The Shadow Side

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In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present. — Sir Francis Bacon

The shadow side. It can bring a lot of shame. But as we recognise that this part of oneself is a shared experience - it human - we can, perhaps, connect in it.

I totally get that sharing a side of oneself that feels dark, hideous, and soooo far from ‘Instagramable’ is not a walk in the park. But, it may also be the case that you find when you open up about this part of you, the light comes flooding in. In fact, I think that this is why therapy is so important- it creates the conditions to share... and to find that someone can hold space for all of you - the full range of your emotions and experience.

Perhaps the best first step in making peace with this part though, if not speaking to someone, is journaling. As the ink flows you can introduced the shadow side and see if what unfolds on the paper could use a little nurturing itself. A little love. A little self-love for all the pointy bits.

Inner Listening

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I have been a seeker and I still am, but I stoped asking the books and the stars. I started listening to the teaching of my soul. – Rumi

Can you relate? I certainly can. Seeking brought me to a B.A. in Philosophy and Comparative Religion, then on into post-graduate studies in Psychology. I truly do believe knowledge is power. But, I have learnt that some knowledge - wisdom, in fact, is best found in the silent moments of observation, in honing the 'sixth sense', which, I also believe, is 'muscle-like' in nature (i.e., we have to practice trusting our gut). I have not always got this right, but when something has gotten difficult I often find in reflection, that there were warning signs I repressed.

This week, could you create some space to let your souls shine while you listen?

Captured by the lovely @afterduskphotography

Wearing beautiful bamboo clothing by @ethica.activewear

The Importance of Transparent Parenting

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When I give a presentation about Village and the realities and challenges of parenthood and working life, I can at times get quite passionate and emotive. The Village Foundation was born of personal experience and research and both elements have details that can bring up emotions, memories, and truths, particularly during question time when I am often asked about my personal experiences. One of the reasons I developed Village, was to create a platform where truths were told and received with openness, understanding, and compassion. The key to starting here is truths being told, and this needs to start with me as the founder, and as an advocate for transparent parenting. I have been very open and vocal about my experiences with postpartum depression 8 years ago and my experiences as a new fulltime working mother over the past 2 years. Not everything I have to say is warm and fuzzy, rather, I deliberately share the things that often go unsaid, that others may find uncomfortable to hear. I’ve chosen not to hide the reality of being a working mum, of being a mum who isn’t a ‘natural’, of being a mum who prefers to work, like so many women and men are forced to do; pretending that all is ok and that they are unchanged by their new reality.


What does this mean? It means that like many working parents, I may not always be 100% focused. I may be thinking about my daughters, torn between the old me and the new me that is up with them all night, comforting them when they’re sad or sick and always partially thinking of them. I may be on the brink. And for me, in this role, it means I will state that I’m exhausted if I’m exhausted, that I’ve had little sleep, that I sometimes forget my train of thought. It means I'll openly state that I love being the ‘secondary' caregiver, that I prefer working to reading stories. It means I will openly state the conflict between loving my girls wholeheartedly and not loving all the daily details. It means I share what I'm feeling and thinking despite how unpleasant or how against the norm it may be. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my work. It doesn’t mean I don’t adore my children. And it doesn’t mean Im not 100% committed. To Both. I challenge the norm, the acceptable, the allowed because it's an illusion that society tells us we ‘should' be, the perfect mothering template. The damage this societal framework does is both explicit and clandestine.

I am deliberate in my honesty and my reality is the reality of many working parents’ lives. Perhaps this is unprofessional, perhaps to my detriment. Perhaps others find it difficult or uncomfortable. Despite this, I strongly believe that it’s imperative to change the existing paradigm. How else do we address the unsaid, if not to say it? I would be inauthentic if I acted otherwise or pretended that I am not often moved to be less than perfectly dispassionate and professional during a presentation or talk.

My telling, however raw or real, does not change the facts.

  • One in 5 women experience postpartum depression.

  • One in 10 men.

  • This has developmental effects on the infant and siblings in the short and long term.

  • These effects flow into the community, the workplace.

  • 80% of mothers experience some form of emotional distress after having a baby.

  • Perinatal mental health costs the Australian industry over $500 million a year in lost

    productivity.

  • The first 4 months back into the workforce after leave are critical to retention.

  • 40% of new dads fear taking leave for career impact.

  • Some women report feeling isolated, disconnected and alone on parental leave.

  • Loss of identity when on leave plays a significant role in mental health.

  • Women seek other parents, who have been there before, to share with.

  • Women will not actively seek help or admit their suffering for fear of shame, and impact on

    career.

Women decided not to make their needs known to others

if they felt the people around them could not offer the kind of support they needed.

  • Negron, Martin, Almog, Balbierz and Howell 2013

This is why I share, this is why I am brutally honest. And this is why I believe wholeheartedly, that Village is so important. Mentoring is key in facilitating wellbeing and connection before, during and after leave which may improve the wellbeing of parents at work, the health and wellbeing of our children, productivity and the bottom line for industry in Australia.

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Do you have a story to share? We are collating real stories, of real working parents. Please email your experience to tiffany@villagefoundationapp.com or call to chat further 0410 943 873.

Do I look good today?

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What do you see?

My hair is back, looking tidy, my makeup is on, I’m wearing a white suit and smiling. I’m on my way to talk to a group of underprivileged young adults about adversity, success, life. 

What they will see initially is someone together and doing pretty well. 

If they look closer, what they may see is that I have brown rice smeared on my lapel that Rumi left on me as I walked out. That I have a smudge on my cheek from where guilty tears ran down my face as I left her feeling unwell with her grandparents. They might notice the dark circles under my eyes because I was up all night as she cried in our bed. They might see my fingernails, broken and spilt or my hair, thinning from not having the time to take care of them, or because my body is still recovering from 16 months of breastfeeding. 

What they won’t see, no matter how hard they look, is the inner battle of being a working mum. The guilt, the tearing of my heart as I pursue my passion but leave her most days. The mental and physical effort it takes to be at a meeting. They won’t know that my hair is back because my daughter was an octopus this morning and showering was out of the question. That I put my makeup on in the car because her tentacles were wrapped over my face and any attempt to put her down resulted in screams from a B-grade horror; that to get to them today meant planning babysitters, school pickups, packed food, and Panadol for her pain. 

I recently watched the Handmaids Tale. I was warned against it because of its intensity,  especially for mothers, and because I stopped watching violence 11 years ago. There’s no doubt the shock value of torture and separation. I can’t help but wonder though if the pain it evokes is somewhat linked to a bit of truth. For me, it absolutely brought my choices into account. Watching it was like having my eyes held open against my will staring straight into the fire at the judgments and guilt and consequences of combining work and family. Maybe from others- definitely from myself. This may sound extreme. I assure you, ask a working mum or dad and the pain can be very real. Many of us have found ways to hide it, justify it, accept it, live with it, downplay it, celebrate it, and work with it. In a society that celebrates achievement, success, equality, and independence what choice do we really, practically, have? (I’ll admit there are days I wish to throw it all in and live in a camper by the ocean homeschooling and growing vegetables.)

The other way some women handle the immense pressure and mental and emotional load is to rebel against the high achieving standard many of us set. Think Bad Moms, or that comedic duo who laugh and joke that perhaps their kid does have nits.. ‘who knows? We don’t actually bother brushing their hair hahahahaha’ *insert laissez-faire head throw back and uncontrollable laughter.

I tend to not find this funny, or helpful. I feel like it’s shielding a sense of overwhelm. Of not being able to manage it all. And this is real and something worth feeling the pain over. How else do we address the injustice and the challenge and what it means for us? To me there’s always some sense in trying to make it happen, in putting the effort in that will be felt and seen by our children. There’s a very delicate balance, or perhaps tension, which I’m sure we all stumble across from time to time when all the stars align, between self care, and self sacrifice and it feels good. It’s kind of like parenting. So much struggle and yelling and frustration and then that one little impromptu kiss from tiny sticky lips that makes it all worthwhile. 

Its a tough gig, there’s no denying it. I wonder if it’s made better by sharing? By coming together in our efforts? By having the occasional days where hair brushing is too hard but then jumping back on the horse the next day. For me I find comfort in the small wins, not in giving up or throwing it all in. Each journey is different, each struggle takes its toll. No judgment here. Just know that if you’re out there trying really hard, feeling it day after day and wondering if you’re alone, that you are absolutely not. I’m here too. So many of us are here, looking good and working hard. But if you reach a liiiitle further in, you’ll see that underneath the suit jackets and mascara, we are all in it together, feeling all the feels.

I feel as though I’ve ranted. Hopefully there’s some sense in there, somewhere. Some measure of comfort and connectedness. This is our 3rd night awake in a row with sick and screaming Rumi, so I’m honestly too tired to know. 

Take care, Tiffany

PS. About the group I’m meeting today - they may not see the challenges, but I’ll be sure to fill them in. Transparency is key!

September 10th is Suicide Prevention Day

This Tuesday September 10th is Suicide Prevention Day. I know that sounds very heavy, but did you know that 1 in 5 maternal deaths is caused by suicide? This is a staggering number. Its hard to imagine that we alone could make a big enough difference in someones life, to prevent a tragedy. And yet, a kind gesture, reaching out, sharing some time, are all important ways that have shown to impact so greatly on peoples lives, that decisions like this are avoided.

If all we do this week, is take an extra 5 minutes to talk to someone, smile at the stranger in the lift, compliment someone, or reach out and ask how they’re going, then we are doing our part. Choose kindness, as they say, and you just never know the impact it can have.

Today, in a moment when I was feeling a little low, an older lady in my community reached out and touched my hand to show me she could see that I wasn’t myself, and that she was there with me. It was a simple, 1 minute interaction that changed my day.

How will you change someone's day today?

Have a beautiful week.

  • If you or someone you know needs support, please use the navigation tool bar to find contact details of various organisations. You are not alone x

Father's Day

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Suddenly the beautiful weather and the blossoms are upon us. Thank goodness! For many new parents this would have been the first Fathers Day. For others, its a another day of lunch, a phone call, perhaps some raw eggs and cold coffee? For some its a really hard day. For the many reasons we could mention, its not always what its cracked up to be. Back when I first had Faith it was a day I wanted so desperately to celebrate, but instead it was filled with sadness, emptiness and a diminishing hope that everything would be ok.

Especially this week, when we see all the sun kissed picture-perfect families out and about, sharing about the BEST DAD ever on social media, enjoying the rides at the show, it's important to remember those pictures tell only the briefest snippet of a story.


Tonight my kids were reminiscing about a recent camping trip. “That was the best holiday ever!” The pictures were great I suppose. But, I can honesty tell you, that that was the worst holiday ever. No word of a lie I wanted to get into a cupboard and stay there. It's interesting what sentiment and memories do.

This week, I encourage you to reach out to one new parent who you’ve connected with via Village and catch up for a coffee. Talk about the real stuff. Not the stuff of pictures or social media. There may have been great moments, but Im sure there was an element of stress in there somewhere, if not this year in past years! Laugh about it, share it, but most of all, know that its completely normal and that we have all been there in some way.

Book Week + The Royal Show

All smiles here…not so at 10pm the night before! Madly glueing ears because the Koala hat we had suddenly went missing!

All smiles here…not so at 10pm the night before! Madly glueing ears because the Koala hat we had suddenly went missing!

This is a big couple of weeks. Not only do we have Book Week, we have the Royal Show coming on Friday. Talk about parenting stress!

Book Week is really a moment in time when we either flourish or fall into a heap as we realise we don't have the right ribbon, stockings, tail to go with the costume you thought you had sorted. Or to create the costume you completely forgot about, because, well, life. Ive both nailed it, and failed it. Either way, its an element of pressure I wouldn’t wish on any parent who was juggling work/drop off!

My big tips for Book Week:

1. Pop a reminder in your calendar 1 week prior.

2. Check the theme of Book Week online - yes there are themes each year - it narrows things down and gives you a focus.

3. Keep it as simple as possible if you're time poor, once you’ve googled for the home made options, check op shops and what you have at home. One year I made Blinky Bill ears…that was a winner. This year was as simple as a red ribbon for Matilda. Thank you Faith.

4. TRY and have some fun with it…it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Then we have the Royal Show. MASSIVE stress opportunity.

My tips:

1. Pack enormous amounts of snacks and water. Then if you do buy food its a real treat and not going to take all your budget.

2. Whether you use one or not take a cheap stroller. They are great for carrying jumpers, show bags, food, water bottles.

3. Decide before you go your limits…3 rides and 2 show bags, 1 ride and 1 show bag…whatever it is, decide and communicate prior!

4. Do all the free stuff! See the animals, the exhibits, try all the taste testers…hours of free fun.

5. First time with a baby? Take a baby carrier and a changing mat. But also take the stroller (see above)

Have fun, these are the weeks where the stress will one day have magically transformed into a beautiful memory xx

School Holiday Quality Time

It can be a fun break, there’s no doubt about it. But for many working parents school holidays can exacerbate feelings of being torn being work and home, and increase feelings of guilt
To all the parents who had to work and utilise OHSC, friends, grandparents, holiday programs... give yourself a break if you’re feeling it. I spent the majority of my school holidays out the back of a restaurant watching a blurry black and white TV, or literally under my mums desk. I still have the best memories and have never even considered what I could’ve been doing instead. I knew my mum worked so hard to give me what she could and I loved her for that. Some times she would give me $5 to spend in the newsagent. LOVED IT.
A simple walk after dinner or an hour in the park is enough to connect and refuel our kids with all the love they need if it’s quality time and from the heart.

World Breastfeeding Week

This week is World Breastfeeding Week. Breastfeeding can be the most wonderful or the most painful experience (or both). It can be a magical way to bond with our babies. It can be nourishing for both the body and the soul. 
It can also be impossible, strained, painful. There can be issues with latching, with intolerances, with nipples, with little mouths. It can lead to a great deal of distress if things don't go to plan.

New parents can put so much pressure on themselves to get this right straight away and fit the norms they, their families, the hospitals and society place on them. It can lead to feelings of guilt, desperation and sadness. 
Its important to remember that this isn't something you should 'just be able to do naturally'. There are many variables and it can take a lot of practice. Not breastfeeding doesn't make a new mum less than, or a failure. 
I encourage you talk about the experiences you’ve had. Reach out to new parent or someone who has been through this before and talk about what breastfeeding means to you, or how you're experiencing it now. Remember, while we often hear that 'breast is best’, what's really most important is the health and happiness of mum, so that she can be all she needs to be for her baby and herself.

Happy World Breastfeeding Week