When Lucy put out a call to writing arms in support of International Women’s Day I inwardly groaned. As a long time reader of blogs exposing the hidden narrative of women, how the hell was I going to pick one woman to write about?
I've written in the past about women who inspire me with their utter magnificence but after I read the exam question several times (something I was not always good at as a child) I realised I had missed the important word:
If you ask my parents they will tell you that I have always been a little feisty, so absorbing the collective strength of other feisty women, while affirming, hasn't changed my life.
The lady who made me do a right at the traffic lights is someone you may not have heard of before, and is certainly not someone traditionally thought of as having a “weighty” role in society.
She’s a cartoonist called Kate.
Back in 2010, I had the honour of winning a ticket to go to the NCT conference. I say honour because the keynote speaker was Ina May Gaskin and as you can tell from my blog post at the time, I was a teensie bit excited about the prospect of hearing her great wisdom. She was wise indeed, but she didn't change me.
When I walked into the auditorium that Sunday, I was a few hours away from seeing Ina May and just in time to see a pregnant lady on crutches hobbling painfully onto the stage.
Then Kate turned to face us, smiling, and began a presentation from her book The Food of Love
Up came a slide about feeding on demand rather than to a schedule – and the room cheered.
Up came a slide on co sleeping rather than “getting your baby settled into his own room sooner rather than later” – and the crowd roared.
|(c) Kate Evans, 2014|
Slide after slide came up directly challenging the way I had been parenting my son and each time, the room shouted louder in agreement.
I sat in that seat with tears rolling down my face.
You see, I had my doubts from early on about a “crying down period”, hated being away from my son at night and dreaded having to distract a hungry Alfie for the last half hour before his scheduled feed.
But I thought I was wrong for feeling that way because a bestselling child trainer couldn't be wrong.
I didn't know there was something called Attachment Parenting and I didn't know that other people felt as I did. It didn't occur to me that I could just have Alfie in bed with us or that the world would keep turning if he just ate when he was hungry.
The moment I heard Kate’s presentation and the reaction of the audience around me I knew I had found my parenting tribe. Here were other women who thought as I did and who could offer me a different approach. Here were hundreds of other women validating that the best selling child trainer could be wrong.
Kate stood on the stage joyfully sharing her vision of parenthood and I cried from relief.
These women weren't anxiously trying to achieve the instructions set out by a childless expert, they were glorying in the messiness and unpredictability of children.
Each of them, without knowing, was telling me “you can do this mama, you've got this, just listen to your instincts” with every cheer they gave.
And they were right.
That day set me free to listen to the niggling doubts and to grow as a mama who parents to needs rather than schedules. It empowered me and set me on a glorious journey I am still on today.
It doesn't always need to be the great and the good who inspire change in the world. Sometimes, the voices who achieve the most are the ones that just point you to the truth you already held.
So to Kate Evans, I give my humble thanks for showing me my truth.
My children thank you too.