This interview was originally published in March 2014 as part of the lovely Olga Dossa’s “Inspiring Peace” series on being an empowered, joyful and peaceful mother.
Olga Dossa: What was the catalyst that inspired you into mothering the way that you do?
Krystal Trammell: I became a mother when I was just 18, and my parenting style has really gone through many shifts and evolutions since that time, when I was so overwhelmed and terrified of messing everything up.
I suppose, when I really think back to just one thing – it was my desire to succeed in breastfeeding my second child, which led me to La Leche League’s work – that was truly the first step in the journey towards Now.
La Leche League talked about babies and mothering in a way I’d not heard of before – so connected and gentle, almost synergistic in the meeting of both mother’s and baby’s needs as one unit.
This led me to question everything I thought I knew about childhood, parenting, discipline, and even education…
This then led me to the cooperative, mutually respectful, freedom-focused philosophy that is unschooling, which continues to play a huge role in the way I relate to my children, partner, and even to myself.
If you could tell a new mother just one thing that would make her journey of parenting more joyful, what would it be?
To slow down, relax, and trust in the innate wisdom of your child.
Even in the womb, babies give us glimpses of their unique personalities. Contrary to traditional ideas about “spoiling” our baby, the much more simple, joyful, and loving truth is that babies need their mamas. That truth only evolves into different forms as children get older.
They will always be asking the timeless questions, “am I loved? am I okay?”, in a million ways over the course of their childhoods. They’ll do so in a multitude of ways that can be endearing, challenging, and everything in between.
Continually bring back your focus toward loving connection with your children, and chances are you’ll be on the peaceful mother path!
How do you honour your femininity as a peaceful mother?
I believe that motherhood is one of the most expressive and vital expressions of divine femininity out there! Okay, so sometimes it’s spit-up and diapers; devoid of sleep and glamour…
But you’ve gotta admit that there’s a deep, powerful sensuality in the nurturing of children – in the act of continually tending to the needs and feelings of your child, all while balancing your own in the mix.
I think that too many mothers have somehow gotten the message that they must lose themselves or give themselves up to be a “good” or peaceful mother. I feel that that’s one of the worst untruths being perpetuated out there. You must continue to honor and be your true self, even as a mother – if not especially as a mother!
What kind of a message does it send to a child if they continually see mama putting herself last?
So wear the clothes you love. Eat the last chocolate. Take time for yourself, and with your partner and friends.
Keep up with your hobbies or interests, even if it’s something you only do occasionally.
You cannot completely martyr yourself to the dutiful side of motherhood without you and your children suffering in one way or another.
What are your non-negotiables for your own self care?
Well, as the ages of your children change, I think this changes as well! There is, however, a deep and continual need for self-care in some form, no matter the ages of your children.
So, right now, in this slice of life in 2014 where I have five unschooled children between the ages of 2 and 14 – I am enjoying being able to expand a bit in honoring my own desires and needs more fully!
My focus used to be simply on eating enough healthy, whole food; sleeping well; and getting out for regular physical movement and socialization with other adults at least weekly.
(You may guess that I’m an introvert, and you’d be correct! Your needs may vary, and that’s perfectly okay.)
Now, I make time to do yoga daily, even if it’s a quick session before my toddler wants to join in. I am mindful of my own emotions, and try to check in with myself regularly through journaling and meditation, to make sure that I am not suppressing my needs in some way. I let myself listen to music I enjoy, instead of always defaulting to “what the kids want”.
My husband and I NEED at least one date night a week – even if it’s just something simple. As an introverted mama with a big family, I must be especially mindful of my need for uninterrupted time to be by myself, and to have deep conversations with my hubby that aren’t punctuated by our kids’ requests.
What is one practical thing that you do on a daily basis to make your daily life run more smoothly?
I include my kids in the planning of our week and day. If I have errands to run later, I mention it. If I have a lot of projects to tackle on the computer, I mention that, too. Even for the younger kids, who don’t have a solid concept of the passage of time – it seems to really help them if I can say, “We need to do X, Y, and Z today, so we’ll be pretty busy,” or, “We don’t have anything scheduled – is there anything you’d like to do this afternoon?”
I try to honor and consider my kids’ preferences as often as possible – but in a larger family there is simply no way to cater to everyone’s whims, even if I wanted to.
People seem to think that kids need to be told what to do quite often – but in my experience, the less you tell them what to do, the more likely they are to cheerfully cooperate with you.
For the most part, people are agreeable if they’re treated with kindness and empathy – and kids are people too, of course.
How important is rhythm in your life?
Rhythm, yes – structure, not so much. I’m big on flexibility, but I like to keep general patterns throughout the day and week. For example, mornings are often quiet and calm for our family, while early evenings can get pretty fun and rowdy, with everyone playing together or watching movies.
This is just the natural flow of our personalities, and in the absence of school, we are generally free to go with it.
I schedule days for cleaning, cooking, and social time, so that there’s a loose theme to the week – but it’s always negotiable.
While I don’t let my kids “call all the shots” – I do encourage them to participate in our daily activities as much as possible. That means that sometimes – many times – plans will change, arrangements must be made, and contingencies must be dealt with.
Letting the 4 year old cut his own banana, or the 2 year old dress himself, often means extra work, extra time, extra messes…
It’s less about “planning activities” and more about allowing the organic flow of their curiosity take us for an impromptu wander. Often, these sort of things simply can’t be planned for, and are inconvenient – but nobody ever said parenting was convenient.
Being a peaceful mother can be difficult in the midst of chaos – but we can always choose what to focus on: the peace, or the chaos. Each are always present.
Finish these sentences:
I am happiest when: I’m cuddled in bed with my entire family, with nowhere to be or go, and lots of ideas flowing. That’s when everything feels right in the world.
Love is: unconditional acceptance that knows no boundaries; it’s letting go of fear and expectations; a feeling of security and freedom all rolled up together.
My greatest wish for my children is: to truly know, believe in, and honor themselves, while remaining aware of the interconnection we share with others.
What does being a peaceful mother mean to you?
I used to think that being a “peaceful mother” meant never showing any emotion that wasn’t peaceful – but I don’t think that anymore.
Suppressing your own feelings of hurt, fear, anger, or frustration means you’re not being honest with yourself or your children. That creates a pressure that will surely explode at some point, usually in a non-peaceful way!
I’ve learned over the years that part of being a peaceful mother is being honest about my “negative” feelings (and I put “negative” in quotes because, really, that’s a judgment you’re making about your own feelings.
Feelings aren’t “bad” or “good” – they just ARE). If I ignore them, they won’t just go away – and they WILL interfere with me being the peaceful mother I desire to be.
To me, being a peaceful mother is about letting go of the conditioning, fears, and “shoulds” that get in the way of expressing our true selves and interacting authentically with those we feel closest to.
In order to feel heard and understood, I must sometimes express feelings that are unpleasant for my family – but I must be equally willing and open to listen to the range of feelings (pleasant or otherwise!) from my family members as well.
With younger children, I believe that peaceful parenting has a lot to do with just learning to trust your child: trusting that they’re not “out to get you” or “doing it on purpose.” It’s about finding ways to cooperate with them, and showing them that you value their feelings.
As children grow in age and awareness, I think that being a peaceful mother has more to do with cultivating mutual respect and kindness toward each other, and a willingness to put in effort toward understanding each other.
Being a peaceful mother is most definitely NOT a destination – it’s a journey: One of the longest and most challenging journeys you’ll likely ever embark upon! So, relax and enjoy the ride.