Like MANY moms, Miss Jami is a busy lady and being the exclusive caregiver for her young son made it impractical to do a live video interview. So we got creative and chose a way that allowed us both to work when we could to create the following. I just LOVE Jami's wise words and I hope you do too!
Q1: What led you to begin shifting your parenting perspective?
It’s funny really. I never wanted kids. I would tell my mom all the time, how much the idea of being a mom repulsed me. I thought kids were messy, loud, annoying, and a lot of work and time I wasn't willing to give. Also honesty, I was very self absorbed in my own head most days, and still haha. I was led to believe very young I was too emotional, too intense, and just too much to handle. I was often hurting my mother’s feelings and lashing out at her. My dad would just shut me down. So I became a very insecure, introverted child that hid away from most things which then continued into adulthood and I’m still working through it today. In my room I could move at the pace I wanted, feel what I wanted, and be me, without worrying about what anyone else felt or thought of my behavior. I most often felt very lost and alone, overwhelmed and stupid in school.
Around 17 ½ I finally found something I was good at and built some trust in myself. I waited tables and then moved into cocktails. The customers liked me; I also found confidence and humor about myself. I always got along with the cooks while many others struggled. I think they liked me because I was always trying to play it cool and keep my I don’t give a %$#@ attitude rooted deep. It occurred to me one day that I couldn't handle the idea of helping people drink themselves away and get behind a wheel.
So I moved to the next step I thought was best for me, I became a hairstylist. Which both my parents were at a point in their lives; that's how they met. I had the belief I was too “dumb” to do anything else, but after realizing running your own business successfully and that cosmetology is about understanding chemistry, geometry, psychology, human connection and more, I understood it's not for “dumb” people.
As we are all learning to be better parents and people, we discover there are no “dumb” humans just misguided, unguided, forgotten children turned adults.
In 2005, I met my husband who wanted kids and I wanted him, not realizing I wanted him from a fixed codependent mindset, uh oh. So I said maybe, we will see. Fast-forward 14 years of unprotected sex, a test to check all was working, me doing a lot of moon cycle timing and a miscarriage, no baby.
One day I was decluttering and I said it didn't matter if I had a child. I thought, well, I am 41 almost 42 lets get rid of all these birth books and baby things I collected. So I did. And a few months later it was day 32 of waiting for my moon. I had had some wild cycles so I wasn’t really thinking much but then day 33, 34, 35...day 41 passed. I thought, ok, ok I will take a test. The .99 cent store sells them, so I went there. I didn't want to toss out $15 on a negative test. Well what do you know, pregnant!
When I had previously had my miscarriage my body and I did it together, that is a story all its own. I had been contracting for a few hours but only spotting, I finally found a comfortable position on my bed, trying to deal with this pain in my body. I heard a soft kind voice I call Grace. She told me to surrender, because I was in resistance and so I did, later she told me when we were finally complete. I knew this voice was real and meant what it said, so I listened and it all worked out.
Like I began a second ago, well what do you know I looked at the stick and I heard “Are you ready? Because this is happening.” I had a good pregnancy, reading all the books I could about homebirth and the body. Funnily not once, until he was born, did I think to read parenting books. One of my clients had mentioned, “Yes learn about birth but that is one moment. Learn about how to care for and be with the baby. That's the longer part.”
So I read about how to soothe a baby and breastfeed and how to help them potty from birth without diapers, and how to wash cloth diapers. But then, when he was here, it finally occurred to me that he was going to grow and I would need to help him and I knew I didn't want him to struggle with his feelings like I did.
I started reading. The 1st book I read was called Gentle Discipline by Sarah Ockwell-Smith. My mind was blown. The tears fell and I could finally see hope for my own pain. That I wasn’t bad and broken forever, that my upbringing affected my brain development and beliefs. I had already been on the path to being a better, happier human by going down the self help rabbit hole. But something always told me you should have known better. Now that I was learning about the brain and how undeveloped and fragile it was at such young ages, I could begin to forgive myself for real and not just pretending. Seeing my own pain and knowing I could easily hand it down to our son was, is, and will always be, my reason for forgiving myself, filling my cup the best I can in the stage of life I am in, and pausing with awareness. I am now humbled. I had no idea! Children are so misunderstood and mistreated. They are sweet little miracles, they are YOU and me. We were little once, we were having hard times and weren’t met the way humans need to be met. Tiny humans are the roots of future generations.
My biggest aha which may sound silly is that this is a relationship. I ask myself, “Am I building a relationship of trust and connection or of pain and distance?” This concept has been so foreign to me as I have never had a healthy relationship. They have all mostly been codependent, me desperately seeking someone to love me and help me feel less crappy. But with our son, it's different. I’ve had to read about what a healthy relationship even is. This is where I am at today, 1st building a relationship with myself, so my personal joy can spill onto him and we can build a healthy bond naturally with more flow and less friction.
Q2: How did you begin? If someone is reading and feeling overwhelmed, what could be a useful and productive step 1?
First I would say the fact that you are reading this speaks volumes; you have already taken a huge step. So try to find grace in the fact that you showed up, are being true to your heart, and know there is a different way to be a parent. I began with this truth.
I didn't understand myself and why I was so easily emotionally overwhelmed. After our son came, I began reading gentle parenting books and started to see where my beliefs and behaviors were coming from. By reading books, audiobooks too, beginning to understand the brain, I started understanding and accepting what is normal development for each age and stage. I read somewhere it's all normal, unless you feel deep inside something is off. This has been the key for me, allowing more flow and ease in my life, shifting my behaviors to model the behavior I want my son to develop. It's HARD, but I keep trying and failing and trying. Deep big exhale.
I have built a safe play space so I don’t have to “No” myself or our son to death. I put things away and declutter because I get a lot of unease in my body when there is too much stuff. This has helped SO MUCH. Start simple. Don’t get rid of all of your kitchen stuff. Just pack some of it away and if you don’t miss it, let it go. So for example I have 6 knives, 6 forks, 6 spoons, and the few cutting knives I actually use. You get the idea: simplify. Delegate and ask for help when you need it.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, get some mantras to help you when things are hard and say them over and over and over until your energy wave has subsided or passed.
I look to books, podcasts, and other parents that give me some new wisdom and aha moments that help in shifting my old patterns. One was when your child is triggering you and you react. What message are you sending their brain to consciously or unconsciously program? For me, I have always felt like I was too much. After reflecting, I saw that my behavior of a big huff of breath and an abrupt leaving of the room, so he didn’t see me lose it, was actually signaling I couldn’t handle him that he was too much. Yikes. After further reflection I realized it was me I couldn’t handle; the feelings inside me were too much in that moment. Enter mantra #2 below. It’s long. I don’t always say it all, just the part I need at the moment.
The other thing I recently learned was that if there is a rupture, you need to repair it as soon as possible. But that it cannot be fully repaired and reestablish the connection, unless you have fully forgiven yourself for your behavior. This sounded intense for me because forgiveness always seemed, and at times still does seem, impossible. I decided to start to see it as a gift. So I think about the love and joy I have for him and I want to get back on our love train asap; this helps me. My self shame is/was slowing that down. I try to allow that to be a permission slip to accept my humanness. So we can get back on track. Also I try to remind myself if I can't do it for myself, how will he be able to forgive himself? After all, he is human too.
So the mantras that I keep close by are:
It's all normal behavior, he is a mad scientist exploring his world.
I am not too much to handle. The energy inside me is not too much to handle, I can feel this way inside and still act with kindness and compassion. My son is never too much. I got this, I’ve got me.
This rupture will not keep me from my love for our son.
Life is always guiding me.
I have more but these are my big ones.
Q3: What was most Helpful and most Unhelpful in terms of your own growth as a mother?
The most Helpful thing was becoming a mother; that has changed my life the most. Because it has allowed me to see what I am truly capable of, while reflecting on what it is to be human.
As a mother, what has been the most helpful is my passion and commitment to be the best I can be, my courage to dig deep inside, get dirty and uncover the messiness of my humanness and make peace with it. So I can live a peaceful life here, now, in the moment I am in, not my past.
It's no joke, it's A LOT of work. I had been packing resentment, rage, and just general dissatisfaction for many many years. Before I got pregnant I was studying self-love and mindset. I had done some growth, but wasn't where I thought I should be. My friends and clients that began the path years after me were way ahead. I also recently discovered I had a fixed mindset.
Basically everything I want for my son: trusting personal relationship with self, love of learning, healthy body, emotional intelligence, creativity, authentic self expression, respectful communication, empathy and more, I was still learning about myself. I learned I must model these beliefs and behaviors for him to develop them. I was creative and I could be very empathic if I was in the right headspace. However, all the others I listed I was not practicing much, if at all.
Recently, I created a 100-day commitment to myself to build trust not perfection. I am guilty of having tons of ideas and no follow through, leading me to a place where trust for myself to actually show up has always been soaked in fear, doubt and disappointment. I have become tired of that story and my son is here now. One of my biggest fears is that I fantasize about a life we could have and then he is 10 and all I did was fantasize. My brain can easily and often become scattered, but if I show up in small ways daily to get to know myself better, then I hope to live a more intentional life of action and trust rather than doubt and wishful thinking.
The most Unhelpful is often forgetting I am human. Not trusting myself and not staying consistent on my daily habits that support my wellbeing. Spinning out and looking outside myself for validation and confirmation that I am doing a good job. Also not asking for help when I need it and thinking it's bad to ask for help.
Before becoming a mama and spending most of my life shaming and blaming myself and others, I didn't understand what it was to be human. Especially, that a massive part of being human is having feelings. Today, I can start to see that generations of misguidance and misunderstanding has led us to the widely unsatisfied world we have today. But the key to becoming a fully embodied human, is having a consciously supported childhood where you learn how to feel and navigate through these brand new experiences known as feelings, with a adult who has a greater understanding of what is happening inside your body and brain at your age and stage of development, while knowing each child is unique and needs you to shift and pivot to help them in their moments of needing you. At the core, feeling safe, seen, accepted and soothed is all any of us really want.
Now, being a mama and witnessing this brand new tiny human coming into being, studying child development and the brain, I see myself and humans differently, with more compassion and understanding, most days. Fortunately today, information is at the ready. So we can educate ourselves and get the support we need to become fully embodied humans ourselves. Which can spare our child from having to do as much self work down the road. I am sure they will still have some work, after all we are all sovereign beings and our children will be who they are, no matter what we do or say. I can say for me, I am going to do my best to give him an imperfect but always growing mama so he can feel the freedom within, to do the same.
Honestly, I didn't know that children are magic. Which makes US ALL MAGIC. We were these sweet innocent little beings once too. It takes courage and strength to be compassionate to oneself, it's easy to be mean. Don’t give up.
Q4: In our group, Empowering Parents to Uplift Kids, you said to a struggling frustrated mama, “You are her safe space. That’s why you get all of it. Because she feels safe with you, she trusts you to hold space for all of her feelings, even the ugly ones. She trusts that you love her unconditionally and will see her and take her for all that she is, because she lives in a world that does not. So the next time she’s unraveling in your space, do your best, it will take time and lots of patience, to remind yourself, she is showing me her unfiltered self because she trusts me. It’s not because she wants to drive me crazy, even though sometimes I feel like it is. It’s because she needs somewhere to unload. And you are somewhere, you are safe.” This is a hard won lesson for many of us - how did you come to accept the challenge and gift of being a safe-place for your child?
My son does offer this opportunity to me. When it happens I flood myself with reminders, of how I wasn’t met with the compassion and understanding I needed, how his brain can’t help right now, that if I show up consistently he will come back quicker, because he trusts that his needs matter. That it's up to me to help him, know that he is safe and loved, even when it's uncomfortable for me.
It happened today as a matter of fact. He was eating, after he seemed all done for a while and was up and moving, I ate the last little piece. Oops. He was SO upset and even though we had more food, he wanted what I ate. It went on for a while, tears, hiding, being held, replaying the intensity of the original upset, at first I was onboard, with compassion, understanding. I threw in some fixing, then more internal talking; shh, Jami just pause, he can't hear you right now. He started grabbing at my mouth again demanding I give him the food I ate, and I had already offered more food. Then I got hit with the “Enough!” energy. I felt I couldn’t take it. I picked him up and, mildly frustrated, tried again to explain the food is here. I am SO grateful for the work I have been and continue to do within. Because even though I got up with the “Enough!” energy in my body, I was still able to reign it in and figure out what was going to get him over the hump. He had wanted the food from my mouth, so I took a small bite and gave it to him, from my mouth. Problem solved, joy back online, and he finished eating. We headed out for a night bike ride.
I must keep talking to myself the whole time. I will admit, if it feels like a developmentally reasonable upset in Toddlerland, and it's pretty easy for me to hold the space most of the time, because that is what I want for myself. I have been losing my head most of my life, screaming like a crazy person, and 9 times out of 10 all I ever wanted was someone to tell me it was ok and I was normal. I want my son to know he is normal. That he is human. That he is complex, messy and beautiful, that being human can be sticky and glorious all at the same time, that you’ll never get it all right and you’ll never get it all done. But being human is great so never stop trying.
Q5: What is one form or type of support you wish EVERY mother could have if they so choose?
I actually have two.
Resilience, that shows up as Courage to Trust Yourself and seek out what your heart is saying, that there IS another way to be a parent.
And a Tribe. Within a tribe you have elders, youth, mamas, daddies, and everything in between. The co-creation that is available in tribes is unmatched!