Interview with Kirstin Bouse Author of The Conscious Mother
I had the honour of interviewing parenting expert Kirstin Bouse, who is the author of The Conscious Mother, psychologist of 20 years and mum of four. Kirstin Bouse will also be taking over Maggie Dent's spot on ABC radio this month, and writes articles for magazines such as Practical Parenting. The Conscious Mother is unique because rather than telling you what to do, it helps to prepares your head and heart for motherhood, even if you're already a mum. The information is based on 40 years of research but the best part is that Kirstin Bouse is a genius expert that you can actually understand and relate to. When you read The Conscious Mother, it's like you're in your living room having a D&M with Kirstin over a coffee! Many of us are time poor these days, but The Conscious Mother is such an easy read that I read it in one evening after I put my kids to bed. Although I've been a mum for over a decade, I still learned SO much from The Conscious Mother, and wish I had been able to read it years ago! I have started a supportive group for mums on Facebook called Setting up Generations. We are so lucky to have Kirstin Bouse, 'the expert in our midst', to answer any questions the mums in the group may have about parenting. This is an interview with Kirstin, which I shared in the Setting up Generations group. This lady is absolutely amazing and inspiring!
10 Questions with Kirstin Bouse
Ezereve Q1: What are your kids' names and ages?
Kirstin: Lachie (almost 16 and can’t wait to learn to drive)
Rickie (12 going on 21 like most girls)
Jacob (10 very sweet boy who wants to cure cancer)
Isaac (8 and oh my goodness, he’s our live wire and is affectionately called ‘full stop’ we decided NOT to have more children because he was so so so busy!!!)
Ezereve Q2: What is your fave food?
Kirstin: Anything antipasto – divine! A weird thing about me is that I don’t like, and feel sick if I DO eat anything sweet. I’ve been like that since a baby and my poor mum was trying to get me onto solids like pureed apple, mashed banana. So yes I hate fruit and sweet vegies (i.e. pumpkin) and I also hate chocolate, ice cream etc…. NOTHING sweet touches my lips. But I love cheese, prosciutto, olives etc… and hot chips.
Ezereve Q3. What is your most challenging aspect of parenting?
Kirstin: It depends. Most commonly the biggest challenge is building, creating and growing businesses AND being a mother all at once. But if I just think about parenting, I would have to say that managing my daughter's mood swings and her love / hate relationship with me is really tough at times. To be honest, I’m really grateful that I’m a psych because she challenges me in ways the boys haven’t, but because she is a foster child and had such awfulness in her life, and because I have a very long history of working in child protection, most of the time I survive and respond by putting on my mum AND psych hat on. Sometimes it doesn’t work, and I just need to leave the room to catch my breath. It can be tough.
Ezereve Q4: What tips do you have for other parents who are caring for a foster child in addition to their own kids?
Kirstin: Know yourself. Make sure you take breaks. Don’t take stuff personally – they have so much history and they will project it onto you. Remember that what they say they want (you to go away) is usually the last thing they truly want deep down. Have a FANTASTIC relationship with your partner where you back each other up; play to each other’s strengths. Understand – laypeople can access loads of useful information – complex developmental trauma, attachment and attachment disorder, emotion dysregulation, identity formation, needs of foster kids etc…. I know that might sound like I’m suggesting others become a psychologist but I’m truly not. The department runs great training workshops for carers and there are psychs like me out there (and me) who can support you professionally as you go through the journey too.
Ezereve Q5: Why did you choose to become a psychologist?
Kirstin: I was raised as a Salvo and while you can take the girl out of the Salvo’s, you can’t take the Salvo out of the girl. They have such a strong message of the haves helping the have nots. It’s just something I truly believe – you MUST give when you HAVE. And that’s not just about money. So in many ways, it was inevitable that I went into some kind of helping profession. My mum wanted me to be nurse like her and every other woman on both sides of the family but that ain't my thing! I’d be crap at it.
Ezereve Q6: What is the biggest parenting issue you come across in your line of work?
Kirstin: Primary school aged kids – anxiety (separation), bullying (bullied and bullier), social difficulties and learning difficulties
High school – self-harm, bullying, online porn addiction, conflict with parents
Ezereve Q7: What can parents do to prevent the above issues?
Kirstin: We have a very loose saying at work and we say it with all due respect – ‘anxious mum, anxious child’. Not all children’s problems are due to their parents (although even if they aren’t, parents have a HUGE role in being the solution) but we do often find that something a child might struggle with (anxiety, social relationships, emotion regulation) one or both of their parents do too. So my advice – sort yourself out! Love your kids, be genuinely interested in them, listen to them and just BE with them!!!
Ezereve Q8: Can you please tell us about your book The Conscious Mother?
Kirstin: My book is very exciting for me. It’s such a simple read, which was exactly my goal. There is enormous research out there that has taught us so much and I made a concerted effort to write a book that just presented what was important in a conversational style – as I’d talk about it with clients. My clients tell me it ‘sounds’ exactly like me which is what I wanted. It’s a book that encourages mothers to reflect on the experiences (particularly related to being parented and then also to the experience of conceiving, being pregnant, birth etc…) that have shaped the mother they are, the mother they want to be, their strengths, their triggers etc… It’s also a reflective journal because I know (personally and this is what the research tells us and what I see time and again) that to be an attuned and responsive mother (which is EXACTLY what our children need to develop to their potential) WE need to have a high degree of what’s called reflective functioning. What’s one way to develop that? Journal and reflect on stuff. SO you can read the book and not do the ‘work’ and I think you’ll get something out of it. Or you can read it AND do the work and you will learn so much about yourself and feel so much clearer and grounded!!! And that’s what it’s about..
Ezereve Q9: How can we find out more about your retreats for mums?
Kirstin: You can find out about my current retreat HERE. I’ve had some mums read who are travelling quite well comment that it must not be for them because they are not struggling with motherhood. And I guess what I shared with them was that it is still absolutely for them!!! I DO want to help mums who are having a tough time without a doubt but I also want to help ALL mothers grow and if you’re interested in that, the retreat is absolutely for you. It will be such a precious experience.
Ezereve Q10: If a genie could grant you 3 wishes what would they be?
Kirstin: I know I should put world peace and that is something that I’d love. I worry about where we are headed but choose to focus on helping build happy parents so that they have happy children who grow up to be accepting, empathic and contributing members of society. So yeah that’s one wish. But another would be to be a little more financial comfortable. My husband and I work super hard and we’d like to be able to reduce that a little. I’d love to be able to help my folks a bit financially too as my dad’s a veteran and been on a pension for 20 years. They absolutely have their needs met, but I’d love it if could flick some cash to go on a holiday somewhere – see their family on the east coast. Finally, health! We’re pretty healthy but I’d love that to continue. If I could have my way – completely unrealistic idea – we’d all be healthy until it was our time to move on from this world and then we’d just go to sleep and not wake up. That would be nice. Pain suffering physical limitations – it’s so hard to watch. My mother in-law had a stroke 2 months ago and is now blind. It’s so, so hard for her….
Ezereve: Thanks so much Kirstin for your openness and sharing your pearls of wisdom with us :)
There are so many inspiring and uplifting quotes in The Conscious Mother. I will leave you with my number one favourite quote from the book:
'The research tells us that mothers don't need to be perfect. They don't need to get it right all of the time.' - Kirstin Bouse The Conscious Mother
PS- I don't receive any money or anything for recommending this book. I just honestly think it is incredible and hope it can help lots of mums out there :)