Reconnecting Mothers and Nature

How a mother’s connection to nature shaped and strengthened her parenting

Hattie Duke
Written by Hattie Duke on July 23rd, 2021
Photo of two little boys in a forest

My guiding song through a diverse life path has been a connection with nature. For me this includes a deep connection with our own human nature.

For over 20 years I have worked with children out of doors all over the world. Some were very wealthy, some were very poor. All were rich in their love of the natural world around them.

From the coasts, mountains and jungle of South America to the Kalahari desert, to the hills of Colorado and the woods of Upstate New York. From the islands of Te Aotearoa (New Zealand) to the British Isles I have camped and played, walked and watched.

I got involved, I worked and shared joys and sorrows. But I was still an outsider, an observer. 

I settled in the borderlands between Wales and England 15 years ago and began to put down roots. Gradually I learnt what it means to deepen the practise of being connected to nature and to myself.

Now, two years into being a parent, I begin to learn how to sustain that whilst nourishing a healthy relationship with my family.

We live in a hand built oak roundhouse, surrounded by young oaks, next to a stream. We live in connection with nature. 

Still I need to remind myself to keep that connection alive every day. 

The nature of a motherhood

Recently I had the privilege to work with a group of women on the Mother Nature Course. The course guides women to rediscover their own gifts after giving the gift of life to their children. 

The course uses nature connection, creativity and conversation as tools of support.

I felt inspired by the skills and empathy of all the women in the group. I felt sad that so many seemed to experience isolation and lack of support. 

This isolation, left for too long, means that the world misses out.

We all miss out on the invaluable skills gained by a woman during pregnancy and on becoming a mother. 

Left for too long without recognition of themselves women lose their unique path and so, the world loses what they have to offer.

The nature of isolation

In this all too common model, the world also misses out on the gift babies have to offer. Our society has become so driven by aims and objectives, that many people forget to cherish the little joys of being human. 

Many of us forget to smell the roses, hear the buzzard fly overhead or watch the leaves unfold on the trees.

Babies and toddlers bring a smile to even the busiest people. But many busy lonely people don’t even see the babies and toddlers as the busy mothers are left alone feeling unseen and unheard. 

Amongst all this busy-ness we forget to pause and notice the peaceful beauty of the dawn.

Amidst nappies and breastfeeding, bottles, cooking, washing, cleaning and endless negotiating the joy gets lost. With the joy, any connection with nature goes too.

Perhaps that is why many people love to post pictures on social media of their little ones. Perhaps there we get a tiny taste of the joy of having the approval and smiles of the community around us. 

The nature of overwhelm

I was among the lucky ones, with dear friends cooking for us, coming to stay the night to help with two tiny beings, washing our clothes. 

Despite all this I went to my own private hell.

Lack of sleep and overwhelm took me to the deepest places of my being. The earliest places. When I was a baby myself. Many of us don’t know what happened then. Many of us were wounded in that place that is never talked about. Many of our parents didn’t feel supported, or loved, or seen, or celebrated. 

Celebration is usually fleeting after a birth, then the real work begins and often, we, the parents, have not been guided or schooled in that work. 

The way back to human nature

So what would I humbly offer to parents as they prepare to bestow the gift of life to their children? (however it happens, it is still the biggest gift ever to be given)

  1. Be as prepared as you can be to sacrifice some of your individual freedom for an intense exploration of love.
  2. Remember that you are about to embark on the most incredible and challenging creative act: that of finding ways to support another life (or lives) unfold. 
  3. Call in your support network: human, other than human. Friends, family, nature, and always self-care. Be gentle with yourself. Be attentive to negative thoughts and find a replacement. All is well.

No matter what our previous life experience, parenthood will take us to the depths and to the heights of our own selves. I believe this to be the nature of parenting. I believe us to be stronger for compassionately sharing this with each other.

A developing understanding of human beings as truly creative spirits supports me in day-to-day parenting. We can grow and thrive through this work of parenting. Perhaps, probably, the most important work there is.

Hattie Duke
Written by Hattie Duke on July 23rd, 2021
Hattie Duke

Hattie Duke lives in a tiny hand-built house in the borderlands between England and Wales with her husband and twin boys. She works as a Waldorf Inspired Forest School teacher and mentor. She is the founder of Firelight: Hearth Centred Education. She currently offers workshops for teenage girls and for mothers.