Podcast Episode 3: Finding Your Calm as a Mum with Natalie Cook

by The Mum Tribe Podcast

In this week's episode of The Mum Tribe podcast,  I'm chatting with Natalie Cook, who is a mind-body health coach and therapist, and mum to two gorgeous boys. Natalie's work focuses on helping mums navigate their parenting journey with more easy, joy and presence by focusing on our own needs.


Natalie's website contains some amazing free resources as well as more information about her coaching: https://www.nataliecook.net/

You can also follow Natalie on Instagram and Facebook.

Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.


Episode Transcript

Jess 

Hello there and welcome to The Mum Tribe podcast where we check all things motherhood, parenting and everything in between. I'm Jess, your host, and I'm mum to a beautiful wee girl named Isla. A really crucial part of my motherhood journey has been the sharing of stories and experiences with other moms that I've met or already knew. That really inspired me to create this podcast so that we can all share stories with each other and learn and grow together. The Mum Tribe is also an e-commerce store focusing on amazing products for mums and Bubs. And also a blog focused on the experience of kiwi mums. Thank you for being here. Let's get into our episode for this week.

Hey everyone, welcome to episode three of The Mum Tribe podcast. Today I have my very first guest joining me and I'm so excited to chat with her. Natalie Cook is here with us today. So Natalie is a mind body health coach and therapist, and mum to two gorgeous boys. Natalie is committed to helping mums navigate gentle parenting with more ease, joy and presence. And I know that I'm going to learn a lot from her in this episode. And I hope you do too. Som welcome Natalie to the mum tribe podcast! Tell me a little bit about your background and how you came to be doing this work.

Natalie 

Yeah, so I have an interesting background for someone who's now working in the space that I do, which essentially is working with mental health. But really straddling that mind body link. I came to working with people as a physiotherapist. I studied physiotherapy in Cape Town in South Africa, graduated in 1999. But I was always interested in the psychology behind pain and the broader aspects of people's lives that led them to my clinic door and the shoulder was never just a shoulder pain. To me, it was always like, well, what else is going on in your life? And so I became really fascinated with the mind body link and went on to study craniosacral therapy, which in its advanced phases, get into somato emotional release, and really looking at some of the more emotional aspects of pain.

Which meant that over the years, before I became a mom, I dealt with a lot of people who came to me with back pain or neck pain, usually, it's the kind of pain that lingers. And it sort of, was quite amazing a pattern started to emerge of how many people who have chronic pain also ultimately ended up have having emotions, that they've suppressed or had been suppressed in them. Because here's the thing, we often go through trauma, and at the time, we just deal with it in the best way that we can, and we can't stop to deal with our emotions. It's not, it's not conducive to keeping us safe in the moment. We don't have all the resources we need. For for many of the people I've worked with, they were children at the time that they went through traumatic experiences. And so their bodies just did what was needed at the time. And then they finally came to me and I fully believe that we seek the resources we need when we're ready to heal. And it was just incredible how many of the stories had, at their root, a seemingly benign moment from childhood, where they had an emotion and someone else told them not to feel it.

And when I fell pregnant, and was entering into motherhood, I just had this strong desire to not be that parent, of course I haven't managed it perfectly because I soon realised that being able to hold space for emotions, those big emotions in your kids is so hard. So hard, especially if you're someone who has big intense feelings yourself. Or maybe you have a sensitive system, or you were brought up in a way where you didn't get the opportunity to feel your emotions, or in a culture and let's be honest, most of us who are parents these days are still bought up within a culture of "yeah, just get on with it". "Buckle up". "You're alright, you'll be fine". "Pull up your socks". And so it was very important to me to, at every opportunity that I could, to try and see how I could validate my kid's emotions, but of course, I didn't expect what that would do inside of me. Like I should have expected it because I've been working with people for so long, but the actual lived experience of being a mum and all the pressures and all the societal expectations and all of them and when all these emotions came up sometimes I just got so frustrated and so angry and I snapped,and I was such a calm person before being a mum, I just suddenly discovered this rage that I never knew existed. Which I now know is a thing. I mean, you only know it's a thing after the fact right?

Jess 

It's one of those things that nobody tells you to expect, and it really creeps up on you.

Natalie  

Yeah. And if they did, I'm not sure we'd really tune in right or likr, there's a few of those things around pregnancy and birth and having kids that nobody tells you about, but I'm not sure that it would really sink in without having lived it, either. Yeah, I wouldn't have expected it. I would have been very much "No, that won't be me". I'm calm. Everyone knows me for that. Like, that's why people came to see me because I have this calming influence. And it was very confronting, to realise that actually, for someone who, I meditated, all that stuff. Like, that was me, that was my life before being a mum, but of course, suddenly, I didn't have any of those resources available. I didn't have solitude, I didn't have week long meditation retreats, I didn't have all my, like, coping mechanisms available to me. And that was when I was inspired to find ways to do that without needing to get away for a week or two, have solitude or, you know, how can I create stillness in the moment without having to devote all their time that I used to, to being able to be a calm presence, which is what I wanted to be for my kids. So yeah, that was born out of this desire to support other mums who probably go through the same thing I did. Desperately wanting to be this calm presence, but having to face a part of themselves that they didn't even know existed. Or maybe had an inkling but now just, you know, are taken by surprise. And I like to think that, for the most part, I'm able to catch myself these days, not always, but for the most part. Yeah.

Jess 

Awesome. What would you say, would be your top three tips for mums? To be able to sort of stay calm and be present in the moment if their child is throwing a tantrum, or (I hate that phrase, I promised myself I was gonna say that, but there you go, sorry). Or just having a really a moment of really big feelings.

Natalie

Yeah, you know, like the top three tips for sort of being able to remain calm in the presence of those big feelings. There's really two aspects to that, there's tips for actually what you can do, literally, in the moment, and practices that you can have outside of the moment that will then rub off in the moment. So I can probably name three that might cover both bases.

Jess 

Awesome, I know I'll benefit from that.

Natalie

So the first one really, is being very, very clear on your values as a parent. Because that can often get drowned out by the noise of all the books and blogs and advice and Instagrams, you know, pages and everything, all the information out there on how to be a good parent, right? But I mean, what is a good parent to you? Get really clear on that, like, what are you wanting to do in your parenting journey and, and, and I guess part of that is surrounding yourself with, with information and people who have similar values to you is really helpful. Not always possible, but really, really helpful. So you can kind of fan the flames of your own parenting values. And what you want to see is and part of that, encapsulated in that is having a clear vision of what that looks like. So for example, I know that I always want to place relationship first, because it's super important to me, that when my kids are teenagers, and making really bad decisions, that they're not too scared to come to me. And I know that how I respond to their, what don't seem like big things to me now., but their big stuff now, or when they were really little, is going to determine how comfortable they feel with coming to me with their big stuff when it really matters. So that's my lens through which I parent and it's, I think if you get clear on what your lens is, that's the number one tip.

Jess 

It's definitely difficult with that kind of getting your values because I what you mentioned about the social media, I find that really difficult. As a mum at the moment, I feel like we're a generation of mothers who are just exposed to absolute information overload, you know, scrolling through, you know, whether it's Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, all those sorts of things. There's just this constant barrage of sort of different parenting styles. I think, I've seen gentle parenting, which is like the alternative gentle parenting, which is still, I guess, considered gentle, but there's just like all these people that seem to be experts on the topic. And so you kind of, you do get a little bit lost and muddled as to what am I actually supposed to be doing? What's going to be best for my child. So that's really good advice to kind of figure out exactly where you want to stand on that.

Natalie

Yeah, and really figuring out what's you and what's other, like what comes from your heart, which has suppose really requires an ability to be connected with your own inner knowing, your own inner light, which a lot of us have had snuffed out of us as kids. So there's just so much like re-parenting to do of ourselves, when we become parents and realising that the person responding in those hard moments is not your wise, compassionate adult self, it's the little person inside of you, that's reacting.

And that probably brings me to the second tip, which is having self compassion. And if it helps to think about it as having compassion for your inner child, that's struggling with what's in front of them. Some people find compassion is best elicited thinking of a baby or a child, or an animal or some creature or person that can't really, you know, fend for themselves. Being able to have some compassion for yourself that you're not always gonna get it right. But don't make yourself wrong either. And I think that's where all, I've seen it in the Instagram posts, because even if you've already decided your value is. So for me, I would put myself in the gentle parenting route like because ultimately, I want to be kind and compassionate with my kids. What underlies a lot of the difficulty with those posts, and just constantly being online. And I find it even now myself is that content creators put up they're the best version of that, the perfect version of that. But we're just not perfect. None of us are perfect. And it's, it's really, really tricky to be imperfect in this world, that seems to paint this perfect picture of what being a perfect gentle parent is or what being a perfect conscious parent is, or what being a perfect health conscious parent is. I mean, there are so many ways to get caught in that perfectionism trap. But I feel this piece around self compassion, and like kindness towards yourself, helps melt away a lot of that perfectionism. Because perfectionism really is fear, fear of getting it wrong. Or something like that. It's usually when you strip it away, you're left with fear. But the thing is, the self compassion piece also helps with shame. So it's just such an important piece, self compassion. And it's an easy to say, but it's not that easy for people to do. I mean, I actually teach an entire module, which is not enough, it could be three, on how to cultivate self compassion, what's getting gets in the way of self compassion. So it's a big one. So it's one, the values and two, just being kind to yourself, like, you know, from from a place of your, you know, if you can really get in touch with a part of you that feels compassionate towards anything and know what that feels like. And then turn it towards yourself.

Jess

I've sort of started trying to think of it as, when I, when I'm saying negative things to myself about parenting, I try and pretend that I am a friend and say, "Would you say that to your friend about their parenting?" Say, "You're a terrible mother, because you gave your child some juice just to get her to have a drink?" Or, you know, like, I would never say that to a friend. So just kind of framing it like that I found has been really helpful to have a little bit more compassion.

Natalie

That is awesome. Find that exercise is always helpful, like write a letter to your friend who's going through something similar to you, and what would you what would you be saying to her? And that's what you should be saying to yourself.

Jess

And read it back to yourself!

Natalie

Talk about words we don't want to use. I hate putting 'should' but that's what you know, would be most kind to say to yourself? Yeah, I mean, you can even take it a step further. Imagine your child was going through something similar? How would you say to them, that even takes it another notch? So yeah, that's a good one.

And then I guess, number three would be having some techniques to calm your nervous system. So to find your calm, and you can do, like, techniques you can have in the moment to do that. But those usually really work best if you've practised them outside of the moment. So just ways of coming back into your body, to me, is one of the best ways to to calm your nervous system. I mean, there are a lot of techniques out there. There's so many apps. Mindfulness is big these days, but I personally find I prefer body mindfulness coming back into your body, because I find that just connecting with the ground, connecting with your feet, just connecting with being in your body and not getting swept away in the emotion energetically, is probably one of the most important pieces. And that's, that's something that I teach a lot as like a ambulance at the bottom of the hill, like, what can you do in the moment to calm your nervous system? Yeah.

Jess

Awesome. I was just thinking as you were talking about that, when my daughter was around 18 months old, she when she was sort of upset or frustrated, because she was really frustrated at that point. She used to do this thing where she'd run her hands on the carpet. And she she was like, clearly just focusing on the sensory input she was getting from her hands touching the carpet. And then yeah, she would be like, pretty calm after doing that. At the time, I remember thinking, "Oh, my God, should she be doing that?" And I thought, I mean, does it really matter what coping mechanism she has for her moment of anxiety? Not really. So I mean, she doesn't do it anymore. Now she, she usually comes to me if she's feeling upset, and she sucks her thumb. So that's her two things. Oh and playing with her bunny's ear, like, that's a little thing that she does before she falls asleep and it's obviously a really calming influence on her. But, yeah, it's really interesting thinking of that, in the context of her using her body, and touching and her sense of touch, in order to calm herself. It's really interesting.

Natalie 

And we see these things in kids, and we celebrate them. "Oh, my gosh, look at that wonderful, soothing mechanism". And then somewhere along the line, we start getting rid of those mechanisms and that ability to intuitively know what we need to do in the moment. And it's, it's a huge part to do with our society, going to school and rigid expectations of what we need to deal with and how we should behave. And then we come out the other end, we get spat out the other end of the education system feeling, you know, being these conforming (hopefully for for the adults around us) individuals. But I think we lose a lot of that intuitive knowing how to how to calm ourselves over time. And we also get more to deal with, right. So there's bigger resources and more coping. But that's awesome. I like that story. And you know, so find your sensory input that can help you. Like, I think when things are really, really tense, some of the typical mindfulness things don't work, like drinking a warm cup of tea or holding something in your hands. Because to be honest, if you're really upset, you probably don't want to be holding a cup of anything. Let's be honest, some of us really, you know, you have to do everything you can to not actually act on your impulses in the moment. I think just, it can just really help to, sometimes you do actually just need to remove yourself from the room if you're feeling really, really upset.

But I think for many people who approach parenting through a very connection based approach, they get really nervous of doing things like that, leaving the room.

Jess 

Yep!

Natalie 

Because of that fear of creating a sense of abandonment. And here we come back to the perfectionism piece, that every single moment needs to be done in the perfect way in order for your kids to grow up without feeling like they've been abandoned or every single moment. And you've just got to take each moment through the lens of what you're after what's best for your relationship for you with your child right now? You being in the room in a fit of rage, or you be not the room for a bit calming down and then coming back?

Jess

Go out for a breath of fresh air.

Natalie

That's where that having that lens of what's the essence of how you want to parent is so so important before you get started. Yeah.

Jess 

I remember at the beginning of this year, we went through probably the hardest moments of our parenting journey so far. We had started Isla into a centre for daycare. And she was going through a 13 month sleep regression. And at the same time, due to probably not enough attention at the daycare, she ended up prematurely dropping her morning nap, which really, really impacted our nights. You know, we'd be awake from 11pm till 3am every night. I was exhausted and I just remember sitting in the lounge, sobbing holding her because she was crying. I was crying. And it was just I was like, What do I do? I can't, because my husband had to sleep because he had work, and I was like what do I even do in this moment? Like how do I calm myself because she was clearly feeding off how I was feeling in that desperate, middle of the night exhaustion. And I ended up, I think I got Rescue Remedy pastilles which was the only thing I could think of to do it and I kind of wish that I had had something else, like another tool to use at my disposal to understand how to calm myself in that moment. Because it was just like a blur of just rage and crying and just feeling really disconnected from her, because I was like, why are you doing this to me? Why are you keeping me awake for the most restful hours of my night? And, yeah, that wasn't good.

Natalie

That is, those moments are so so tough. And that's where that self compassion piece comes in. Because I mean, one thing we know, like, the prefrontal cortex is what sets us apart as humans, right. And a big part of that is being able to have this really integrated brain that can go like "I'm tired but I can do this", and you can keep, you know, you can, "my daughter's crying, but I love her". And you can have all these mixed feelings. And you know, if you've had good sleep, it all works well. But when you haven't slept, your frontal cortex kind of goes, you know, that, that that power to reason that ability to hold mixed feelings really becomes very, very limited.

And I think. I learned with my second, I think that's the other thing, I think, I learned when I had my second to be sort of less rigid about what those things could be. And I got into this pattern of, because he had colic, which meant he'd scream, and then my youngest, my oldest would be like crying, because baby was crying, and then they'd set each other off, and I just want to cry or scream or any of those things, I got into this habit of strapping him to me, and putting on Jason Mraz's Sunshine song, because for some, and he would just settle, but it's because I settled. Because somehow that song, just, it was light, and it would just calm me down, and I'd dance and I'd listen to it and I'd feel happy.

You know, you really really hit the nail on the head there when they pick up your what's going on in your nervous system. So what do you do ? Anything that makes you happy, so you, they're babies, stick Netflix on. Watch something at one o'clock in the morning if you have to, because it's just all too much. And also know that it's not forever, and you're human. Part of what we're doing, I think, in my opinion with our kids is we don't want to raise them in this environment where they feel that perfectionism is the only thing to aim for that they have to be a perfect human. And the only way that they can learn that, you know, humanity and being human means we make mistakes, we don't get it right, is by witnessing as make mistakes, not get it right, cry, apologise, you know, obviously not all the time. If there's a pattern you probably want to look into it, but those moments of humanity are what shape their ability to be comfortable with their own humanity when they're older.

Jess 

Totally, I mean, we're all on the same, on the journey together, like the whole family, you know, like, parents and children, like they're learning how to be humans, we're learning how to be parents. It's a whole big learning journey for all of us.

So tell us a little bit about what you offer through your business and how mums can access it.

Natalie

Awesome. Yeah, so I have a few things available at the moment, there's a couple of free resources on my website. So that's nataliecook.net. And then there's a quiz and a 'Release the Guilt Mama' guide, which is a great one. And I also have an online programme, which I'll be starting the next one will go in March, because we've got, you know, summer break. It's called Calm Mama, it's an eight to 12 week programme, I'm looking at pushing it to 12 weeks just to kind of spread out the modules, I've had some feedback that it helps to only have them once every two weeks. And it really takes women through ways to calm your system and process stress is probably the first piece, but also looking at some of the underlying limiting beliefs we might have or have taken on that are causing us a lot of internal stress. It's really looking at some of our internal barriers to feeling calmer and more relaxed as mums, and also looking at some of the outside barriers, but we have less control over those but it's worth knowing that they're there. So that we can be kinder to ourselves. Self Compassion is a big piece of it.

And also just really learning about how to create resilience in your system, in your mind body system. And I have a method of really helping people get to what's important for them, because there's so much information out there. And I think most of us actually know what we should be should be doing right? Like we have a sense of if I did this, and this and this, I'd feel so much calmer and more relaxed. And so my course is more about looking at what gets in the way. The things you already know that you're doing and I do. Some people don't want to wait. So I have some people who will book a few like a small package. I have a minimum of three package of privates with me just to work on if there's some acute stuff going on for them. I work with a very body mind centred approach to what I do. I'm not as psychologist, but I work in as a craniosacral therapist and as a motivational interviewing coach, I've been sort of trained to work in that grey space of the mind body connection. So I do work a lot around emotional expression, but through a body centred approach.

Jess 

Cool. All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. I'm sure we'll get you onto a future episode as well. And I will share some links in the show notes to Natalie's website, and social media handles as well. Thanks so much.

Natalie

Thank you, and thank you for having me!

Jess

Well, I hope you all enjoyed this week's episode. I know I've learned so much from Natalie already. We'll definitely be having her back on the podcast in the near future. Next week, I'm continuing the theme of calm parenting chatting with Tarryn from Raising Calm. Don't forget to subscribe to The Mum Tribe podcast so you never miss an episode.