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November 2015
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December 2015

Design to heal

Last week I wrote a post on loneliness.

It got me thinking about what loneliness actually IS. I mean the feeling - how would you describe it? Is it simply a craving for company, or is it a craving for something else? A LACK of something - a lack of ENERGY, enthusiasm, inspiration, light-hearted-ness, for example?

Also, the times we crave solitude, what is it that we really want? Is that about energy too - wanting the kind of calming, soothing energy that comes from being quiet, and still? The inspirational, problem-solving energy that comes from getting in touch with one's deeper recesses?

A longing to express a part of ourselves that we are not expressing in our particular current state?

I am sadly not the genius who first put these ideas together. Carl Jung wrote about extroversion and introversion and the different requirements for energy.  Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers expanded this understanding into the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) framework, and concepts of introversion and extroversion have become increasingly mainstream.

To summarise, briefly:

Extroverts are energized by the outer world of activity and people. They work things out by talking them through, they tend to have a wide range of friends and interests.

Introverts are energized by the inner world of their thoughts and feelings. They are REFLECTORS. They tend to think things out before speaking, and often like to go deep into a narrower range of activities, and value a smaller, close circle of friends.


We are all different, we are all the same.

For me: INSPIRATION is ENERGY; too much time alone in the house focusing on domestic chores is not energizing (for some people it would be).


 My daughter was chatting to me at bedtime about the TOYS she wanted to take away with her for our New Year break/ holiday.

'What do you want to take with you?' she asked me.

What do I want to take? What do I WANT?


 Her question got my lethargic brain cells firing. The answer came quickly:


I want to make a new quilt.

Jewel colours. Indian fabrics.


Designing a new quilt is ultimate inspiration for me.

First, there is COLLABORATION with textile designers and creators. I am not starting from scratch - I am building on other people's work and ideas.

Second, there is the external input of COLOUR, FORM and TEXTURE . Will I go for squares, circles, rectangles, triangles, hexagons? I didn't invent these shapes - they exist freely in nature (and school geometry lessons). But how will I use and manipulate them? Will I use patterned or solid fabrics, or a combination of both? What FEEL do I want the overall quilt to have - soothing, dazzling, cosy, nostalgic, modern? Something in-between?


Step one was to gather all possible contenders for the job from my - ahem - rather large fabric stash. (I went on a bit of an Etsy shopping spree when I was designing an hommage quilt for my mother - more on that another time. I've now got a self-imposed moratorium on fabric buying until I've used up my stash :)).

You can see the first selection laid out below:


Quilt design no santa



Step two was to eliminate fabrics that stuck out or didn't quite go with the feel or theme I was after. Taking photos is very useful as you spot things in a photo that you don't see with your bare eyes.


Quilt design 2 culled



Normally there are many more stages of culling, adding, figuring out the pattern and design, but since I wanted to take this on holiday with me, I just used this photo as the design prototype and began cutting strips.


Here are the strips assembled on the floor of our holiday chalet, as I am starting to piece them together. I am finding the slow hand sewing enjoyable after the frenetic pre-Christmas pace.


  Indian lap quilt


So - how about you? What energizes you? Do you crave creative work, like sewing, cooking, dancing, decorating or other things? Is there some project you've been wanting to start?  Some new exercise regime you want to kick start, or a new eating regime you want motivation for? 

What do YOU REALLY want?

You may be surprised how quickly an answer comes. Or it may take a while to become clear. 

2016 may be the start of a beautiful new phase.


Wishing you jewel-coloured moments as 2015 reaches its warm and mild close,

Elizabeth, aka The Writing Parent


Isolation comes with the motherhood territory

You know the Mother 'Hood video about the different groups of parents in the park - yoga mums, career mums, stay-at-home dads etc. - who are all having a pop at each other, until a crisis occurs and they band together to try to prevent it? (If you haven't, see it here.)

I've been a full-time working mother, a part-time working mother, and, for the past few years, a 'stay-at-home mum' (SAHM). Next year I'll go back to full-time work after almost 8 years at home - eek!

Each parenting pattern has its own challenges and rewards. The challenge I've been thinking about this week is: ISOLATION.

A fellow SAHM friend and I were chatting after school drop-off, comparing modern mothers to our CAVEWOMEN ancestors.



My friend said that, unlike the cavewoman, who would have done her work surrounded by other members of her immediate family and community,

'On Monday morning the whole of my family leaves me for the week.'


LONELINESS is one of those embarrassing/ awkward subjects. We all (most of us) feel it, sometimes. Some tolerate it better than others. Some people crave solitude, others find it hard to be alone for more than a few hours. We think of lonely old people, lonely weird people with poor social skills, but a middle-class mother/ housewife who feels lonely should just... pull herself together - or get a job!

When I had my first baby, I got an email from a friend who had already been a mother for a year or two. A line in her email struck me then, as now:


'Feelings of isolation come with the motherhood territory.'


Phew! I thought. So it's normal. It is not just I that am horribly desperate!

I found - still do - being at home ALONE all day HARD.

A lot of working mums talk about the relief of starting work again: 'having other adults to talk to', 'being able to drink a cup of coffee' and 'going to the toilet in peace' being some of the biggest perks.

We, in our industrialized world, are departing from millennia of human social tradition by raising our modern families in splendid nuclear isolation. Most of my friends (and I) live too far from our own parents to see them on a daily (or even weekly) basis. Many of our parents, having often raised us without much help themselves, are enjoying the fruits of retirement without regular childcare responsibilities.

It is not like this everywhere. In two countries I have lived, for example - Korea and China - grandparents still routinely take care of grandchildren full-time (once they are past weaning stage) while the parents go out to work.


[My son as a baby in China with Ayi - or 'Auntie' in Chinese].

Extended families live together. Children are raised, if not 'by a village' , then by a group of adults. Like Milly-Molly-Mandy! Remember her? Who lived with Father and Mother and Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle and Aunty in the nice white cottage with the thatched roof.

There is not the same pressure on ONE parent to be everything, know everything, support everything.

I live with my co-parent, and I value and appreciate his input and care.

However, Monday to Friday I am mostly alone as a child-carer. It feels like a huge responsibility.

Some Mondays, I will be honest, I am SOOO happy to have the house to myself, peace and quiet, a cup of tea in my hands, a dark chocolate almond cookie for breakfast...


Almond cookies




Other times, well, I miss my cave sisters.





Have you felt this way too?


Sometimes I ask myself: what is it I am missing? When I have so much. And I think: someone to do the work with.

In Switzerland, we were fortunate to live in a close and friendly neighbourhood community, where the children could run in and out of each other's houses. Also, there were a lot of other women to meet up with during the daytime (because childcare is complicated in Switzerland, so many families have one parent  - usually the mother - stay home to take care of the kids).

Back in the UK, I have wonderful friends that I see on a regular basis, for which I am very grateful. But the school day is much longer here, so there are more 'alone' hours.

There is PLENTY of WORK to do. I am never bored. I have a lot of projects, always a huge To Do list to take care of. What I am, sometimes, is LONELY. I crave company. The ghosts of my missing sisters haunt me :-).


I was listening to Gretchen Rubin's podcast the other day, in which she asked the question:

'Do you crave company or do you crave solitude?'

Most people feel starved of either one or the other (and of course it can change - I am well aware of the need to enjoy my solitude now, as I will crave it next year when I am in full-time work!).


We won't turn back the industrial clock. I don't fancy living in a cave. We may never go back to raising our children 'as a village', and we will probably continue this March of Progress towards age-segregated institutionalised socialization - through daycare, schools and workplaces...

But I wonder: will we continue to feel that something - or someone - is missing?


[This beautiful picture  is sold on Etsy - see here]


What do you think? Does ISOLATION come with the motherhood (or fatherhood) territory?

Do you crave MORE COMPANY or MORE SOLITUDE in your daily life?

Do you ever miss your 'cave brothers' or sisters to share your important work with?

Or do you love to work alone?


We are all different!

And we are all the same. :-)

Take care, dear ones.

See you next time, around the fire.

And happy holidays!


Elizabeth, aka The Writing Parent

Inside the mind of...

[A mother comes into her child's room, where she is supposed to be clearing up her toys before bedtime, and finds her taking toys out to play with.]

Mother: What are you doing?!

Child: [Apologetically] I get easily distracted.

Mother: Yes, very easily distracted.

Child: It's the way I am, it's the way I DEVELOPED. I can't help it.

M: Well, that's a very good argument.

C: What's a 'argument'? Is it a reason for doing it?

M: Yes, that's exactly it.


  Playing not tidying


[Lying down on the child's bed together. Mother sighs.]

CHILD: [To mother] Why are you all... STRESSED?

Mother: It stresses me out that you never do what I ask you. Do you think you would get stressed if you were a mummy and your children didn't do what you asked them?

Child: I don't know, because I AM a mummy, but my children are all derry well behaved, so I don't know what it's like to have children who are badly behaved.


       Nice dolly children

Mother:  [Sighs again and kisses child's head.] Do you think it's a little bit funny to not do what people ask you? 

Child: [Her eyes gleam. She giggles, nods] It's DERRY funny. And it's derry funny to annoy [my big brother] and then he gets annoyed and hits me, and you say OH DEAR, and then he goes up to his room and he comes down and I say, it's ok, you don't have to say sorry, I forgive you. 






Mother: Do you like it when people give you attention?

Child: [nods] YES.

Mother: What do you like about it?

Child: It makes me feel IMPORTANT, and not LEFT OUT [makes a sad face].

Mother: How do you feel when you don't get attention?

Child: All [sad face] left out, and... and excluded. [Sad face again].


Mother: But you like going up to your room and shutting the door and playing by yourself. How do you feel when you do that?

Child: I like it, because I can SHOUT, and I can THINK, and I can PLAY.

Mother: What sort of girl do you want your teacher to think you are?

Child: A... a FUNNY girl, and a STRANGE girl. I am a derry funny girl. I have a funny brain - funny THINKING.







Child: Ask me more questions. I'm good at answering questions.






Have a great week -

Elizabeth, aka The Writing Parent




Follow Your Own Advice, or Method in my Madness

I've been going nuts and needing your help.




I've been having problems with the MORNINGS.




I'm not a morning person. I come from a family of people who will fall asleep on the carpet in front of the TV at 2am instead of going to bed (we see you, Uncle Pat ), and then snooze through 5 alarms the next morning.


I am fascinated by time, and sleep ( I swear I need 9 hours a night to function optimally), how we work within it and how it affects us. This book is on my reading list and I'll get to it when I have more TIME...

Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You're So Tired, by Till Roenneberg


Researchers suggest that our body clocks are 'fixed' and there is not that much we can do about it:

"Animal studies suggest that being a morning person or an evening person may be built into our genes, like having red hair or blue eyes. This may explain why those of us who are early-to-bed, early-to-rise types, or late-to-bed, late-to-rise types, find it so hard to change our behaviour."


Here is my problem, which some of you may relate to:

  • The kids struggle to get to sleep at night (they lie awake for a long time),
  • they are tired in the morning,
  • I find it painful waking them when they look so sleepy (particularly as I value sleep so highly myself - see above),


Anna sleeping


  • so we don't have much time to get ready for school,
  • at the last minute the rebel daughter finds some important task to carry out that couldn't possibly have been done earlier,
  • I start shouting and screaming and tearing my hair out,
  • we say goodbye at the school gates and I don't see them again until half past three.


I really don't know what to do, I thought to myself. I am going to have to post a message on my blog and on facebook and ask for help, find out what other people do. Get some advice.

Then I remembered one of my own personal affirmations: Follow Your Own Advice.


"Alright," said Voice 1. "What would I say to a friend if she asked for help with an issue like this?"

"I'd probably sit down with a piece of paper and lead a coaching session," said Voice 2. "Ask her what her aim was, what was currently going on - what successes she'd had and where the gaps were, ask her to brainstorm possibilities and then come up with some actions."

"And almost certainly, one of the options would be: wake the kids up earlier in the morning (20 minutes... just not long enough to get ready)."

"Alright, said Voice 1. "Can I follow my own advice? Can I wake them up earlier?"

"But it's SO sad waking a blissfully sleeping child!" said Voice 3.


Anna sleeping


"But it's so SAD shouting at your children every morning before school," said Voice 2.

"How about trying waking them up earlier and seeing?" proposed Voice 4. "Then you can evaluate and decide what you do."


(Are you worried about the voices in my head? Should I be???).


Inside out pixar disney


"Alright," the first voice replied. " I can't argue with that."


Reader, I tried it.

All this week, I've been waking the kids up 15-20 minutes earlier than before; they've been getting themselves dressed; have had time to open their advent calendars; the rebel has only once disappeared upstairs just as we were due to leave; I barely shouted at her for it, and it has been good. Better.

The only downside is... they ARE TIREDER. In the evenings, my daughter's behaviour in particular has been... trying (more on that another time), and I think it is due to tiredness.


'I think you are tired,' I told her.

'I am NOT tired, I am ANGRY!!' she said.

'Yes. I get angry when I am tired. I think you are tired,' I said. (SOOOO annoying, parents).

'Best to go to bed early tonight.'


But that part hasn't followed along as smoothly as the first bit. I need another intervention to sort out bedtimes now.


Any thoughts??

So I can hear a different voice from (one of) my own??


Next time I will post a 'pretend' self-coaching session for people to Try At Home. I often use tips I picked up from my coaching course to self-coach when I get stuck, and find it really helpful -

when I remember to FOLLOW MY OWN ADVICE ;-)


We all know more than we think - the trick is knowing which voice to listen to!


Have a great week,

Elizabeth, aka The Writing Parent