I had the honor of interviewing Megan Stonelake from Empathic Parenting. Her beautiful site is full of helpful tips and services for when parenting becomes overwhelming. She has a four-year-old son and loves baked goods.
1. We wouldn’t be chatting today if it were not for our children. Will you tell us about your four-year-old?
Absolutely, he’s one of my favorite topics to discuss. J My four-year-old is sensitive, joyful, and creative. He loves making up stories and acting them out, so right now life is basically one big adventure about fire trucks, volcanoes, and kitty cats. He keeps me present and reminds me to slow down when I start to focus too much on my to-do list and not enough on enjoying life. He’s also the reason I discovered my passion for supporting other parents and writing about parenting. Becoming a mama has truly changed the course of my life.
2. What is Empathic parenting?
To me parenting with empathy simply means taking my child’s needs, desires, and development into account everyday. I try to consider things from his perspective as much as possible, and I always try to truly listen to his thoughts and feelings – even when his behaviors infuriate me. Empathic parenting means surrendering my agenda for my child and instead choosing to enter his world. It means choosing connection over punishment and focusing on the long-term goal of raising a compassionate, resilient kid.
3. What is your best piece of advice for new mothers?
There’s no prize for martyrdom, and making self-care a priority is your job and yours alone. Make sure you’re actively meeting your own needs every single day. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary. You’ll be modeling good boundaries, and you’ll be a better parent for it.
4. Do you feel society puts too much pressure on mothers? Are parents judged too harshly by their peers and the media?
There certainly seem to be a lot of opinions about how women should arrange their lives, particularly mothers. Part of my mission in focusing on empathy is extending it well past our own families. All parents deserve empathy, even when they parent in ways with which we disagree. Often we only see a small snapshot of an entire life, and that’s not enough information to form a judgment.
5. What is your favorite sound in the world?
The ocean, a horse’s nicker or my son’s belly laugh.
6. Motherhood is full of ups and downs. What is your least and most favorite part about being a mother?
My least favorite part of parenthood is the sleep deprivation. It’s no joke. Beyond that, I try to embrace even the difficult moments.
My favorite part of being a mother is the overwhelming gratitude I feel for this little person and how he’s changed me. Sometimes we’ll be cuddled up close reading a story, and I just look at his smooth little cheek, scabbed knees, or wild mane of hair and marvel that I get to be his mama. He’s my most important work.
7. What is your top fiction and non-fiction book?
This is such a difficult question to answer! I’m a huge book lover, and choosing two might be impossible. I’ll narrow it down as best I can.
One of my favorite nonfiction books is Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. It’s a brilliant commentary on many common parenting practices, from praise to punishment. He supports his assertions with empirical data, and he doesn’t mince words. He’s thoughtful and a little grumpy in the best way.
Another favorite nonfiction is We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness by Alice Walker. It’s a masterpiece.
Three of my favorite fiction books are: Cider House Rules by John Irving, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. All three are poetically written, and it’s impossible not to become invested in the tragedies and victories of the beautiful characters.
8. How do you feel about the way mothers are treated for public breastfeeding? Are you for or against it?
I’m in favor of mothers feeding their babies when and where their babies need feeding. It’s bizarre to me that anyone would have an opinion on that other than mama and baby. Babies don’t know it’s not socially acceptable for them to get hungry in public. They just know when they need to eat.
9. Your site says you are passionate about gentle parenting and baked goods. Will you share with us one of your favorite recipes?
I tend not to get fancy with my baking. These days I mostly make things like pizza dough, cornbread, or quick breads. However, I really love making a crusty, rustic bread in the Dutch oven. This is a great recipe to pair with a hearty stew in the fall.
10. What is the one thing you want your child to always remember about you?
I hope that no matter what he does or who he is, my son never questions my love for him. Even when he acts poorly, even when he’s unkind, even when I disagree with the choices he makes, I want him to always remember what it feels like to be unconditionally loved.
Thank you for your thoughtful answers, Megan!
You can find Megan at http://empathicparentingcounseling.com/.