Reflections #19. Big Loving Mamma  💌


Reflecting on my parenting journey, may you see yourself reflected.

Big loving mamma
Issue #19, September 2016

Big loving mamma is grounded, powerful and has a huge capacity for nurturing and holding.


This month I offer some reflections on a side of mothering that is often taken for granted but, unfortunately, has not come to me as a given. I call it Big Loving Mamma, and it’s taking a conscious effort for me to claim and embody it’s qualities. I hope those of you who resonate with my journey find clarity and comfort in my sharing.

I want to welcome all new subscribers to my newsletter (quite a few this month, mostly due to our Aware Parenting introductory talks in Byron!) and remind you that you can find the definition of all terms in capitals and italics in the Glossary section at the bottom.

Things are starting to pick up on the business side: free introductory talks and ongoing support groups are both happening this month (one of them tomorrow!), with a workshop with Marion Rose, my mentor, in the pipeline. It is very exciting.

For those of you living near by, I have added a new section at the end of the newsletter with information and dates to all those events so you can attend and pass the information on to anyone you think might be interested. If you wanted to get dates earlier you could subscribe to our “Shana & Maira mailing list”. We send a short email a month just listing some of the Aware Parenting events happening in the area. It would get to you at the end of every month with the info for the following month, so you’d have more notice than with my newsletters, which I tend to send later. If you are interested, just let me know!

A little window into my life

At our latest introductory talk I was deeply moved by mothers telling me how difficult it is for them to listen to their babies cry. I was touched because I could relate: when my two were babies, their cries would make me feel like there was something wrong, and I had to fix it or I was not doing a good job as a mother. Not being very confident with my ability to do so triggered a big lot of painful emotions that I had no idea how to deal with, so I bottled them up and tried to shush my children. I was flooded with feelings of inadequacy, fear, overwhelm, insecurity and resentment, and I had no idea where they came from. Because of it, I also felt defective. And, as no-one had ever told me about this possibility, I felt cheated and angry. So there were a lot of uncomfortable emotions for me, and that meant that I found it very difficult to be emotionally present for my children.

This has affected the quality of their attachment to me. We love each other dearly, but over the years they experienced that letting out their big uncomfortable emotions often triggered my big uncomfortable emotions, which got in the way of my capacity to love and nurture them in those crucial moments of difficulty. During those moments they didn’t feel safe, and has lead to what is called “an ambivalent attachment”.

I have been working on this for ten years (since my daughter was born), but for the first six, before I found Aware Parenting, progress was slow. So I spent a good part of the time wishing the kids would grow up and leave me alone. As I slowly, lovingly and patiently deal with the consequences of it all within me and with my children, they grow up. All of a sudden, my son is already nine and we get a lot of ‘I don’t care’, disconnection and violence. It feels like however much I do with Attachment Play and Loving Limits and looking into my own childhood pain so I don’t dump it on him, he is still slipping away. He is emotionally more and more distant; he is very often angry and lashes out against me, his dad and his sister… I feel totally powerless to gain his heart back. I despair; what else do I need to do?

Awake and journaling in the middle of the night, I remember hearing parents talk about the experience of falling in love with their newborns, of their hearts being full to bursting, of the melting in exquisite tenderness, of never imagining they could love so much… I cry tears of grief for what I missed out on. I want to melt into the warmth of that tender, sweet, soft, adoring mother I didn’t have as a child and couldn’t embody as a mum. I want to experience the compassionate and understanding mother that never hardens, never angers, who sets Loving Limits, clear and firm yet always gentle. I want to feel the grounded big mama that can’t be messed about, so strong and powerful she is, yet totally safe because she is so centered and always loving. I want the affectionate, warm, delicious and nurturing mummy I so needed. Then I realise: ‘This is IT! That is what I need to do next! I need to BE that for my son!’

The best news for me about this whole personal growth business (Inspired Parenting is part of it) is that is never too late to heal. It does become more difficult, but it’s never too late. So I resolve to give myself and my kids that beautiful loving mama none of us has had before. Mothering has always been a softening journey for me. Now more than ever.

The theory behind the practice

Lately I have had some very big “Aha!-moments”. They have to do with soft tenderness and strong clear boundaries, and the merging of those two apparently opposed qualities. They combine perfectly in the archetype sort of character I call Big Loving Mamma.

Big Loving Mamma has two main sides to her personality. One of them is the nurturer: big heart, big boobs, big hips and big lap, she is all ears for troubled souls and adoring eyes for shining ones. This is the tender, soft, delicious, comforting, warm, gentle, sweet side. The other one is the protector: piercing eyes which see beyond the apparent and big arms that can hold any monster, she can be counted upon, trusted to stay calm in the storm and to be a safe refuge from any hurt. This is the powerful, reliable, grounded, no-nonsense, solid, clear, strong side.

Neither of those aspects came to me naturally. The first one, because I didn’t have that type of mothering. I can easily trace the origins of that lack. My mum was the second of thirteen, born of a verbally and physically abusive father, in a family with very little means, and was expected to contribute as an adult from a very early age. She survived by hardening inside and making sure she was a very good girl.

This translated in the way she mothered us, putting in place rigid rules, rhythms and structures that helped us all survive the requirements of raising almost single-handed four girls born within five years. Whenever I needed mum for anything else other than food, I could feel her heaviness from yet another demand placed upon her. Life was often a burden for her, and the mothering part in particular felt very heavy. I don’t remember her laughing much or ever playing with us. In order to relieve my mother from the load of work I felt I was, I swallowed my emotional needs (which I could only do by hardening) and became a very good girl.

Here is where the softening comes in, and this is my first big insight: I didn’t receive it as a child, so it doesn’t come naturally to me. But I can consciously claim it and embody it, and it will help my relationship with my son now.

The second aspect of the Big Loving Mamma is lacking in my life because I never experienced that type of Power-with, I was always overpowered (see the definition of power-related terms in the Glossary). Sensing what I had as a girl was not right, I swung to the other extreme: permissiveness. I talked about this in my last newsletter, “Reflections #18. From permissiveness to Loving Limits” (you can read it on my website if you wish

What I have found is that permissiveness comes often with authoritarianism; they are both sides of the same coin. So I find that I use both, which means that, as well as learning to set Loving Limits as I talked in my last Reflections, I also need softening in the way I set boundaries when I veer towards being too rigid. That was my second big insight, and more softening again. A lot of work has gone into this ability to set boundaries in a perfectly balanced, not-too-strict, not-too-loose way. Many of my articles often explore aspects of that.

The third big insight was to realise how difficult it was for me to find the middle way between soft-gentle love and clear-strong boundaries, to know when one or the other was called or rather, how to do both at the same time. What helped me here was to go back to childhood experiences where I had been overpowered and bring lots of listening, healing and awareness. This was what was getting in the way of me embodying Big Loving Mamma. As I did, I was able more and more to be there for my son in a grounded way and support him safely through his huge feelings around powerlessness.

After weeks of struggling with this particular subject, I felt like I finally struck the perfect middle one school morning. He spent 45 minutes shouting threats and curses to the top of his voice, crying, hitting people or objects whenever he could, himself when he couldn’t. I tapped into my Mummy Zen; huge tantrum turned into an unconditional love meditation from my point of view. I was able to pre-empt all his moves and stop his aggression like a martial art master, protecting everyone and everything from hurt.

At the end, I felt like coming out of a deep meditative state; I was touched and moved but peaceful, grounded, gentle, loving and open. My son was transformed. He was soft and tender, connected and exuding a palpable sense of gratitude. Since then, I feel like we have a relationship again, like I have gained his heart back. May Big Loving Mamma be with us forever; and may you find her within and embody her, too.

If you see yourself reflected, touched , inspired
or if you have any questions or comments,
I would love to hear from you! 

Please comment below


When we have been hardened by life’s difficulties, conscious mothering gives us the opportunity to soften back into gentleness for ourselves and our children, to swing the pendulum away from disconnected harshness and closer to connected love. Maira

What’s happening

Aware Parenting Question & Answer Circle
This is a monthly, drop-in support group happening at the Jings Cafe, situated in the Byron Bay industrial state. Come to hear about Aware Parenting for the first time, to deepen your understanding or to ask specific questions about how to apply it into your daily life. Enjoy a delicious healthy treat, be inspired by this revolutionary parenting approach and feel supported while you watch your little ones play in the playground.

Every 1st Wednesday of the month, 10 to 11 am
$10 per session, first one free

We would like people to register for the event, so please go to the facebook page and click “going”.

Aware Parenting free introductory talks
These are free talks my colleague and friend Shana and I are offering to introduce parents to the basic concepts of Aware Parenting. This is a half an hour overview of the basics, with lots of space afterwards for your questions, comments and even practice. 

The next talks are happening at
Heart and Soul of Wellness
49 Commercial Road, Murwillumbah
Wednesday 28th September at 7 pm
Sunday 16th October 3.30 pm

Inspired Parenting Glossary

Big Loving Mamma:
An archetype sort of character I have created that encompasses and integrates two distinctive groups of qualities. On the one side, Big Loving Mamma is the nurturer of life, with big heart, big breasts, hips and lap. She loves listening and witnessing, and she does it so well that she makes troubles melt and joys multiply. The nurturer is tender, soft, delicious, comforting, warm, gentle and sweet. On the other side, Big Loving Mamma is the protector of life, with piercing eyes which see beyond the apparent and big arms that can hold any monster. She can be counted upon, trusted to stay calm in the storm and to be a safe refuge from any hurt. The protector is powerful, reliable, grounded, no-nonsense, solid, clear and strong.

Aware Parenting:
Aware Parenting is a philosophy of child rearing that has the potential to change the world. Developed by developmental psychologist Aletha Solter and based on current research in child development, Aware Parenting questions most traditional assumptions about raising children, and proposes a new approach that can significantly improve relationships within a family. Parents who follow this approach raise children who are cooperative, compassionate, competent, nonviolent, and drug free.

Attachment Play:
Type of interactive play that strengthens the connection between the players. It often involves laughter, does not require any special equipment and can take place anywhere. It is never competitive and does not have any set rules. There are 9 forms of attachment play. Findings from research studies support the effectiveness of these nine kinds of activities with children suffering from specific emotional and behavioural problems. Used in the context of parent-child relationship, attachment play has the potential to resolve common discipline and aggression problems, heal fears and trauma, and promote trust, self-esteem and independence. (For a more detailed description, see Aletha Solter’s book “Attachment play, how to solve children’s behaviour problems with play, laughter and connection”)

Loving Limits:
A term created by Marion Rose to describe the pairing of gentle empathy with a clear limit, in a loving and connected manner. In both our behaviour and language, we communicate a combination of a deep sense of unconditional love and acceptance (with statements like: ‘I see that you’re upset, I see that you really want that, I’m here, I love you, I’m listening, I’m sorry I wasn’t here to help’) with a limit to a behaviour (for example: ‘I won’t let you have any more, I’m not willing for you to, I am not going to allow it right now, mummy says no’). 

Inspired parenting:
The dictionary defines inspired as ‘aroused, animated, or imbued with the spirit to do something by or as if by supernatural or divine influence’. “Inspired parenting” is, for me, the type of parenting we do when we connect to something bigger than ourselves, when we become clear channels through which pours unconditional love. I have learned (and continue learning!) to parent that way mostly with the help of the Aware Parenting philosophy, as developed by Dr. A. Solter, so the ideas underpinning my Parenting Coaching are based on it. But I also add everything else that has resonated in the past from years of personal growth and that still comes my way constantly!

Power is a huge subject in my life. In order to explore it, I have gathered a whole vocabulary of power-related terms, borrowed from personal growth environments where this subject is looked at for healing purposes. For example, a Power-over situation, used to refer that moment where someone uses their power to coerce another into doing something they don’t want to. This can happen in the most blatant ways with the use of aggression (bullying, hitting, verbal abuse, etc.) to the most subtle ones. The other side of coin to a Power-over situation is a Power-under situation, which is the same moment but seen from the point of view of the coerced person: they are being put in the overpowered (bullied, abused, chastised, threatened, punished…) side of the equation. From those terms derives the term Power-with, referring to the situation or relationship that respects and empowers all involved. I call this Gentle Power.

Mummy/Daddy Zen:
The inner state necessary to be able to apply Inspired Parenting.




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