“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain”.

This could so apply to parenting couldn’t it? Parenting is a constant dance.

“Families” is a term I have had to redefine as a solo parent. Estranged from my parents, no longer part of a husband and wife family unit, I went through a period wondering what family is and what it means to me. What floated through my head was that family is the one place you should be able to be real and be encouraged and supported to follow your own life journey.

We feel the need to put up so many masks and play so many roles, if you feel like you need to still put up masks to play a role in your family too, where can you find a place to practise just being you?

Mikaela-Rose is 5 (and a half she tells me proudly) and already making her path in this world. She is definitely working out what is real and defining  who she is and how she fits. She has been coming out with sentences like “I am just going to be like me and I don’t need to be like everyone else eh Mummy?” and the heart stoppers if I have raised my voice at her “Mummy, you are hurting my feelings”. These are opportune moments for me to open my heart and simply listen. Taking the time and finding the right words that will support, nurture, encourage, show respect, teach her good values and build on our relationship, guide her to make good choices, help to build her self-esteem, show her that she is loved, that I hear her and will listen, and equip her with the tools to pack in her school bag for the next day. As I type this, the words flowed through my head – “She is just FIVE now but very shortly she will be in her teens and if I don’t listen to her now, how can I get her on side and expect her to listen when she is a teenager?” Feed the roots, nurture the leaves and what happens – over time something beautiful grows, unravels and transforms before your eyes.

I was never given the tools to grow a great family. I have had to learn new ways, read, and follow my intuition (for guidance on the right things to do but also much harder than that is to be real about my own behaviour and not blame Mikaela-Rose for stressed ways I may be dealing with her). I can see the action and reaction of everything I do. The peace and beautiful feeling that comes when we have great days together and I can look back and see that I intentionally made the effort to listen, gave her respect and time. It shows how I deal with my daughter and react to my daughter’s behaviour, impacts on her emotional wellbeing, her approach to life, and in turn how she parents later on in life.

Growing a great family through love, respect, listening, making an effort to answer her questions and understand her, remembering that we are all individuals with our own path to follow making our own mistakes and learning from our own experiences. I believe that our children have selected us to be their parents for very distinct reasons and specific lessons they are here to learn from us, as much as we need to learn from them. I now appreciate how my parents could have got out of control with discipline and lost their cool. I don’t think it was right, but in each strained moment with Mikaela-Rose, I am reminded how I could choose to do something different and not repeat the path of my past. I also think about how she might be as a parent with her children and do I want this for her and her children… it reminds me of something she said the other day when I said “No, you are not having lollies for breakfast Mikaela-Rose”. She responded with, “Well mummy when I am a mummy I am not going to be like that, I will let them have lollies” Yeah, we will see.

Yes, I slip up and raise my voice at her and many moments where I just have to walk away and tell her that I will come back when I have calmed down. There is no one else to step in and play that parental role, and I think that is part of why I am a solo parent, I was always meant to be – its forced me to be more real, to look at my own behaviour and be more accountable because she is relying on me to man up and be real for her. As long as I can be aware of my own behaviour and see how this can affect my daughter and keep walking away and coming back to her with love and compassion and honesty, and trying to be a better parent, I know I can grow a family that won’t necessarily be free of imperfections, but will be real and honest and strong and give her something to keep coming back to that she knows she can rely on – a great family.

These poems are two of my favourites considering advice on parenting:



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Michelle Woolley is a qualified nanny, has worked in hospitality, accounts and advertising, and is now studying Bachelor of Social Work full-time, working part-time as a support worker for people with disabilities. In her teens, she volunteered at kids' camps and listened to real life stories, dried the tears of many young girls struggling with living in a broken family. She didn’t realise that one day she would be drying the tears of her own child while parenting alone. Join her as she writes about her journey.

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