As I’ve spent more time in nature over the last couple of years, I’ve started to see the lessons we can take from it, lessons writ large. There are two in particular. The beautifully articulated. “Nature does not hurry yet everything is accomplished’ (Lao Tzu) being the first. Yep, that’ll teach me patience, The second, the Donald Miller quote, “all the trees are losing their leaves and not one of them is worried.” Perspective. Tick.
The last couple of months though, I’ve seen a more practical lesson played out in the spring visitors to our barn, my avian friends and in particular the starling families that have taken up residence. When you watch behaviour day in day out it can’t help but provoke some thoughts. Two caveats before I go any further. First, I get it, we’re not birds and it’s hard to make comparisons, but bear with me. The second, I’m about to talk about parenting and heaven knows that’s a contentious topic and one on which there are a million shades of opinion. If you’ve ever read a thread on mumsnet you’ll sense my trepidation.
Anyway, I’ll go on. Starlings treat this parenting business like the full time job that it is. Particularly in the formative stages. The food runs start at dawn and go on till sunset. Perhaps a bit of a lull in the middle of the day depending on the weather. That’s it. There’s no malarkey. Just focus on the one thing they have to do – feed and protect their offspring.
I don’t possess encyclopaedic knowledge of the natural world but I’d say their behaviour is pretty typical. And I’d also hazard a guess that if we could see what our ancestors were up to we would also observe the same throughout the ages with a little help from the extended family and tribe. When we multitask parenting with everything else, are we just setting ourselves up for an unnatural state. Is there a lesson from the natural world there for us?
I say this with a low level of judgement on the current state of affairs we all endure as parents and the manner in which everyone I know is navigating this particular journey. Modern life pushes everything to its limits and for most people parenting hits simultaneously with peak career and with a financial requirement to keep on treadmill. I also come clean that I found a lot of my parental leave pretty dull compared to the c-suite job from which I was absent. I had spent so many years in a challenging professional environment, I found it incredibly hard to switch off. That said, I do recall certain days where all I had to do was deal with bub and they were pretty glorious. The secret was unashamedly switching off the life admin, the extraneous, the “other” and just doing the thing nature intended. When I got close to that natural state observed, things flowed.
I am not sure where this is going but I do know that I am slowly loosening the social conditions attached to parenting and trying to pull some inspiration in from the natural world. I’ve probably missed the boat in terms of early years development but I can see there’s enough with which to get on. The pull of external commitments is strong but the instinctive is probably stronger again. It’s a case of finding some way to manage the former in order to facilitate the latter. From a societal perspective, it strikes me more than ever that the benefits of supporting parents to the absolute max in the early stages of family life would be felt many times over. Happier parents. Happier children. Lower stress all round. Manifesting through early years, education and beyond. Yet again, we have taken ourselves away from the more natural elements of our being and in that process made things more complicated all round.