Yikes! Is that me, in the spotlight? What are people going to think? And with that picture. Isn’t it just a bit, don’t I look too [insert any number of pejoratives]? As I’m writing this, I’m uncertain, my finger is hovering over the delete button. It feels risky and dangerous, exposed. I feel vulnerable.
I can already feel the discomfort – and this year, I’m learning to be ok with that.
My motto for 2022 is to embrace vulnerability.
This year I want to be bolder in sharing my message of rethinking parenting, for more connection, ease and joy in our family lives, as well as lasting social change and a more peaceful world.
Inspired by Brené Brown, her TED talk on vulnerability, and Netflix show The Call to Courage, I’m stepping out onto the stage. Brené’s work has impacted me profoundly and we frequently discuss the intersecting of vulnerability, shame and connection in Connection Club, my new relationship-based, international parent community founded last year.
Turning the ripple into a tide
For years, I’ve stayed largely in the wings with my ideas about what peaceful and respectful parenting looks like, which are a big step away from conventional beliefs about children, parenting and education. All the while experiencing the power of connection in my own family and in the families I’ve supported over the years in my coaching and courses.
If I’ve learned anything the last two years, it’s that it’s more important than ever to own your story, get clear on your values and use your voice. Being the change you want to see in the world is an important first step and creates a ripple effect. Answering the call to courage to stand up publicly for the change you want to see is the way to turn the ripple into a tide.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” – Brené Brown
So, even though I’m an imperfect parent, don’t have all the answers, often look tired, talk too much on occasion and sometimes get it wrong, here I am.
Peaceful, respectful parenting is a social justice movement
My vision is to inspire and empower parents to build deeply-connected relationships with their kids, experience more cooperation, ease and joy in family life, as well as create lasting social change and a more peaceful world, through rethinking parenting and choosing connection.
I’ve always believed that parenting is political and that peaceful, respectful parenting is a social justice movement. Embraced fully, it’s anti-adultism work, which also leads to more awareness and understanding about the role of the patriarchy in today’s society, as well as taking a stand against the injustices of racism, sexism, ableism and standing up for LGBTQIA+ rights.
How we parent affects how our kids will go out into the world. People who feel like they belong will welcome others. People who feel seen, heard and understood will be capable of empathy. People with a healthy sense of self-worth are less likely to seek self-affirmation in authoritarianism.
Parenting is vulnerable
I’ve often asked myself, who am I to share my ideas and opinions, especially when they go against conventional beliefs? Fear of rejection, criticism, not belonging, making mistakes and not being good enough has held me back. Interestingly, these are the very fears a patriarchal system, conventional parenting and schooling instill in us, and on which authoritarianism thrives. This is how control and oppression works.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou
And sometimes, as parents, even when we know better, we mess up. In my work, I say every day is a new opportunity for connection and to do it differently. I believe it’s never too late to set our relationships with our kids on a new course. It’s a vulnerable process, which takes courage, self-awareness and a great deal of self-compassion. More knowledge and understanding can come with feelings of shame and regret about the things we did or said as parents before we knew better – and even when we do.
For me, this is the work: embracing vulnerability to educate ourselves, listening actively, seeing from another’s perspective, reflecting, questioning, seeking to understand, learn, grow and heal – even and especially when it feels uncomfortable.
I’m not a “parenting expert”, and I don’t “teach” parenting
I’m grateful to Denise Duffield-Thomas for helping me realise that I’m allowed to have a voice, I can make a contribution and don’t have to be a teacher or revered authority (patriarchal thinking) to have impact and create change.
I don’t define myself as a “parenting expert”, and I don’t “teach” parenting, though I do have qualifications, expertise, as well as over 20 years of education and experience. More than in teaching, I believe in sharing what I know and holding space for others to find their own answers, supporting them on their individual journey. The answers we find ourselves will serve us more than if we rely only on those given to us by others. As Teacher Tom so eloquently puts it, I’m in the business of learning, not teaching.
It’s not my job or desire to tell other parents what to do. There is no one way to be a peaceful parent. Some key principles, sure, but the solutions we find for everyday situations and challenges will be as individual as our kids and family situations. The way we find the path that works for our individual families and needs is through vulnerability, learning to be ok with the discomfort and uncertainty that comes with there not being an instruction manual or quick fixes and looking for answers in our relationships and in ourselves.
Vulnerability and privilege
I’m acutely aware of the privilege I have in embracing vulnerability. I’m a white, cis, able woman called Karen. I have privilege when it comes to vulnerability because I have a choice. I can choose to be vulnerable, or not.
Somebody asked me recently whether it felt uncomfortable to be called Karen, talking about peaceful parenting and social justice, whether Karen memes were unfair and would I like to change my name. Asking and being asked these questions, my having the choice about whether and how to answer, as well as suggesting I could change my name, is both privilege and fragility in action.
I know that I will sometimes get it wrong and make mistakes, and yes, there’s certainly discomfort in that. By embracing vulnerability, I’m committed to finding the courage to own my mistakes, continuing to educate myself and do better.
Connecting through vulnerability
As a mother, wife and daughter, I’ve come to experience the power of vulnerability through deeper connections in my relationships. Increased self-awareness and the phrase “the story I’m telling myself is…” has helped me take on the uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure Brené Brown says define vulnerability and the result has been more connection and a greater level of intimacy.
“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” – Brené Brown
In allowing myself to feel my feelings, showing up imperfectly and being seen, my vulnerability creates a shared space for my children to be vulnerable too, to tell their stories and share their experiences without shame or fear of retribution, to learn and grow together. Through vulnerability, there is more connection, more listening, trust, empathy and understanding.
How will I embrace vulnerability in 2022?
- Being bolder, blogging and posting more regularly about peaceful and respectful parenting
- Being imperfect, done is better than perfect
- Owning my mistakes and shortcomings
- Committing to learning and continuing to educate myself
- Having the difficult, awkward and uncomfortable conversations
- Telling and owning my story