Chances are, you’ve heard of permaculture in relation to gardening right? You know it’s got something to do with sustainability? And yes, it’s a damn fine way to grow food, but did you know how permaculture principles can be applied to almost all social concepts, due it’s underlying ethical foundations of earth care, people care and fair share?
Interestingly, it has been permaculture which has provided me with creative and expansive guidance in motherhood, allowing room for the unique nature of the motherbaby, motherchild dynamic with connection firmly at the heart.
Permaculture can help parenting flow, through deepening connection with nature and ourselves and applying some of the principles to the situation we are experiencing. A good start on which to revolutionize how we approach mothering is the principle of observe and interact.
Fostering observation and intuition in mothering begins in pregnancy and birth and can serve as a solid foundation for a lifetime of loving and relating. Yet it can be cultivated at at any point in the mothering journey and doesn’t have to be a long, arduous process. Simply by quieting judgement and analysing behaviour, we can observe what is truly happening. We can notice and be witness to it, looking for the need (for there always is one) underlying the behaviour. Observation helps us slow down and pause for a breath in mothering. It helps us create moments of stillness to help us return to the heart of the relationship, to connection.In this way we can hold space for big emotions in our children, without “fixing”, we connect in with their needs and we can communicate more effectively, non-violently, relying less on old ways of thinking, our own reactivity and conditioned patterns of responding.
I have often asked myself, in a particularly emotive or challenging public situation with my child, “If all that mattered right now was my relationship with my child, how would I respond?”. This often lets me drop back into a place of holding space and connecting to what is really happening and what is required from me, rather than worrying about how my child’s emotions might effect others or their view of me. Observing what is truly occurring, holding space and then interacting with this information, with kindness and respect is a beautiful way in which to approach mothering (and other relationships).
Another principle which can be applied to mothering is that of apply self-regulation and accept feedback. This can be thought of in many ways but I often like to apply it to the amount of judgement or talking at I might be doing with my children. I try to watch my communication and inner voice and applying my breaks, to ensure I am giving my children enough space to eperience their worlds for themselves.From here, I remember to trust them.
This principle can be also applied to boundaries, in a situation where a limit is necessary (taking into account the very individual nature of the relationship/family at play). Limits can be set without authoritarian measures and done in a co-creative, family-centred way. We can disuss regulation and setting limits together, letting emotions flow freely and accepting the feedback from children to tweak things that could be improved upon. We give feedback, as do our children and we can listen with an open heart. In this way, children have their rightful say and are allowed space for self-determination within the co-operation of the family sphere.
The principle of intergrate not segregate is another which can be used very early in children’s lives. We can co-sleep with our babies, creating solutions to meeting the needs of the motherbaby. We can intergrate our needs for rest, our babies breastfeeding and share space with partners and other children within a family bed, for as long as comfortable for everyone involved. We can also babywear, integrating our babies with the goings on in the household and community, bonding and mothering easily. Babies love to be close, it’s where they are meant to be!
As our babies grow we can intergrate rather than segregate children’s needs with parent’s needs to create a juicy family dynamic. There are always creative solutions! We can also come together with family and friends, accessing grandparents and other people with children, to ‘share the load’. Parenting in a tribe is always easier and a lot of fun. If you don’t have a tribe, make one. It’s essential and we need to continue to build communities of conscious parenting and care giving.
This principle can even be extended into the area of educating our children. We can embrace alternative education models and paradigms such as Montessori, Steiner or homeschooling/natural learning which support not just the didactic foundations but the needs of the whole child – the body, mind and spirit. Education which brings together people of all ages and stages and different families, mentors and multi-passionates to create vibrant learning exeperiences, rather than separation and disconnection, can be an amazing experience and a transformative education for all.
Finally, the last principle that comes to mind is that of Catch and Store Energy and this is a big one for mothers. Working with energy is a big part of the picture in parenting. Yet with a little free thinking, we can learn to look for solutions for everyone’s needs to be met. As in permaculture, the problem can often be the solution. We can ride the wave of the energy of a rambunctuous toddler, honouring their needs for physical and outside play. We can honour our own energy cycles as mothers, ‘making hay while the sun shines’ in preparing meals for the week or doing a high-energy activity with our child when the motivation is abundant. We can create a practice of self-care and stillness to ‘fill up our cups’, or catch and access some energy in times of need. We can honour our needs for rest, love, care and introspection and model this healthy relationship with ourselves to our children. They are little sponges, wathing everything we do and yes, often our actions speak louder than our words.
There are so many ways that permaculture principles can be applied to mothering but most of all, it is the creativity and expansion at its heart, that reinforces connection (or closed systems) that is so brilliant. These guiding principles can be used in our own unique and wonderful realtionships and help us connect with our own inner voice, wisdom and nature. There are no rules and no real mistakes (in the grand scheme of things!). There are only endless possibilities for learning and growth.