Sunday, September 5, 2010

On Feeling Welcome

By Jenny Chapman

Be welcome.

What is it that makes us feel welcome? Does it come from the way others treat us, or from our own sense of self acceptance? I think it comes from both. We need a level of self-acceptance to sit comfortably with the acceptance of others.

Last year my world crashed around me as I dove into a black pool of depression and self-rejection. I isolated and gave up on myself, my work, my friends and my lover. Every day, and this was the worst because I could see myself doing it, I rejected my son and his needs. I spent days in bed and did not want my son around. Not because I didn’t love him, but because I felt I had nothing to give him, and to be awfully honest, I preferred most times to have my head in a book. I palmed him off to friends, family and his father, much more than was necessary. But being a single mum, he was around—and had to wear whatever I dumped on him. He was not welcome, and though I tried to mask it, in his own four year old way he knew it. The memory of it horrifies me.

Slowly his behaviour changed as his sense of being welcome and accepted diminished. Nothing changed about his needs, but his sense of freedom to come and go in my presence obviously started fading. He became more wary; not knowing if or when he would be pushed away. He became clingy. He changed to being more ‘contrary’ and behaving from a base of frustration and uncertainty rather than contentment. He changed to inappropriate attention-seeking behaviours. (And I wallowed in exhaustion, sadness and guilt.)

Thankfully I have been learning ways of coping that suit our little family. First and foremost was to heal the fractures of the bond between my son and I. I am so thankful for the resilience that is in a child. I’ll share another time, how I have discussed depression with him. We enjoy a wonderful intimate relationship again now.

Through my experience I learned that one of the most important things we can do for our children’s self esteem is make sure they know they are 'welcome' in our home, our workplace...our personal space. It MATTERS. Our facial expressions and body language, MATTER. That their company is welcome, MATTERS. And, knowing that we want to be in their company, MATTERS. It’s not always easy, I am the first to admit.

Welcome=acceptance=self acceptance. I think it's the foundation of our 'social needs' as human beings. I think that this early sense of feeling ‘welcome’ as a child, becomes the foundation of our own self-acceptance, and avoids that gnawing, insatiable ‘need’ that many of us experience, leading us to make all sorts of choices and behaviours that invariably leave us, still wanting, in fragmented relationships and communities.

Be welcome. A magical element of being alive and part of an amazing world.

Be welcome to our Barefoot community, where our passion for parenting, community and our earth mingle together in words, provoking thought and discussion.

Be welcome, to read each others' stories of life, love, loss, and laughter.

Be welcome. Welcome to read, share, comment (please do!)


  1. Beautiful blog.

    Having spent time in the park just today discussing this very thing cements to me (though I have always thought it) that there are many many women that need to read your post. And read that there is a light at the end of what may seem to be a dark tunnel.

    Thank you for your honesty, for that is what makes it beautiful. And I'm so happy to hear your intimacy with your son is back. And that he knows he matters. Lucky boy xxx

  2. Jen, as a single mama with a small boy, this post zinged home to me.

    Your experience mirrored much of my first year after I split from the boyo's father, where the two of us wallowed in shared and solitary hurt, confusion and depression, interspersed with anger and rejection. Thank goodness, I retained enough self-awareness to recognise where we were heading, to pull things up, to regularly apologise for my own behaviour, and draw our attention to the things that were happening in our heads and our hearts.

    I'm not proud of some of the things that happened in that rather dark time (discovering I was not the perfect parent was hard), but I am proud that it provided us opportunities to work together on our emotional intelligence. I know our relationship, already solid with years of breastfeeding and co-sleeping behind it, is the stronger for the experience.

  3. Jenny, I have not experienced what you have, yet your words are still timely for me. As a work at home mum, I am often 'busy' and I know my kids find that frustrating. They are practically bouncing off the walls trying to get my attention some days. Your points about being welcoming and how much it matters are duly noted and taken on board. Am leaving computer now for some face-to-face time. Thank you.

  4. So brave and so beautiful. Great writing. And hey- none of us are perfect parents. The most we can say is we're doing our best, and you certainly are. xx

  5. I could pretty much say word for word was Al has said in her comment above (although she is a far more eloquent writer than me!) - thanks for the timely reminder to go play with my kids :)

  6. Thankyou for sharing your experiences. It's something I needed to read and be reminded of, that in times of personal difficulties, we need to connect with our children, not push them away. They definitely MATTER. Thankyou.

  7. So moving Jenny. I had a tear in my eye reading that and felt like I was there with you. Took me back to a place where I'm sure my boys felt they didn't matter. Like you we worked through it and are as close as we could be now.

  8. Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. You have all reminded me of aspects of parenting that are 'hopeful'... that we are certainly not 'alone' in the way we feel, that our children are resilient, that we do the best with what we have, at the time. Tracy, I am certain that if my son and I were not co-sleeping, that this issue would have been a more 'damaging' time for him. Dovic, Thanks, and may more parents come to be mindful of this. Allison and Lisa, thank you for the reminder that this issue is not just when we are going through 'difficult times', but the business of everyday, mundane life and work. Kylie, just...thank you. Thank you for showing me everyday that we can find things to laugh at (mostly ourselves). Lorrie I am glad this has been a good reminder for you. Annie because your boys are older you always give me hope.
    Jenny Chapman

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