Author: Bonnie Compton, APRN, BC, CPNP
Basic Overview: Imagine yourself sitting down in a comfy, over-sized chair with a notebook and pen. You’re sitting across from a woman who is not only a pediatric nurse practitioner and family therapist, but she is also a mother and grandmother.
She then proceeds to tell you her experiences working with families with issues ranging from behavior challenges to emotional scars that need to be healed. Empathy coats every word as she then encourages you to take a moment to consider situations that might resonate with you. Her skilled coaching empowers you to examine your past for clues about your current mothering as well as create strategies for future success.
This is what reading this book feels like. It is based on the therapeutic process of guidance and self-discovery Compton has used with many mothers to help them become the kind of parents they want to be. With titles like “Can You See Clearly?”, “Whose Behavior Problem Is It Anyway?”, and “Clearing Your Past So You Can Parent in the Present,” each of the 12 chapters are packed with Compton’s insights from working with families.
The chapters are divided up into sections that make the book easy to read in chunks, which I would definitely recommend doing. Her experiences and research cover topics like feeling responsible for your children’s behavior, dealing with a child’s anxiety, monitoring your child’s online activity, the shame culture, managing meltdowns, how to say no, and self-care. These experiences are punctuated by journaling exercises with questions designed to help you reflect and create action plans.
For those short on time, Compton recommends reading the chapter summary at the beginning of each chapter and then skipping right to the journaling exercises. My experience was that I needed the added context of reading the rest of the section before I could fully benefit from the journaling questions.
In the preface, Compton also suggests that while one mom may choose to read the book cover to cover, another might choose to read a particular chapter that speaks to her. I definitely found this to be the case—some chapters seemed more relevant to me than others. But I could see how the less relevant chapters would become more useful as my daughter gets older and I have more mothering experience under my belt.
Parts I liked best: I liked that this book, with its reflection questions, taps into that natural tendency we have to think “How did my parents handle this situation? Was I like this as a kid??” It helps you think through your experiences to identify the cause of your parenting style and see if a change needs to be made.
If you determine that yes, a change needs to be made, the journaling questions guide you toward finding a solution that will work for you. They are empowering and effective because you are the one who comes up with the action plan for change.
I found the questions in the first few chapters to be particularly helpful for me. The first chapter is devoted to reflecting on who you were before you became a mother, what brought you joy, and how you might bring that joy back into your life. I came away from that exercise with some great ideas. And I came up with them myself!
I also liked that my responses often prompted me to have conversations with my husband about what we wanted our family culture to look and feel like for our children. This book gave different perspectives that we hadn’t considered before. The section on shame in chapter four was eye-opening and led to a tearful but therapeutic conversation with my husband about how we might want to prepare ourselves and even our extended families to be careful about how we talk to our children.
Woven throughout the chapters is the principle that having a strong connection with each child and listening to what they say they need is the most effective way to eliminate behavior issues. Compton also talks of letting your deep love be on display when they walk into a room, which I loved.
I can see myself coming back to this book again and again as I continue through this journey of motherhood. And I think one of the most useful sections as I do so will be the last section called “Mindful Mothering Tips.” This section uses bullet points to summarize the greatest suggestions from each chapter. Some of my favorite points from that section include:
- “Your perception of yourself and your children ought not to be constant but flexible. Flexibility allows you to let go of your firmly held perceptions” (249).
- “Love is the first step in developing a connection with your child, but it isn’t enough. It also requires time spent, intentionally created just for you and your child—time that is honored and revered” (249-250).
- “Children challenge you to grow, to become the adult, the mom, they want and need you to be: one who’s able to stop, self-reflect, and take responsibility for herself, rather than one who needs her child to behave in order to feel good about herself” (251).
- “Children always fare better when they know the truth. They don’t need to know every detail, but trust that if you don’t offer some truth, there is a good chance they’ll create a truth far worse than the actual truth. Family secrets damage relationships. While family secrets might initially unite families, they have the power to destroy” (252).
- “No one can recognize your need for self-care but you. So if you’re waiting for someone to offer you free time each day for self-care, it’s not going to happen. No one is going to help you create time for self-care until you recognize the importance of it and make it a priority—for you” (253).
- “Learn to trust your intuitive heart. Your brain often lives in fear. Your intuitive guidance will not be fear-based. If you find yourself acting out of fear, most likely your brain kicked into gear, creating your fearful thoughts” (254).
How this book made an impact in my life, especially as a mother: It feels to me like motherhood is a series of constant transitions and phases that can leave me reeling and wondering what just happened as I have to constantly adapt and change. This book challenged me to look back on past phases and address the root cause of some of my less-than-positive mothering tendencies, which I know will benefit me for years to come.
I’m still learning how to work with this mother’s intuition I have, and I appreciated that much of this book is devoted to cultivating and curating that intuition.
QUESTION: How have journaling and self-reflection helped you in your mothering journey?
CHALLENGE: Think about your family’s culture. What would you like to add or remove from your the current culture of your family? Talk with your spouse or a trusted family member about how to start the process.
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Edited by Aubrey Degn and Sarah Monson.