Open Space

23rd October 18

This session saw the use of Open Space for everyone to talk about whatever it was that was on their mind...

I write this from my bed where my daughter has fallen asleep after fighting both me and the obvious desire to pass out for the last hour (even though she has a nasty cold and I have unashamedly dosed her up with Calpol to ensure a solid nap) and its becoming increasingly apparent that these periods of unconsciousness are becoming harder to achieve. So essentially, I have a very brief window of time to get all my stuff done (quietly, SO quietly) before leg tugging and whining awaits, already I digress…

In our last session, we hosted an open space. For those unfamiliar with the process - it is a time to raise any issues or concerns that you particularly want to discuss or join in with anyone else on a subject that they wish to talk about. Open Space is a technique often used in conferences and workshops and is a great way for groups to think, talk and take action together. The process allows free-flowing conversations about the things that really matter to the people in the room.

We had quite a plethora of subjects arise; How can I encourage independent play? What techniques can I implement to vary diet? Why is it so hard sometimes? Why can’t I have it all?

After initially gathering everyones thoughts onto post-it notes, we assembled them in groups if they had a similar thread running through them and groups formed around these topics. Some of the discussions below were had;

Brian Gordillo 546025 Unsplash
  1. How do I deal with my anxiety?
  • Whether it’s feeding, trips out, sleeping, moods etc, we all found we had anxiety over something. Those who had returned to work were anxious that they were missing out on interaction and bonding with their little ones as well as spending time with friends and mums and those who hadn’t were worried about money and giving up their careers and not allowing for their children to reap potential benefits from childcare. We couldn’t win whatever we had decided. Many expressed relief at being able to share their anxieties with others and not being understood by partners (as sympathetic or compassionate as they were). It was a sentiment shared that anxiety finds a friend in isolation and by continuing to talk we could reconnect and relax.

2. How do I get them to play on their own?

  • As detailed above, if I had the perfect answer to this, I would have written this piece weeks ago, (I also neglected to mention that I have to hold her hand to nap - like I’ve ever pissed off in the middle of trying to get her to do the one thing I want her to do, she must cling on to my fingers for fear of me trying to make a cup of tea? I’m watching her now move her head about whilst silently screaming STAY ASLEEP, PLEASE DAMMIT and quietly typing), so I do not profess to have the solution. Other than playgroups and expensive childcare there were a few reassuring anecdotes such as ‘don't worry if they don’t play independently for more than 5,10,15 mins, they will and its fine to get worried and/or annoyed by it. Bring them up to your level if you’re doing something in the kitchen (as long as it’s safe and you’re comfortable with it) or let them help with a task you have to do but bringing it down to the floor. One said she was finding it really hard to tidy up so she found a small toy vacuum cleaner in a charity shop and showed her little one how to use it. Now they clean together (as long as it doesn’t take longer than 10 minutes!). Other said that they simply had to wait for the phase to pass or stick on a TV programme that they knew they liked, whatever works!

3. Why is it so hard sometimes?

  • Ah, the ultimate question. WHY is it so hard sometimes? Why is it that even when we try to start the day off in the right way it still ends up in a screaming match with one or both parties partially clothed and/or crying? Some days are effortless right? We meet with friends, we go to the park, we eat nicely, we get changed nicely and the sun shines all day and some days we want to throw them down a well. One of us told a story about their toddler throwing the ultimate fit at an airport after a holiday (where they’d been impeccably behaved previously and everyone had had fun) and no one could calm him down. A whole departure lounge looked on whilst he refused to be consoled and only stopped once he’d expended all his energy - we’ve all been there right?! There doesn’t appear to be a logical rational explanation for why they are making it so hard, they just are. We also questioned our own responses and found we were often blaming ourselves for the bad days. We should cut ourselves slack! Sometimes its impossible, sometimes it’s not. We are not bad mothers, we are human and it’s ok to have shit days, it’s what moulds and helps us survive.

4. Why can’t we have it all?

  • We also talked about needing a village, and yet so often parenting in isolation. We talked about how all the things that are hard would be easier if there weren't such huge expectations and often a lot of judgement. What's worse is that judgement often comes from other mums. We decided we need to create positive spaces online, face to face, and fill them with honesty and kindness. We also acknowledged that it's not entirely up to us, society has a lot to answer for.
Jordan Whitt 145327 Unsplash

After cake and tea, we all felt a lot better. It’s good to chat and even better to eat cake and chat. Evidently, we aren’t alone and we can all help in our daily struggle to retrieve children from wells and mothers from eating entire packs of biscuits (although I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with that).

curve-up icon logo-2 icon lottery icon next-circle icon next icon pattern icon repeat-pattern icon white-mask icon