Notes on a conference: Working Together for Children
Working Together for Children conference
Saturday 5th October 2019, Michaelhall Steiner School
I got up at 4:30am (that was after two night-time nappy changes) to catch my train to East Grinstead, and staggered home after 11pm. I knew it would be worth it for the SWSF conference - and it was!
It was inspiring and energising and I had some great conversations with some interesting, diverse and passionate women! I wanted to draw out a few of the ideas* that stood out for me (these ones are all from Clara Aerts), that resonated strongly with the conversations we have had at Gentle Days recently.
“Find a way to cherish parenthood”
In a culture in which we are inclined to value busy-ness, productivity and efficiency, it can be difficult to adjust to parenthood. Some of the qualities needed - patience, understanding, playfulness, sometimes self-sacrifice, and the ability to change gear to adapt to the needs and pace of a smaller person - take some time to develop. We wrestle with new challenges of parenthood: unprecedented extents of tiredness, loneliness, feelings of confusion or guilt or self-doubt or inadequacy, did I already say exhaustion? Perhaps we grieve the loss of the person we used to be, or the stimulating adult life we used to lead. How can we learn to enjoy, value and cherish the beautiful brief and vital work of caring for our babies and young children?
“Become artists of time”
One way that we might begin to do this is to become “artists of time” - to find ways of creating a here-and-now to be with our children. Technology can divert our attention. I’ve done it a thousand times: a quick message on my smartphone. A quick scroll through social media. But a child knows when we are absent. Our children need to experience our warm attention; to know our authentic interest in them; to be deeply connected with us. They are fully in the present. They need to feel held.
“Value the beauty of humility, brokenness and imperfection; value the scars in our own biographies.”
At the same time, we need to make some space for understanding and acceptance, for our children and ourselves as well. Clara Aerts drew on the Japanese concept of wabi sabi, which values qualities such as humility, brokenness and imperfection. Let’s not be part of a race to perfection, which is unreal and counter-productive. Instead, we could learn to look for the value of what is, and of what wants to become.
My challenge is to find time in the coming weeks week to give my children the warmth of my full, un-judgemental attention and deep interest, and notice and cherish those experiences of connection.
*Please note that I have selected, interpreted and added my own thoughts to ideas that were offered at the conference, in order to relate them to the parents at Gentle Days pregnant & baby group. I hope that I have been authentic to those original ideas, and apologise if I have misrepresented any of them.