Mummy is Mad: A Mother’s Reflections on Restorative Parenting

It’s 5:30 AM and I’m on day three of parenting solo while my partner is travelling. I wake up to the sound of my two boys arguing in their room. I look back at the clock, hoping I read it wrong. No such luck. Disoriented and exasperated, I pull myself from bed, walk into their room, and yell, “Mummy is MAD!”

As a restorative justice practitioner, I have access to skills and frameworks that have prepared me well for being a mother. And yet, I find myself having these less-than-ideal reactions more often than I’d like.  While restorative approaches give space for strong emotion, they also centre on principles like curiosity, collaboration, and respect. I’ve been surprised at how quickly the principles I live by in life and in work can fly out the window in frustrating parenting moments. Despite all my head knowledge, when I compare who I want to be with the parent that I am, I often fall heartbreakingly short. Maybe you have felt this way, too. Maybe you, like me, have felt shame and fear crash in on the harder days.

But here’s one thing my background in RJ has taught me: shame is rarely helpful. As Brené Brown and other shame researchers tell us, it often reinforces negative patterns rather than inspiring growth. Recognizing this, I have moved toward curiosity and self-compassion and what I’ve discovered along the way has had implications for both my parenting and my RJ practice. When I chose to get curious, a question bubbled to the surface: why can I access the wealth of internal resources I carry with me at some times but not others? I did not realize it then, but I was already discovering the answer.

At the time I first asked myself this question, my therapist, a close friend, and a book I was reading were all gently prompting me to explore embodiment practices. While the idea that our bodies carry both wisdom and trauma was not a new concept to me, the practice of connecting daily to my own body was novel. I now recognize that it’s one thing to know about the body’s response to stress or threat and it’s another thing to know how to find my way through it in real time. Strategies for calming my nervous system have given me a way through when I feel overwhelmed. I practice breathing and movement techniques, I communicate to my body with simple compassionate messages (“you are safe”), and I pause and check in w

ith myself before reacting in a stressful situation. These practices allow me to access the rest of the resources I carry within – including tools for parenting more restoratively.

I think about all the people I’ve walked alongside in my RJ work – from neighbours in conflict, to people who have offended sexually, to employees trying to transform harmful workplace policies and culture. One thing they all have in common is their proximity to stress and trauma. While I believe deeply in what restorative approaches have to offer, I am left wondering about the accessibility of these frameworks and tools for the people I’ve journeyed with.

I’m reminded that restorative approaches cannot be advocated for, taught, or practiced in isolation from other deep pools of wisdom.  I’m reminded that the field and practice of restorative justice must continue to decolonize and, in the words of Hillary McBride, “heal the mind-body divide we experience within ourselves and, more systemically, within Western cultures.” This Mother’s Day, I’m setting intentions to continue the journey of deepening my mind-body connection, believing it will serve my capacity as a mother and practitioner.

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