architects have a few rules they MUST stick by. They have to make sure the creation they design abides by the laws of physics, that it is structurally sound and safe. That it’s stable, and won’t all come crashing down with the first winter downpour.

But apart from that, they have creative licence. They can do what they want. And they are applauded and lauded for it. In architecture, creativity and design flair are commended. Sure an architect works to a brief set down by their client. But within that brief they can go for broke. Try something out. Client doesn’t like it? Grab your eraser and try something different.

So why not Mums?

What are the rules of motherhood?

What are the rules of motherhood?

Why can’t we value and express our individuality and creativity. Why can’t we curate our own style of motherhood and implement it with confidence and flair? We have clients too. In our case, the clients are our children. And bet your bottom dollar your child will let you know if they don’t like your style of motherhood.

But I have a feeling that most of us never let our creative motherhood flag fly. Not for fear of what our pint-sized clients might say. But for concern about going against what the “experts” recommend, getting some cardinal rule of motherhood wrong, and being judged harshly by the “Mummy Mafia” – whoever they are.

We’ve lost our ability to mother intuitively, from our own hearts and minds, and so defer our parenting decisions to others. Why?

It’s because we don’t have rules. Sure we have morality and tradition and research and guidelines galore. But all of those things differ across the globe, and have so many motherhood theories have been muddied and altered and bent and broken over the decades. Certainly there are some theories that hold more weight than others – I often speak about them here on this blog. But theories aren’t rules. And they are still always open to interpretation.

So as it stands there are no set rules in motherhood.

And there’s the major difference between architects and mothers – at least the major difference in regard to this analogy. An architect’s “musts” are set in stone. I’m sure there’s a bunch of engineers and some sort of giant building quality standards rule-book document that outlines beyond a shadow of a doubt just what it takes to ensure a structurally sound design under the laws of physics. (Because unlike the “laws” of motherhood, the laws of physics haven’t changed at all in the past few centuries). Here’s another difference. Architects have a bunch of useful tools to help them abide by their musts, to check all the necessary angles and physics calculations, to make sure their design is up to scratch. Those fancy calculators, the good old protractor, and don’t forget all those computer assisted drafting software programs. And then I bet they have to get whatever they design checked off by someone before it gets built. I don’t know the name of the man or woman with the red rubber stamp. But I know they’re there. Giving a definitive yes or no.

Mothers never get a definitive yes or no.

That’s what makes motherhood hard.

Sure, there will be an expert for every situation to give you an absolute yes or no. But take two steps to your left and you’ll find some other expert who will give you the exact opposite response for that particular situation.

There’s very few “musts” that 100 percent of experts can agree on when it comes to motherhood. And that’s what makes motherhood hard.

So in an effort to make it a little easier for you, here’s my list of motherhood “musts”:

1: You MUST figure out what works for you and your family – try a hundred things – always with the best of intentions – and figure out what does and doesn’t work.

2: You MUST go into motherhood with an enormous sense of compassion – for yourself, for your child, for your husband or partner, for your own parents, for the family dog. For everyone. Compassion is like magic dust. Worth it’s weight in gold.

3: You MUST realise that no one thing works for 100pc of people, 100pc of the time – nothing.

4: You MUST live a life according to your values – those guiding principles by which you aim to create a richer, fuller, more meaningful life, for you and your family – figure out what the are and live by them in all that you do – including parenthood.

5: You MUST have confidence in your ability to know what’s right for you – you’re the expert in your own life. After all it is YOUR life.

6: You MAY disregard any of the above advice – because, see point one again.

So there you have my “musts”. I hope they help. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go check ABC iview for the latest episode of Grand Designs.

Until next time,

Sarah xx

Don’t read the books…

Don’t read the books…

I’ve been doing more decluttering lately. I love it. It’s become my thing. I’ve been ruthless. Clothing, handbags, kids toys, the bathroom cabinet…. all decluttered. Without getting all woo-woo on you, it really does feel like energy flows much better in my uncluttered home. If only I could convince my children of that fact…

So yes, decluttering. I’m a convert. But like anyone, I still have my decluttering Achilles heel.

My bookshelf.

I love books. Always have, always will. I was the self-proclaimed read-a-thon champion in primary school, and I can still knock over a whimsical chick-lit novel in one day if I really put my mind to it (but only if the kids are staying at Grans.)

So I have quite a few books. Fiction, of course. But now I’m mostly buying non-fiction, work related tomes, and my bookshelf is beginning to buckle under the weight. Sure I buy a few things on kindle these days. But if I can, I always prefer to buy the physical copy. All the better to dog-ear, highlight and cover in post-it notes, I say.

So while I was perusing my overflowing bookshelf recently, trying to decide which books I could possibly bear to have torn from my possession, I came across all those baby books I accumulated while pregnant with my first. You know the ones. You probably got most of them at your baby shower, Kaz, Robyn, Tizzie… all the usual suspects. Actually I bet at least three people tried to give you a copy of Up The Duff, am I right??

This isn't all of them....

This isn’t all of them….

Seeing these titles reminded me of something my beautiful child health nurse , Tracey, said to me on one of her visits, when I, as any good bookworm new mother would, asked her what was the absolute, number one, best baby book to read to help me figure out what the heck to do with my baby.

With a sideways glance at the precariously balanced tower of parenting books on my bedside table, she simply said to me.

“Don’t read the baby books, read your baby”.

It was wonderful advice for me at the time, and it has always stuck with me. As a brand new mother, I was desperate for knowledge and advice, I scoured ALL the books, all the time, furtively searching for that one paragraph, that one sentence that would miraculously show me the way, that would cease my five week old daughter’s constant wailing and provide me with the tools and skills I needed to be a good parent. Looking back now I see how futile my incessant searching was. Instead of reading whenever I had a few moments of peace, I should have been resting, better yet, sleeping. Perhaps then I would have had a little more energy to manage the late nights, and a little extra zen to manage my own response to my baby’s crying.

So at that moment, the advice to stop reading books and start reading my baby was exactly what I needed to hear. And over time, I understood that Tracey wasn’t advocating getting rid of the baby books altogether. But at that moment, from her many years of experience supporting new mothers, she could see how much I was trying to intellectualise motherhood, and how I desperately needed to get my nose out of the books and stop looking for a written answer to such a visceral, experiential issue. I’m forever grateful to her for guiding me down a more intuitive path. And it’s one I continue to promote to the women in my programs and clinic today.

My advice: “Read the books, but read your baby too.”

I know how much we all value books. We know there are many people out there who are much smarter than we are, who have done the research, and who understand the microscopic workings of a baby’s brain and anatomy so much better than you or I ever will.  Luckily for us, these intelligent people put what they know to be true in book form pretty frequently. So yes, there is always value in seeking support from the books.

But just remember that a book doesn’t know you. It doesn’t know your baby. It doesn’t understand your connection or your family dynamics. Every mother is different, and every baby is different. There is no one-size fits all approach to parenting and babycare. What works for one mother may not necessarily work for another. And what works for a mother with her first child, may not be the answer for her second or subsequent child.

So what do we do? Use the books (or indeed the blogs, including this one) wisely. Consider them as a research tool, or a guidepost, but not as an absolute. See them as a suggestion, rather than an order. Most importantly read each book through your own lens. Read each book with critique in mind.

Most importantly, learn how to trust your own intuition a bit more. I’ve lost count of the number of mothers who have said to me “I wish I’d trusted my instincts more” with regard to their early parenting days. Mother’s intuition isn’t world famous for no reason, after all. You’ve got it. You just need to start trusting yourself enough to use it.

Until next time,