Wonderful Raelee Peirce from over at http://www.noblemother.com/ wrote this in response to reading an article by Dr. Gabor Mate. Dr. Mate, as many of you may recognize, is one of the co- authors of The Parenting Passageway’s featured book we are studying: “Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers.”
You can see more about Raelee and her journey here: http://www.noblemother.com/raelee/ These are Raelee’s powerful words about parenting and the best thing that you can do for your child.
What’s The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Child?
By Raelee Peirce
Our choices for our children have positive and negative consequences. Sometimes we are more aware of these consequences than other times. We simply do not always know the impact of everything we do in nurturing to the best of our ability.
Therefore, it is my belief that mothering is a completely unique responsibility. I feel like I am constantly stretching and growing spiritual qualities of patience, flexibility, assertiveness, and self-discipline.
I work every day at learning ways to make parenting less stressful for myself and for my clients. It has been so rewarding to find small ways to incorporate simplicity into our lives. I am learning to balance the active moments and days with more low-key moments and days. Lighting a candle for prayers or for a meal can bring a peaceful tone to an otherwise tense activity. Storytelling with my kids brings us closer together and keeping to a regular bedtime rhythm provides a familiar predictability to our days.
So when I read this article by Dr. Gabor Mate…
Trauma: How We’ve Created a Nation Addicted to Shopping, Work, Drugs and Sex….Post-industrial capitalism has completely destroyed the conditions required for healthy childhood development.
…over this past weekend, I felt like jumping up and down in complete joy.
Joy for my work in simplicity and joy for us as mothers who have made difficult choices in order to nurture our babies. In today’s modern times, intuition and spiritual understanding are appreciated but not revered as much as science. Well, it is with pleasure and amazement and excitement that I share with you the science in this article that validates what we intuitively have known all along – our babies need their mamas and we need to live in a cultural climate – a climate where the attitude, expectations, and social services – provide mothers with emotional and financial support in order to nurture their own babies.
As a parent coach I have heard personal stories of moms who are isolated, lonely, unsupported and left questioning their decision to stay home or go to work. Dr. Mate explains that this isolation is not optimal for us and is a new phenomenon…
"The normal basis for child development has always been the clan, the tribe, the community, the neighborhood, the extended family. Essentially, post-industrial capitalism has completely destroyed those conditions. People no longer live in communities which are still connected to one another. People don’t work where they live. They don’t shop where they live. The kids don’t go to school, necessarily, where they live. The parents are away most of the day. For the first time in history, children are not spending most of their time around the nurturing adults in their lives. And they’re spending their lives away from the nurturing adults, which is what they need for healthy brain development."
So many parents feel forced to spend time away from their babies and young children because of the tough economic situation of our day. I feel that burn on a very personal level. My husband and I are currently both working from home due to the tough job market. As a result, many families live with a great deal of stress in order to make ends meet.
Certainly all parents are interested in supporting the healthy brain development of their children. Interestingly, a calm brain is a healthy brain. In the article Mate says that stressful parenting and time away from mothers is changing the chemical make-up of our baby’s brains.
…"dopamine is simply an essential life chemical. Without it, there’s no life. Mice in a laboratory who have no dopamine will starve themselves to death, because they have no incentive to eat. Even though they’re hungry, and even though their life is in danger, they will not eat, because there’s no motivation or incentive. And if you actually look at how the dopamine levels in a brain develop, if you look at infant monkeys and you measure their dopamine levels, and they’re normal when they’re with their mothers, and when you separate them from mothers, the dopamine levels go down within two or three days."
The cultural understanding that thrives in America is that our babies are fine and that they will adjust without us. Mate believes that the rise in ADD, ADHD, Autism, behavior defiance, and addiction is not genetic. He has found that these disorders are increasing because stress has increased for parents and kids, lowering dopamine levels. Unfortunately, our society’s response to this isn’t to support families, mothers, babies – it’s to find a drug that will increase the dopamine levels. But whether a child is put on these drugs or not, children need emotional connection regardless. By de-stressing ourselves and the lives of our babies and children, new positive pathways are developed in the brain and dopamine levels can rise, naturally.
Our children in our country are suffering from lack of emotional connection. We lack rhythm and downtime which allow children to unfold into growing into their true selves. As a result, there is an increase in children being diagnosed and labeled and at the very least making their parents feel crazy with their "misbehavior."
Mate points out that "yes, a lot of children are acting out, but it’s not bad behavior. It’s a representation of emotional losses and emotional lacks in their lives. And whether it’s, again, bullying or a whole set of other behaviors, what we’re dealing with here is childhood stunted emotional development—in some cases, stunted pain development. And rather than trying to control these behaviors through punishments, or even just exclusively through medications, we need to help these kids develop."
Let’s acknowledge that time with our babies and children is time that is not wasted. It is richly valuable. The home environment is a space to create warmth, love, patience, calm – for the sake of our children’s developing brains. "…which circuits develop and which don’t depend very much on environmental input. When people are mistreated, stressed or abused, their brains don’t develop the way they ought to. It’s that simple…And the essential condition for the physiological development of these brain circuits that regulate human behavior, that give us empathy, that give us a social sense, that give us a connection with other people, that give us a connection with ourselves, that allows us to mature—the essential condition for those circuits, for their physiological development, is the presence of emotionally available, consistently available, non-stressed, attuned parenting caregivers."
I think motherhood today can be completely characterized as overwhelming and stressful. I firmly believe because we collectively have been convinced that a "good" mom juggles a high power career and/or "gives up" her career to be home, makes organic meals, knits hats and sews their child’s birthday goodie bags, and still has time to respond effectively to tantrums, not to mention be somehow connected to her spouse, that there’s no question why parenting today is stressful.
The more that I know and understand, the better choices I can make. It doesn’t make the choices easy – but I do have more clarity and conviction.
"The child’s brain development depends on the presence of non-stressed, emotionally available parents."
I want the cultural climate to change. This article validates a formula like Simplicity Parenting ( http://www.simplicityparenting.com/) as a formula that families can apply in order to find the calm connection each of us craves.
It is not my intention to share this message with you so you can become riddled with guilt or anger. My intention is for us to learn and grow together. What are we doing right and what do we need to improve upon for ourselves, and as a result, for the next generation of mothers?
Certainly we want our children to appreciate education, to go as far as they are motivated, to find financial success, to be content, inspired, passionate about life. Can we also instill in them a deeper understanding of the critical role they play in the healthy development and happiness of their own children?
I’m not a politician and I don’t want to be. I think change begins first in me. The more all of us stand up and advocate for the well-being of our babies, the more things will begin to shift. We are a powerful force when we stand together.
The most important thing you can do right now for your child is to reduce the stress in your own life and consequently, the life of your child. When your child receives unstressed parenting he/she is able to optimally develop.
Thank you Raelee!
Many blessings to you all,