The Soul Feed


My little karma cop

By Jane Close IN Connect

A reflection on the hard truths and treasures of the mother-child bond

I hesitate to admit it, for fear of adding any more pressure to the already high-pressure job of being a mum, but the reality is, my child is an extension of myself. A manifestation of my conscience in cute and cuddly form, ever-ready to pull me up on unskillful traits and unsustainable patterns. My 15-month old son and I are so interconnected, it can drive us both crazy some days. If only I could call in sick to karma, just for one day, to be absolutely on my game for what it’s got in store for me the next day. But no, the rules of parenting don’t work that way.

Perhaps there is such a thing as bonding a little too well or spending a bit too much ‘quality’ time together. Be careful what you wish for, for the closer the ties, the bigger and more unavoidable the need for personal growth! I wonder if it is nature’s cruel way of forcing you to face yourself or forcing you to develop the inner grit that enables you to cope with, rise above, or simply forgive, your own and other people’s human-ness?

The truth is, the triumph of birth and bringing your baby home quickly gives way to a huge reality check. Motherhood is hard. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – if you can spare the energy to feel at all spiritual. It often feels like an ever-steepening learning curve. Between all the wins and beautiful moments, there are times when you can feel defeated, whether it be about trying to get your kid to eat something other than your moisturiser or to sleep for longer than two hours at a time through the night. On these days, you just gather yourself up (usually over an urgently-served cup of tea or coffee, or some fresh air that reminds you to breathe deep) and you take one more tiny step towards your seemingly distant (other-side-of-the-desert-distant) hopes of domestic tranquility and a truly selfless, radical love.

Let me give you some examples of the karmic, my-child-is-my-mirror trials I am referring to.

  • When he was a smaller baby, my son George could not stay down for a nap if I started doing something active like cleaning. Even if I made no noise or tried to clean more “mindfully” as one meditation teacher suggested.  The same wakeful torture was not inflicted on other people at home with him while he napped, such as his dad or my mother. The plus side? In his first six months or so, this constant feedback forced me to rest, slow down and let go of habitual fussing and do-doing.


  • He wakes as soon as I get home from an evening outing. But on the rare nights when I have slept at a friend or family member’s place, he’s reportedly slept longer stints. Frankly for people who do not need those longer stints as much as I do! 


  • He sleeps better next to his dad, who is, particularly after I’ve had a year or so of disrupted sleep, more rested and calmer than me. 


  • He gets cranky when I’m cranky. Flipside? He lights up when I am happy, and is pretty much up for playtime and laughs whenever I am. His hysterical, machine-gun laughter and the wild look in his eye reflect back my own need for stress-release! 


  • When my husband puts him down to bed, he falls asleep right at the moment that I start to unwind or relax by meditating or reading etc. If I’m doing “the wrong thing”, like replying to emails when they could wait until the morning, he cries and complains until I make the wiser choice. If I start doing something unwise after he’s nodded off, like working later than I need to instead of relaxing, he wakes up and needs resettling, which means I’ve missed my chance to relax. (Mind you, I often find it quite peaceful lying at his side after resettling him, and this stillness is probably good for me). 


  • He gave me a good whack this morning when I took a moment (after the tonsillitis-troubled toddler woke at 4am screaming) to check Facebook while breastfeeding. He hit me on the chest right as I had the guilty thought that I really don’t need to be checking Facebook but will anyway. 


  • He groans and grunts when making a physical effort or when he is protesting or insisting on something. I had no idea where he got this bear-cub like behavior from, until one day I noticed his mamma bear doing it while heaving a pram into the boot of the car! 


  • I am impatient to start the day, and can get a bit wired at night, so I have to force myself to stop, rest, and wind-down, let alone sleep in! Now, thanks to the karmic forces of the universe, I have a little mini-me exacerbating my hyped-up tendencies 


  • He and I are both sensitive to loud noises. He used to cry dramatically when he heard a child let out your average squeal of excitement or upset. Now, he seems to be steeling himself for the inevitable by taking up his own very piercing brand of squealing. 


  • When he is really happy, I feel it and am happy for him. Even if it is someone else funnier, more energised, and less frazzled making him smile. (Mind you, I think when it’s me making him smile, he’s particularly buzzed. There’s just something about when mums are in playful mode).


So what’s the point of sharing all this? It’s a half-humorous, half-grave warning to anyone planning to have kids to prepare for a personal development challenge of spiritual proportions! And it is not just a cliché to say that the rewards make it worth it – they really do. There are so many silver linings to the exhaustion that many parents feel in their bones. Hey, I actually stood up for myself (politely and calmly I might add) at the chemist the other day when a young girl blatantly pushed in front of me. That was because I was suffering from mastitis and lack of sleep, and thus too tired to suppress my inner sense of fairness and personal conviction. That was a big win for me, as I often hesitate to speak my truth. My kid seems to be slowly (and painfully at times) bringing my authentic self closer to the surface. I can’t imagine what his potential siblings have in store!

This share is also intended to reassure anyone who relates to the examples I gave above, that you are not alone in feeling like your child is some kind of karmic, behavioural reckoning. I should add though, it is not all our fault. There’s your kid’s karma to blame too. So you can take some of that pressure off – I certainly did after a recent mastitis-inspired epiphany about the importance of boundaries, and recognising that my son and I are two individuals.

He has his own quirks and traits that I have to accept, embrace and work with. In fact, increasingly, he’s becoming a very strong individual with one heck of an iron will. This battle of wills only compounds the challenge of us being so connected! For instance, he knows instantly when I am getting lost in anything that doesn’t involve him, like reading or listening to a podcast. He comes and finds me in the study, and insists on either being part of the activity or putting a stop to it.

My son, who is clambering over me and pounding the keyboard as I write this, is a constant reminder of the cheesy-but-true saying, ‘we are all in this together’. Togetherness is lovely, heart-warming stuff. But it is also very painful and irritating at times. We lift each other up, when we are not drowning or smothering each other.

We can hardly escape our enemies let alone our loved ones, or ourselves, so we have to try be as liberated as we can be to create a bit more “spaciousness”. That includes owning who we are and taking personal responsibility for how we are acting, feeling and responding to life. Having this little boy, who at times feels like an added (13 kg) limb to the experience of my multi-faceted, many-moods self, has really made it hit home that I need to be able to find freedom within the chaos of relationships, by relating well to myself, first and foremost. This means being connected to my own truth, my needs and my limits.

As one way to tackle the torture of my lovable little karma cop, I want to try more actively to make the most of the connection I have with my son, and also others around me. For instance, by being more conscious of my strengths and the impact they have, and trying actively to nurture, utilize and share them. Or by soaking up my husband’s calming energy, and lying on his chest, which when we first met, sent me into this deep, healing slumber every time we tried to watch Star Wars (it took at least a month to finish the original ‘sequel’ series!).

At the time, he was working in childcare and used to tell me long before we had kids that they really pick up on your “energy”, and that you can consciously try to give them soothing or sleepy vibes. He also mentioned, and still does, the importance of confidence and believing you can influence a little human with your larger-human intentionality and presence. At times this notion has just added more pressure and played into self-criticism, (especially when a toddler’s will and presence can be quite overpowering!), but I can’t escape the truth in what he is saying. Indeed, countless times I have successfully settled this little man using adult strength and tenderness. It’s only because the job is so constant that I focus on all the times I’ve failed. I will never understand why many mothers, including myself, are so hard on themselves. It’s a burden I wouldn’t wish on anyone, not least my own kids.

I better get to work on changing that habit.

Do you struggle with being hard on yourself as a mum? Does your kid reflect your habits and state of mind back to you? Have you found ways to overcome the trials of togetherness? Share your story in the comments.

Jane Close

Jane Close is a writer by nature. Forever seeking the deeper meaning and the truer tale. In her 20s, Jane’s passion for true stories and people from different backgrounds drew her into the world of journalism, where she churned out articles on topics from the arts to politics for Fairfax community papers in Melbourne.

A thirst for adventure then took Jane to Japan, where she spent four years chasing and telling the powerful story of Okinawa and Okinawan people (among other topics!). Now 33, and mother of two, Jane works as a copywriter, helping organisations and businesses tell their truest, most meaningful stories.

Jane has always had an insatiable interest in spirituality, which she has explored through reading, travelling, asking lots of questions, and going on a Vipassana meditation retreat while pregnant with her now 3 year old son. Since becoming a mother, Jane has learned (sometimes the hard way) just how important it is to practice self-care through mindfulness exercises such as yoga and meditation.