I’m standing in the middle of a room full of parents, babies, toddlers and older siblings. In this room there is chatter, squealing from children, waves and greetings of ‘hello’ across the space and there is also a sense of unstructured, completely natural loveliness.
Our Saturday Socials bring families together from across Smile’s three support groups, as well as new faces and parents who have been with us for a number of years, whose children are growing up and playing together as part of this community.
Here is a room full of women and men with different stories to tell. Pretty much all of them have faced challenges in varying guises and, without exception, each of them has shown courage and strength in their vulnerability.
Time and time again we hear anecdotes of the disconnect between expectations of parenthood, which is often an ideal generated by media fantasies. These fabricated projections of family life prompt some parents to create a facade that correlates: “My Boden-clad angel baby is sleeping through the night, while I am dewy-faced and prepping for my post-delivery marathon next month” (OK, so it’s a bit of hyperbole but you get the picture). Another response to the images we see is to feel like we’re simply not measuring up. It’s a conspiracy that perpetuates a sense of ‘not being enough’, until we start to talk about it honestly and openly…then the pressure is slowly released, and the gap between expectations and reality is reduced.
In this room, it seems to me that what brings people together is so powerful that what makes them feel separate starts to dissolve away. Internal pain and suffering is invariably caused by a myriad of different thought forms that prompt us to feel that we aren’t coping well. We feel all at sea when our inner narrative is telling us that we’re not cut out for this – whether it’s parenthood, our career, relationships or even the big game of life itself. But when we see beyond the thinking and open our hearts to the possibility that we might just be OK, we reconnect with an inner resilience and wellbeing that has always been there.
When I leave that room and head to the car with my daughter I am struck by the beauty of that experience. While each parent had his or her own story to tell, the stories were delicately woven together to create one single realisation. While the ups and downs of life are frenetic, unpredictable and often hard to navigate, they are enveloped by a shared sense of kindness, open-heartedness and compassion that is unending.
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