As I folded my washing last night, anticipating the chocolate-covered vegan “ice-cream” I was planning to enjoy once finished, I thought about the switch I’ve been making to an almost-vegan diet. For over a year, I’ve been reducing the amount of animal product in my diet. For me, meat was easy to give up but cheese and baking (which usually contains dairy and eggs) have been more difficult to reduce and I can’t bring myself to spoil a good coffee by using a milk substitute. Even so, I have come a long way and my diet is now only lightly sprinkled with animal products rather than liberally doused with them as it once was. But, this essay is not about dietary choices (stick with me and we’ll get to the parenting stuff in a smidge). What is significant about becoming almost-vegan is how I have gone about it. My approach has been to crowd out the animal products and processed food with the good stuff – plant-based wholefood options like fruit, veggies, nuts and grains. My body nourished and my energy levels sustained, I don’t crave or have room for much of the food I’m trying to avoid – just the occasional vegan desert to reward myself for actually folding the washing rather than walking past it.

Me being me, as I wrestled with a fitted sheet, I also wondered how that philosophy – to crowd out the bad stuff with the good – might work in life in general. When there’s something we would like less of, instead of figuring out how to get rid of it, it might sometimes work better to crowd it out with that which we want more of. Less fatigue? Crowd it out with more sleep, joyful physical activity and nutritious food. Less anxiety? Crowd it out with people, activities and places that make us feel reassured and encouraged. Less busyness? Crowd it out with unscheduled time (ironically, by scheduling unscheduled time in our diaries and treating it equal to other commitments). This idea of crowding out the bad with the good is perhaps not rocket science but, for me, it’s a new way of looking at things and creating change so my theory is still forming, but I think there might be something in it.

As I bunched the sheet up into a ball, I wondered how this idea could be applied to parenting. While I’m a strong believer in accepting our child and the moment we’re in as they stand before us, rather than resisting them, I also think we have a lot of power to set the tone in our homes and to lead our families in new directions. As I thought about it, I realised that I have been using this crowding out approach to do just that for many years without realising it.

Even before I had my own children and I was teaching primary school, I used it to make change to our classroom dynamic in various ways. For example, I liked my students to be able to enjoy and discuss what they were working on with one another. But, if the noise levels in the classroom became too loud, I had to ask for quiet. Calling out over their escalating voices for them to “quieten down please” often didn’t work – it just added to the noise. Instead, I learned to bring my own voice down to a whisper so my students had to quieten down enough to be able to hear me. Soon, they would all be whispering to each other as they went about their work and everyone could think more easily. I crowded out the noise with quietness. This is a very literal and simple example but it illustrates my point.

I’ve also used crowding out when I’ve found myself in a bit of a rut with my own kids. Recently, I realised with stabs of regret that I had become rather impatient with and critical of my boys. I had been pointing out things they could do differently in the name of “teaching” them but, when I got honest with myself, I admitted that, really, I was just finding some of their age-appropriate behaviour irritating and my criticisms weren’t constructive but an outlet for my frustration. I sensed that my words were beginning to weigh my boys down and I knew they were the most likely cause of the slight withdrawal and defiance I had begun to notice in them.

Once I’d caught myself, I committed to turning the dynamic around by building my boys up with appreciation for the great things I noticed about them. I told Jake how kind and caring his offer to help with his little brother’s party was. I praised Thomas’ laser-focus and effort at cricket practice. I thanked them for jobs they did around the house without complaining. Looking for the good in my sons has stolen the air from my frustrations, refocusing me and, in turn, my boys, on all the ways that they are kind, capable and charming. I’ve been crowding out the criticisms with compliments and, as a result, my connection with both of my boys has been repaired and they are feeling better about themselves, even stepping up in new ways because they see me believing in and appreciating them.


So, instead of fighting against it when we’re faced with an unpleasant or difficult pattern in our homes, we could try asking ourselves “what would feel good?” and set about bringing more of that into our day. Crowding out the bad with the good keeps our focus and effort on what we do want rather than what we don’t want. It’s also a practical, actionable strategy for change. And it doesn’t apply only to our parenting. While parenting is the arena in which we learn many lessons, most of what we learn is equally relevant to numerous other areas of our lives also.

Much love,

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I really appreciate it when adults make an effort to engage my boys in conversation. It sharpens their social & communication skills and shows them that what they have to say is important. But some people don’t give children much credit or take enough care over what they say when talking with children. There are two particular questions that adults commonly ask children over the festive season that make me cringe. I especially cringe when they are asked of my boys because they give messages about Christmas that conflict with those I am trying to teach them. The questions appear innocent and I know they are intended as friendly & fun but I would love to see them depopularised.


What do you want for Christmas?

This is the go-to question people ask when they want to open up conversation with a child at Christmas Time. It very effectively draws out even the most socially reticent child. I asked many children this question myself before having my own. It was becoming a parent that prompted me to give more thought to the materialism and consumption I was upholding by asking it. Other related questions, such as “how many presents are under the tree for you?” or, worse, “what is Santa bringing you for Christmas?” all make me wince.

If what do you want for Christmas? is the question they are asked most often at Christmas time, our children will reasonably assume that getting presents is the most important part of Christmas. I appreciate that getting presents is exciting but I wonder if the way children sometimes hyper-focus on what they are going to get for Christmas is an outcome of the way the adults around them over-emphasise it.

For our family, showing kindness and being with loved ones are at the heart of the season. It’s about generosity of spirit rather than generosity of material things. I think a lot of people actually feel similarly to us but it doesn’t show in the way they talk to children about Christmas.  

Have you been good?

The implication of this question is, of course, that, if you’re not good, Santa won’t bring you any presents this year. Many adults (even those who aren’t the child’s parent) go further and use the threat of missing out on a visit from Santa to manipulate children’s behaviour when it’s not meeting their expectations.

Apart from, again, directing the child’s attention towards receiving presents rather than the more valuable elements of Christmas, the suggestion in this question is that the child may not “deserve” presents. No child (or adult) is perfect and there’s no need to undermine their sense of worthiness by questioning their deserving of a visit from Santa. Some children won’t think twice when asked this question, taking it as a bit of fun. But the more sensitive or literally-minded will worriedly begin trying to calculate whether they’ve been “good” enough to scrape onto The List. Even if they no longer believe in Santa, for these children, this question may have them doubting their deserving. And, when you’re speaking to a child, you  can never truly know which type of child you are speaking to.

I’m no Christmas Grinch but, as with all things parenting, I am intentional. Although I know that people are well-meaning, their carelessness when speaking with my children bothers me, especially at a time of year which lends itself to emphasising our values and the meaningful things in life. It really does take a village to raise a child and sometimes I wish our village would lead our children more mindfully and towards the things that really matter.


It’s time to step off my soap box and offer some suggestions. Below are a few alternative questions to initiate conversation with the children in your life at Christmas Time. Which ones you use will depend on the children and how well you know them.

* How are you celebrating Christmas this year? (Nice ‘n’ simple to get the ball rolling.)
* Who are you spending Christmas with?
* What are you looking forward to most about Christmas? (If they say “presents!”, which I know my kids probably will,they’re not bad kids with no sense of the meaning of Christmas. But perhaps say, “Exciting! What else are you looking forward to?”)
* Who are you going to do something nice for this Christmas?
* What Christmas traditions do you have in your family? (Perhaps begin by sharing one of your own.)
* What are you doing to help get ready for Christmas?
* What’s your favourite Christmas song/story?
* Do you know any Christmas jokes? (Have a good one of your own up your sleeve).

My list isn’t exhaustive so, if you have other suggestions, please share them in the comments below.  

Much love,

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Before having children, I was a dedicated, passionate primary school teacher.  I felt an enormous sense of responsibility and commitment to my students.  Between my own conscientiousness and the demands of the job, though, I realised that teaching wasn’t a sustainable career for me.  I was constantly spread too thin, exhausted to my bones, without the energy to enjoy my students or the tiny pieces I had left of my personal life.  No number of productivity hacks made the job any more manageable, so, after nearly eight years, I threw my hands up in defeat.  I had to grieve the loss of what had been a dearly-held hope that teaching would be a meaningful contribution I would make throughout my life.

What helped me to let go was knowing that teaching was my Plan B.  Plan A had always been to be a mum and, not long after resigning from teaching, I happily learned that I was pregnant.  Having felt over-stretched and unable to meet many of the individual needs of my students, nothing filled my heart more than the prospect of having just one child (maybe, in future, two) to care for and of being in a position to meet many more of their needs so that they could thrive.  


While I still had a pre-schooler at home, I felt little tension between my choice to stay home with my boys and society’s expectations.  But, since my youngest started school in March this year, that has shifted.  The inevitable question upon meeting new people – “so, what do you do?” – fills me with dread.   I do loads.  But I don’t think anyone wants to hear about the miles of washing I hang, the numerous emails I send to administer our lives or the multiple trips I make to the supermarket (I always forget something!).  Sometimes I mention the volunteer teaching I do at my sons’ school or the work I do to help run my husband’s business or the essays like this one that I write about parenting.  But none of these things earn me money or power either so usually don’t get taken seriously by others.  Without a job title and an organisation of some sort to attach myself to, I am quickly written off and the focus of conversation soon returns to the person with an income and a position.

I usually find myself feeling embarrassed and inadequate in such situations and it shows in the way I speak about “what I do”.  I gloss over information about myself and say little that conveys the sense of contribution and growth I actually experience as a stay at home parent.  In an era in which people are expected to hustle & keep constantly busy and in which our value is measured by our wealth & influence, I feel decidedly insignificant.  The truth is, though, that I have never been ambitious.  My deepest satisfaction has always been in the intimacy of personal relationships and the experience of a spiritual connection with life – both of which I get through parenting.

I imagine I would be met with blank stares if I shared that with new acquaintances inquiring about what I do.

Feeling undervalued by others was a complication of choosing to be a stay-at-home mum that I expected but I find myself sensitive to other insecurities too.
I feel guilty that my family has the financial option for me to stay at home and focus on that which is most important to me while some other parents work two jobs just to feed, clothe and shelter their families, getting little time to spend together.
I hear the voices of women from the past who fought for me to have the freedom of options determinedly warning me “never depend on a man for your money” (which, let’s face it, I do).  Am I letting them down?
I wonder about the example I’m setting for my boys around women, roles and work.
And, one that caught me by surprise – the feeling that, with all this time on my hands, I should at least be keeping a pristine house, making meals from scratch and keeping myself in particularly good shape.  (For the record, none of these things happen).  


Recently, I had a day of chores and plans ahead of me but my son woke up sick and needed to stay home from school.  I felt so grateful that I had the flexibility to clear my day & care for him and that my husband & I didn’t have to negotiate over whose work day would be least affected by staying home.  I thought of the many families for whom having a sick child would place significant stress on everyone.

As a stay at home parent, I am a buffer for my family.  I absorb pressures that otherwise everyone would endure.  I pick up extras from the supermarket while my boys are at school so they don’t have be dragged along when they are tired at the end of the day.  I can be home for the electrician’s visit so my husband can focus on his business.  I can deliver my husband’s drill to him on the other side of town when he forgets to take it to a job with him (true story – and I’ll admit to being a bit grumpy about it.).  Because I am home, I have the capacity to deal with these unexpected things so that my family doesn’t have to.

As I’ve been writing this, I have also remembered making a bucket list of sorts in my early twenties.  The list is long gone and I don’t remember anything on it, except for one item – “Be a fully present mother”.  Being a stay at home parent has enabled me to reach closer and closer to this desire.  Having spent the day administering the family and our business, usually fitting in some exercise or meditation, I feel ready to give my full attention to my boys when I pick them up from school.  I’m not trying to juggle chores or self-care at the same time as parenting.  I don’t have a perfect division between these things but I feel increasingly able to “do one thing at a time”, as the Zen masters suggest we do, and, as a result, to show up more fully for everything, especially for my family.  


It was only last week that I realised, “Oh, I’m living my dream, my Plan A!   Why am I squandering it by entertaining my ego’s concerns about being perceived as lazy and insignificant?”  Maybe I’m old-fashioned and uncool but I’m also sane and engaged with life in a way I never have been before, which is truly the greatest gift to myself and my family.  I am living in accordance with my highest priorities and desires.

I am not for a moment suggesting that staying at home is the best choice for everyone.  What I am advocating for is knowing what works for ourselves and our families and deliberately designing a life based on that, rather than restricting ourselves to convention and standard measures of success.  I know that, as my family and I inevitably change, the time may come when being a stay-at-home parent may no longer fit but I am finally going to give myself permission to enjoy it while I can.  

Much love,


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Earlier in the year, my husband and I were arguing at the family dinner table.  It wasn’t over anything particularly big, it wasn’t heated and there were no insults or raised voices – we were simply discussing the topic at hand and exchanging our different points of view.  Part-way through, I glanced at my son’s face and noticed that he was looking rather alarmed.  I asked him what was wrong and he said he was worried that my husband and I didn’t like each other anymore because we were arguing.  We assured him that we love each other very much and explained that it’s okay for people not to agree with each other all the time & good to be honest about how we feel, to talk things through.

This made me think that the old adage that parents should never argue in front of their children is, perhaps, not quite right.  If we never argue in front of them, they won’t learn how to argue well.  Without the skills to argue effectively and fairly, they’re more likely to become people who either avoid conflict altogether, leaving unresolved issues to fester, or who, like bulls in a china shop, end up hurting themselves and others when disagreements arise.  It seems to me that children run the risk of losing either their voice or their relationships if they don’t know how to argue kindly and respectfully. 

I don’t think it’s as much a case of we shouldn’t argue in front of the children as we need to make sure we argue well in front of them.  An argument doesn’t have to be a fight.  It doesn’t have to be shouting, stamping and insults.  This list below shows both what a good argument looks like and what our children can learn from it –



  1. That people see things differently and some degree of arguing is inevitable, normal and okay.
  2. How to manage their own emotions in order to communicate well with another.
  3. How to really listen to and acknowledge another person’s point of view.
  4. How to truly care about the other person’s point of view and ask questions to understand it better.
  5. That their own point of view matters and how to express it with respect.
  6. How to explain their point of view clearly and give reasons for their position.
  7. How to express disagreement with the other respectfully, without insulting them.
  8. How to tolerate someone disagreeing with them or showing emotions such as anger and frustration without taking it personally.
  9. How to reach a solution – eg. compromise, negotiate, back down or “win” graciously.
  10. How to let go rather than carrying a grudge about an unsolved issue or something that doesn’t go their way.
  11. How to apologise sincerely.
  12. How to forgive honestly.



Of course, if we’re going to argue in front of our children, we need to know that we can handle ourselves and be a good model of the things above.  If we’re feeling triggered and we’re really not sure that we can keep our cool, then, for me, that particular issue needs to be one dealt with in private.  To be the positive example to our kids that we want to be requires a tremendous amount of self-awareness and self-control on our part.

To make it clear, I am not suggesting we fight in front of our children.  I am also not suggesting that we argue about our kids, issues of an adult nature, or big decisions that may make our children feel insecure (such as whether to move house or not) in front of them.



We humans thrive in honest, caring relationships in which we can express what is within and feel heard by another.  In a good argument, we validate one another, even if our positions on the topic differ.  When we argue well in front of our children, they hear the language, see the attitudes, and absorb the subtleties of respectful arguing.  We give them a model of how to remain connected to another through disagreement.


Much love to you and your little souls,


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Being a new mum was just like going to my first yoga class – I didn’t have a clue what to do and everyone else around me seemed to know what they were doing.  Unlike yoga class, though, I couldn’t just do my best for 90 minutes then roll up my mat and leave – the baby was always there!  Reflecting on those new mum days recently made me think about how similar parenting and a yoga class are.  There is no doubt that I have more internal flexibility, strength and balance as a result of being a parent.  So this post is perhaps a little self-indulgent, reflecting on how, like a good yoga class, parenting has developed me.



With any challenge that we face in life, we have two choices – to resist & refuse or to allow & adapt to it.  I began motherhood as a brittle, resisting refuser.  With my first son, I resisted the sleep deprivation of new parenthood, determined that there was something I could do to make my baby get to sleep more quickly and to sleep for longer.  Coming from the world of work where I had to achieve certain things to fulfill the expectations of my role, I felt it was up to me to find a “solution” to the sleep situation.  Of course, that’s a very difficult way to live, especially with babies and young children who have no clue of what their parents’ plans are.  Fortunately, by the time my second son arrived, I had realised this and parenthood had softened me enough that I was much more able to accept his newborn sleep patterns and adapt my day to fit in with them rather than trying to adapt him to fit in with me.

Parenthood has made me a lot more flexible.  I no longer hold tightly to beliefs, expectations & plans (of which mine tend to be very idealistic), instead meeting the reality of what is.  As a parent, I have let go of so many ideas I once had in order to embrace my boys just as they are and to follow their lead.  But this newly developed flexibility doesn’t extend only to them, it has reached into every corner of my life.  I’m much more able to take other people as they are and to work with situations rather than fretting about how they don’t match up to what I expected.  Parenthood has opened me up like a good hip flexor asana.



When my second son, Thomas, was born, he wasn’t feeding well.  For his first 3 weeks, the only way to get milk into him was through a grueling routine of syringe feeding him, expressing for the next feed then cleaning & sterilising the equipment. The routine took 1 ½ hours and I had to do it every 3 hours.  I was lucky to get 1 hour of sleep between each cycle and also had a toddler needing my attention. Initially, I was doing this at the hospital, having to walk down the corridor back and forth to the equipment room, which was painfully slowly after having had a caesarean.  Thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.  I don’t think anything has challenged me as much in my life – worrying for my baby’s health and being so utterly exhausted.  I was physically and spiritually drained.  But, of course, I kept going – this is what was necessary for Thomas to thrive.  I still remember the evening when he finally feed from me normally for the first time and I knew my efforts had paid off.  And now I know I have the strength for anything, which helps me to live with less worry and fear.

Previously the type not to rock the boat, I found my voice to advocate for my son when he was being bullied.  I have taken up challenges I would have avoided, such as facilitating my first ever workshops this week.  And I have gone down the most terrifying water slide ever (virtually upright!) with my son.



Balance, I have learned, is an internal thing, not an external thing.  I don’t attend to every area of my life as I would like to, there are definitely parts that get neglected (especially the unfolded laundry).  But I do feel I have balance.

As a student school teacher, I once led a class of 7 year-olds for a short yoga session.  I tried to teach them the Eagle, an awkward balancing-on-one-leg-with-limbs-wrapped-around-each-other  position. The only hope of achieving it is by having focus.  To be balanced, we need to concentrate – on the important things.

Balance is feeling that our lives are organised by our priorities.  As a parent, we are constantly fielding demands on our time and efforts – come to the school fundraiser, vacuum under the dinner table, “play with me”…  The people-pleaser in me tried to keep up at first but I couldn’t and I eventually had to let go.  Now, I occasionally wag fundraising events and I build forts with my son under the table amongst all the crumbs.  As much as I would love not to have baskets of unfolded clothes around the house, they are there because I, instead, choose to play superheroes with Thomas, write my next blog post and give my parents a call.



I’m not familiar with all of the elements of yoga.  I understand that it is a lifestyle, it’s about what happens off the mat as much as on the mat.  While I’m not currently making it to the mat as much as I would like, there’s plenty going on for me off the mat.  For me, parenting is an exercise for the soul. Through it, I am learning how to give and receive peace, joy and love in new ways.  I have no doubt that other experiences in life can do the same for us but, for me, it took becoming a parent to discover all that I am.



Much love to you and your little souls,


PS:  The photo with this post is of my friend, Tanya Carr-Smith, a Wellington-based Yoga & Wellness Coach.   The beautiful photography is by Dreamality.



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An excerpt from my journal this week –

I’m thinking about how I can feel lighter in the world.   My first thought is to eliminate sources of stress. That seems logical.  But the thing is, many of those things are also the sources of joy, growth and contribution in my life.  Life would be a lot simpler if I wasn’t blogging and running workshops, for example.  But these things give me outlets for my passion and ways to expand & to contribute.  To withdraw from stress entirely is to withdraw from life.  And what would be the point of a stress-free life?  How is the soul to feel fulfilled, learn its lessons and make its impact if we play small?

So the answer may be to, instead, accept the discomfort and stress, rather than resisting it.  (I’m talking about those things that, while difficult, we know are also growing us in some way.)  In a mindful way, noticing it without losing ourselves to the anxiety of it.  I have realised recently that noticing our internal response to things is a great step forward, even if we do nothing more.

Ekhart Tolle tells us that the forms of our lives are “play”.  I don’t think that that means they’re not meaningful but that they aren’t me.  If something doesn’t go well, it doesn’t mean that I’m no good.  Equally, I’m no better when something I’ve turned my hand to does go well.

So, it comes down to our sense of wholeness and worth – really knowing that we are complete and valuable, regardless of what’s going on in our lives.  There’s nothing to prove or to avoid.  Who we are is perfect and indestructible.

I have written about self-worth a few times on my blog, each time going a little deeper, uncovering a new aspect of it. I guess that’s because it’s been a personal journey of my own to really believe that I am complete and valuable.  But I don’t think I’m the only one.  This may be the work of our lives – to get to that place where we know that we are whole and worthy at all times and through all things. And to know this about other people too.

I can see worthiness is at the heart of things – of inner peace, confidence and joy.  For me, it really is a spiritual matter.   If we don’t understand that we of a divine source, extensions of God (or whatever you choose to call it), perhaps our self-worth is always in question.  In that case, there’s no choice but to attach it to the outward achievements of this world which are plenty some day and in short supply on others.  Our self worth can only be shaky if it depends on things turning out the way we would have them, things we can never have full control over (although we may like to think we do).



Naturally, we praise our children for their successes to build them up and acknowledge their achievements.  And I’m not suggesting we stop doing that.  The question is, though, how do we give them a sense of their worth beyond their achievements?

Looking back at my post Giving Our Children A Resilient Sense of Self-Worth, I did write that one way to help our children be resilient when in doubt about their worth is to help them to know themselves as Spirit.  This means recognising that they are not their thoughts and feelings and circumstances, through developing their ability to observe themselves through such things a meditation.  I guess that’s where I feel a little stuck.  I can tell my boys that they are wonderful extensions of God.  I can do mindfulness activities with them like the ones I wrote about in my post on meditation.  And I do think these things count.  But, ultimately, they need to experience their divinity for themselves.

So this is as far as our parenting can reach.  Over time, I have come to understand that, as a parent, there is nothing I can make my children do or know.  Ultimately, they need to come to things themselves.  As they say, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”.  In a way, it’s an emotional challenge for me because there are things I really want for my boys that I cannot guarantee, and I especially want them to be strong in their own self-worth.

But it’s also a relief.  I am not as responsible for my children’s lives as I used to believe I was.  Letting go of this need to control things to try and guarantee an unguaranteeable outcome is a stress I can let go of.



Many of my personal inquiries become inquiries into my parenting, as this one did.  As I learn things for myself, I start wondering how it might be significant to my boys and how to bring it to them.  There are many ways to inquire into ourselves.  My favourite is to journal.  I imagine some of you thinking, “I don’t have time to inquire”.  I get that.  I did a lot less of it when my boys were younger and if the choice was between writing my journal and getting to bed a bit earlier, I chose sleep!  The more work we do, though, the more conscious we can be as parents.  The day that I wrote this, I sat down just to relieve myself of a little stress and it has lead me to all of the realisations I have made here (I have typed them in bold so you can scan back and pick them out).  It was worth the time both for myself and my children.


Much love to you and your little souls,


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My Jake turned seven last week.  We happened to be away on holiday with extended family on the day of his birthday so he had a particularly good day – an outing to our national aquarium, lots of play time with his cousins, plenty of adults to fuss over him and a large birthday cake to share with everyone (chocolate, of course).

As I celebrated Jake’s birthday with him, I marveled at him – how he has changed so dramatically  from a dependent newborn to the capable, unique boy that he is now.  But, at the same time, a sense of panic crept in – What if I haven’t made the most of that 7 year window all the developmental experts talk about?

Have you heard of this window?

I like to listen to parenting segments on the radio and on podcasts.  During my hours of listening, I have heard various experts describe the exponential development that takes place during the first seven years of a child’s life.  It often gets referred to as a seven-year “window” in which we can set our children up for life.  If their first seven years are rich in in the right kinds of experiences, it hard-wires a child’s brain for a positive future in so many ways.  Aristotle seemed to understand this instinctively –

“Give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the man”. – Aristotle

Jake is our eldest.  Every new stage in his development has been a new stage for my husband and I also.  Jake has essentially been the subject of our well-intended parenting experiments & mistakes and he will be all the way through.  What if I’ve accidentally hard-wired him in negative ways that will create struggle for him rather than empower him?

When Jake was a newborn, I felt totally out of my depth and, as is the case for many first-time parents, everything that was required of me as a mother had to be learned from scratch.  Looking back, I wonder, was I responsive enough to his newborn needs?  When he was four, did I handle that bullying situation at kindy in the best way?  I probably should be reading to him more than I have been recently…  Then, there’s this –

A few weeks ago, I was in a low spot myself- tired and anxious.  One morning, when Jake and Thomas were being particularly uncooperative, I unexpectedly exploded.  I thought I had my anger under control but it just burst out in a roaring, swearing rage.  It was a brief episode but it was ugly and probably quite terrifying for my boys.  The first thought I had immediately afterwards was, “I can’t take that back!  Nothing I say will delete the memory of that moment from their minds”.  I paniced.  Will they now always think of me as unpredictable and untrustworthy?



As a soulful parent, this 7-year window has me thinking particularly about how Jake sees himself and the world.  Have I hardwired him to value & trust himself, others and Life?  We are most at peace and powerful when our thinking is aligned with the truth that we are all valuable and in this together.  But I feel that there are many important ideas related to this that I haven’t addressed much in my parenting yet.  Take self-compassion, for example.  I’m only learning how to extend it to myself now, at 40, and have just started thinking recently about I can pass it on to my boys.

The deeper I get into parenting and really understanding what it’s all about, the more I realise that it is as much about my own development as it about my boys’.  And now, after my raging outburst and with all the mistakes and oversights of the past seven years behind me, I have the opportunity to learn more about how to forgive myself.  The other alternative is to stew over my errors and inadequacies – but what sort of parent will I be going forward if I do that?

I think it’s a rite of passage in the human experience – recognising patterns formed in childhood that are of no use or hold us back.  For myself, I can see the self-doubt and insignificance I felt as a child lurking in my thoughts now and am learning how to notice them without giving them power.  I don’t think I’ve met one person without some childhood pain to resolve.  We’re all messing our children up, while also doing lots of great things.

What about giving ourselves credit for all that we have done well?  I’m quite fond of the 80/20 rule – if we get things “right” for our kids 80% of the time, it’ll minimise the impact of the 20% when we’re tired, overwhelmed or haven’t a clue what to do.  And then there’s this…

This 7-year window has passed but I am not about to stop parenting!  Despite the particular significance of the early years to brain development, human brains are malleable.  Here’s the evidence – I  know a lot more now than I did at 7 – we never stop learning; when a person suffers damage to their brain, perhaps through a medical incident such as a stroke, other parts of the brain often take over some of the function of the damaged area; activities such as meditation change the working of our brains too.

So, what we do as parents after our children turn 7 makes a difference, we haven’t missed our chance to set them up for positive lives.  We can choose to change the way we’ve been doing things as a parent or to teach them something new, for example, and it will have an impact.  One thing I want to do differently is to ease up on trying to teach my boys so much and focus more on validating who they are & where they’re at now to help them to connect with their inherent worth & their natural abilities to learn.  I don’t believe my chance to do this for Jake is lost.



In our parenting, as with everything else, we cannot let our fear that we have done or are doing a bad job get the better of us.  Being present and loving through all things, even our own mistakes, is far better for our children.

I once wrote a blog post called You Will Probably Mess Your Children Up, But It’s OK.  I read back through it today and found it quite reassuring.  It reminded me that we are divinely matched with our children, taking one another along the paths our souls need for growth.  Our strengths and our weaknesses as parents both play a part in this.  I was reminded that it’s ok to be human and I was prompted to acknowledge that, in any moment, I have done the best I could.

And, if 7-year-old Jake is a reflection of the man he’ll become, he’ll be a good one – optimistic, enthusiastic, friendly and wise.  I have done some things right.


Much love to you and your little souls,


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I recently saw a YouTube video of someone giving a talk about the science behind spiritual practices which raise people’s awareness and, therefore, wellbeing.  In the second part of her talk, the speaker described technological developments, such as new apps, which are being developed to help people become more aware and spiritually connected.  It seems that technology for spiritual wellness is a burgeoning area of development and the speaker was very animated & enthusiastic about the progress being made.  Being a soulful parent in the modern world, perhaps I should’ve been too (“great, there will be technology to support my children’s spiritual wellbeing”).  But I wasn’t really…



For me, science and spirituality are two ways of knowing the same thing.  We do not have to choose whether to be rational or intuitive, for example – we can be both.  Some scientists think of their research as getting to know the workings of God/The Universe and, like me, see no conflict between their scientific work and their spirituality.  Albert Einstein is perhaps the most famous example of this (here’s a link to some of his quotes about the relationship between science and spirituality).

When it comes to our spiritual wellness, though, science seems to “prove” a lot of what we already know.  Recent research has shown that meditative practices improve focus & emotional regulation; that feeling we belong to our social circle reduces the incidence of depression; and that having a sense of agency in our work makes it fulfilling rather than depleting.   For me, these things all seem like common sense, we didn’t need expensive research projects to know them.  But those who lean purely on rational, material ways of knowing feel validated if they can site research that proves their choices in life are effective.



As for technologies that use this scientifically-proven knowledge to help people expand their awareness and nurture other aspects of their spiritual wellbeing, I’m a little dubious that they’re really necessary.  The billions of dollars that are set to be poured into them could probably be better spent.

I accept that we live in an increasingly online world and I appreciate the ways that technology makes life easier.  There are some great resources available online, too, to support the spiritual wellness of ourselves and our children.  My son, Jake, and I both use the Headspace guided meditation app.  I learn a lot through listening to my favourite spiritual teachers on podcasts while I’m exercising and have done some helpful online courses (such as this great one for soulful parents).  But I think it’s a problem if we think we need an app to become more aware or spiritually connected.

If we are feeling that we need help to become more aware, I don’t think it’s because our lives have been missing the technology to do so.  Catholic nuns and Buddhist monks around the world seem to have managed just fine without smartphones for centuries.  For me, the talk I watched on YouTube was a call to reconsider the way we’re living our lives.  We don’t have to live like nuns and monks but I think there’s a lot we might want to think about.



I think what science is showing us is that, when it comes to spiritual wellness for our families, we need to get back to ourselves, both as individuals and as a collective – kind of as we were doing before society made science & technology king & queen.  We only need to look a few generations back to be reminded of how to be aware and connected – build supportive, in-the-flesh communities; do the things that bring us joy and put us in flow; get into nature; move our bodies; take time for stillness…  These things just feel good and don’t actually need science to prove their value to us.  With a little intention, we can create lifestyles for our families that incorporate these elements, no technology needed.

At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, it seems to me that we need less technology when it comes to our awareness rather than more, given the state we’re in – over-extended and glued to our devices.  Most of the time, I feel depleted by devices like my smartphone, continuously calling for my attention.  I don’t want another app beeping at me to remind me to take a “mindful minute”, for example.  We think technology makes us more “connected” but I’m not sure what it is that are we actually connecting to when we spend all that time online.  It usually feels more like disconnecting to me.

I’m not saying science and technology have no role in our spirituality but unlikely a significant role, as was being suggested in the YouTube video.  Technology can be helpful, offering some short-term support on occasion but, if my boys grow up believing there is a technological solution to all things, I will have failed them.



Science and technology have a place and make valuable contributions in many spheres of life.  But our spirituality is inherent in us.  We really can recognise for ourselves what brings us a sense of wellbeing without an app.  Perhaps we have lost some faith in ourselves as we have gradually handed over more and more  of our lives to technology.  We need to stay in charge of our technology, not let it take charge of us.

So my point is, let’s not hand every facet of our lives over to technology, no matter how much scientific research is behind it.  Our spiritual wellbeing is nurtured by experiencing life with all of our senses, not by enlisting an app to do the work for us. Our children need to know that it is going inwards that really connects them, not going online.


Much love to you and your little souls.


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About ten days ago, New Zealand received the news that our recently-appointed Prime Minister is expecting her first baby.  Gasps everywhere, the Facebook feeds of Kiwi women going crazy!  It has given us a lot to think about.



Jacinda has been open about her struggle to conceive and New Zealand knew this before our general election in September, 2017.  Once she unexpectedly became leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, only weeks before the elections were held, she stopped trying for obvious reasons.  This pregnancy came as “a happy surprise” for Jacinda and her partner, Clarke, when she was in the middle of negotiations to form a coalition government after our elections.

Life has been full of surprises for Jacinda in the last few months, asking her to step up more and more.  Within the space of approximately 4 months, she became leader of the Labour Party, then Prime Minister of New Zealand and, now, Mother.

Imagine that moment when she first realised she was pregnant.  What was her first thought? “I can’t believe it, this is wonderful!” or “oh no, I’ve got to tell the whole country that their new Prime Minister is pregnant!”?  Were her tears those of joy or apprehension? Although she and is clearly thrilled to have become a mother, I have no doubt that, in private, she has experienced plenty of moments of panic and overwhelm.  What she’s good at, though, is meeting the challenges Life believes she is capable of.

Always realistic and positive, Jacinda has explained to the country her plans to have 6 weeks off work when the baby is born then for Clarke to take over as the stay-at-home parent.  Her deputy, Winston Peters, will act as Prime Minister while she’s away.  Speaking to the press, Jacinda said a number of times that she feels she is in a “privileged” position with lots of support around her to help make this juggle of two extraordinary roles possible.  She also said that, while she and Clarke have a plan, nothing is set in stone and they will be flexible, adjusting things as they need to.



This is the question on everyone’s minds.

There have been a few female politicians in New Zealand who have stepped down from their roles because, despite their best efforts, they just couldn’t find a way to make caring for their babies & young children and fulfilling their parliamentary roles work.  As you can imagine, the press were quick to remind Jacinda of these women’s stories and to ask her how she thought she was going to manage it with even more responsibility than these women had.

Jacinda made two points in response.  Firstly, that each woman’s situation is different in regard to the amount and type of support that they have available to them and that she has a “village” of helpers surrounding her.  Presumably, being Prime Minister, she has financial and other resources available to her that these other political mothers did not.  Secondly, she said that women all over the country have successfully found ways to juggle full-on jobs and mothering and she sees her position as no different. She knows it’s no mean feat to lead the country and mother a baby at the same time but Jacinda feels that the women who have done this in the past have “paved the way” for her.

Here is a video of her first interview with the press outside her home (it beings 9mins in).



But, here’s the question – would people be asking “can she do it?” if Jacinda were male?  When Tony Blair announced that he and his wife, Cherie, were unexpectedly pregnant during his term as Britain’s Prime Minister, the public response was only positive and no one asked if he could do it.  I don’t recall what the Blair’s specific childcare arrangements were but Clarke being the stay-at-home parent is no different to Cherie or any other parent staying home with their baby so that their partner can go to work.

Being young, female and Prime Minister, Jacinda was already a trailblazer and now she is even more-so.  I regard her as a role model.  My aspirations are different to hers, but here’s what I appreciate about Jacinda –

* her personal compassion & openness (rather than presenting a perfect picture of herself).

* her willingness to look for and receive the support around her (rather than insisting she will do it all herself, as many of us women mistakenly believe we must).

* her determination to make things work and her willingness to be flexible & creative in the face of unexpected challenge.

For me, it’s not so much that she shows me what can be done but how to go about it.  I believe our world leaders are here to teach us something.  Not all are role models, some serve to highlight for us what we don’t want to spur us into action (guess who?).  But Jacinda is a role model for women – baby or not.



The New Zealand Labour Party did not get the highest number of votes in the general election.  They were able to get into power by creating a coalition government with the New Zealand First Party.  There are some New Zealanders with the attitude “I didn’t want Jacinda to be Prime Minister in the first place and now she’s pregnant!  What a mess!”.

So all eyes are on Jacinda.  But they were already on her, given her quick rise to Prime Minister and her youth especially.  Some will be looking on, unfortunately, in judgement.  Others will be willing her success and happiness all the way – and I will be one of those.


Much love to you and your little souls (yours too, Jacinda),


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The weather has been unseasonably hot and dry here in Wellington.  Our lawns are parched and our laundry is finally up-to-date (well, not folded and neatly put away in the cupboard, but clean, at least).

One afternoon last week, I was preparing a smoothie for my boys and I when 3-year-old Thomas came into the kitchen wielding my floor mop.  Too long for him to manage, he knocked just about every wall and cabinet on his way through.

“I’m just going outside to clean the grass.  The sun has made it dirty”, he explained to me.

It took me a moment to understand what he meant.  He had figured out that the sun was responsible for changing our lawn from fresh & green to dry & brown, but he thought that the brown colour could simply be wiped off like dirt to make the grass green again.

“Good idea”, I said, trying not to think about the fact that my mop was brand new, unused, and that, after this, I’d likely never be able to use it on my floors.

I let Thomas take the mop with him to clean the grass and find out for himself that mopping wouldn’t restore its colour.  I wanted him to explore and discover for himself.  Besides, if he was busy outside mopping the grass, that would give me a few more minute’s peace on this stinking hot day.  I might even get to sit down with my smoothie and book for five minutes.

Later, as I stood at the window, watching Thomas clean the lawn, I realised that this is how he will learn about things of a spiritual nature also – through the experiences Life naturally gives him and his own curiosity.

There’s so much I want my boys to know about the way Life works.  As I’ve understood more myself, I have had a lot more peace, joy and love in my life and I want the same for them.  My brain thinks that I have to be especially explicit when it comes to teaching them about spirituality because it’s intangible, not obvious enough.  Sometimes I kind of panic that I’ll forget to tell my boys something important or run out of time to teach them everything they need to know (the years really do fly).

But spirituality is to be experienced, not explained.  Our children will learn a lot about it on their own.  Even by allowing them to hold on to their misunderstandings until they discover truth for themselves, we support their learning.

Perhaps one of the most helpful things we can do as parents is to reflect with our children on their experiences after allowing them the space to learn in their own way.  Just as we do for other kinds of  learning – like why the grass changes colour in the sun.

When I found my mop discarded on the front lawn, I asked Thomas about his cleaning efforts.

“The sun has burned-id the grass so it’s still brown. But it’s clean!” he said with satisfaction.

He had figured it out. Or perhaps his brother put him right when he went outside to kick his ball around to find the intriguing sight of Thomas mopping the grass.  I can just imagine how that conversation might’ve gone.

If, when he’d come into the kitchen with my (clean) mop, I had told Thomas he was wasting his time and mopping the grass wouldn’t make it green again, his learning would’ve been far less memorable – and he wouldn’t have had so much fun.

Thinking about it, I don’t think it’s even our job as parents to teach our children everything there is to know about spirituality.  Is it even possible for just one or two people to do that?  Aren’t we still learning so much for ourselves?  Perhaps our main responsibility is to make our children aware that life is essentially a spiritual experience and then to give them the space to know it for themselves.


Much love to you and your little souls,


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