ASHLEIGH GUTHRIE. IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

Ashleigh Guthrie is a spiritual mentor, women’s circle facilitator, sound healer and trauma informed child hypnotherapist – trained by teachers from different traditions all over the world. Ashleigh is BROOD Magazine’s bonus mum and earth angel. Two years ago, Ashleigh met her partner – Rachel, and quickly found herself in a role she had never envisioned for her life; as Rachel came with a bonus gift in the form of her 10-year-old son.

“…having my own self-care time has probably been the biggest challenge”

The couple met through a female only dating app during lockdown. She recognised Rachel having met her 7 years earlier and they also had several mutual friends. As Rachel’s face appeared on the app, Ashleigh was instantly attracted to her smile. As the couple began communicating, they also found they had shared experiences – such as losing their parents at a young age. As they continued to get to know each other, the three hour zoom calls just further illustrated their undeniable connection.

We sat down with Ashleigh to chat about how her life has changed since sharing it with Rachel and her son. And how she balances embracing this new phase  – without losing the connection with herself – something we can all struggle with once we step into the realms of parenting.

How long into your relationship was it before you were introduced to Rachel’s son?

Ashleigh – “We had around four months of it being just us. Then I met her son in September. I wasn’t sure if we should wait a little longer but I think Rachel felt some guilt by not telling him who I was as he had seen me on camera as Mum’s ‘friend’ and he’s a smart kid, so it was important for Rachel that she could be honest about who I was. He actually said when he saw me on camera that he said “Yes, she’s the one!”

How lovely! Once you had met him did it change your relationship with Rachel at all?

Ashleigh – “It did. It shifted the dynamic of the relationship because I wasn’t prepared for what a supporting parental role entailed. I hadn’t spoken to any other stepparents so I just had to take a leap of faith and learn when to let go of control but equally how to be present at the right moments.”

As he already has two loving Mother’s was it hard for you to find your role?

Ashleigh – “We have our own mini tribe, so, he is surrounded by a lot of love! With time i found my flow in the polarity and seemed to take more of a paternal role.” 

ASHLEIGH GUTHRIE, IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY
ASHLEIGH GUTHRIE, IMAGE © RACHEL JOSEPH PHOTOGRAPHY

Is it difficult to navigate different parenting styles within the different settings?

Ashleigh – “Yes, it can take us all a little time to adjust, so it’s just about stepping back and giving everyone a chance to settle into the shift of energy. He often has a lot of energy to burn off so it’s important to give him that needed space, after school clubs have been a blessing this year! I also recognised that in the beginningRachel would be rushing round trying to get everything ‘perfect’ on the day and struggled to ask for help, but we’ve both found a more relaxed routine and work well as a team to get ourselves and the environment prepared for his return. We have both come to agree that if the house hasn’t been hoovered for example, it doesn’t matter, as long as there is food in the fridge and he’s happy that’s all that matters. Tomorrow is another day”  

As your work means you need to be in a certain energy, when Rachel’s son is with you, is it difficult to switch between your home role and work role?

“It depends on what time of the month it is if I’m being really honest. Having two women in the same household…I didn’t have the awareness of just what an effect my own menstrual cycle influenced me. The week, when we’re in sync, trying to manage that, I’ve found is all about finding healthiercoping mechanisms that help us to communicate what our individual needs are and manage stress. So, I don’t actually work during that time – I manage my time, marketing plan and diet according to my cycle and it’s helped massively. But her son is really good when I am working, it’s all been online anyway, so he knows that when I’m leading a full moon ceremony I need a quiet environment and, he is really respectful when it comes to that. Recently Rachel’s been busy with her photography work so is out working long hours, we’re also in the process of moving house and Rachel has also started a property business, there is a new joint business being birthed too and the hardest thing that I’m trying to manage is connecting with my body and how the change in stress levels can affect my relationship to staying present and feeling grounded. I’m a big believer in a daily morning practice and consistent bed time to help regulate the nervous system.”

“But, Sometimes the mask needs to slip and it’s for children to understand that their parents aren’t perfect – because no one is.”

“In the beginning the area that the stress affected us most was me trying to find balance between my new business and bring awareness to where was i over giving in the relationship, and how that was affecting the dynamic, because by the end of our week of co-parenting especially when we were both bleeding, I felt burnt out. Switching from parent to partner mode has been challenging but we have found fun ways to re-connect.

This relationship has taught me how to create better boundaries as I was dropping into rescue mode when there was conflict and chaos. We try our best to practice patience with each other as a family, and have been learning how to practice compassionate communication with each other when we feel triggered and frustrated, consistency and commitment is key!  It’s taken time but I’m now able to lean back and trust, which has empowered Rachel to take more of the lead. As a result i find i have more energy, desire and time to focus on the things that bring me pleasure, such as my work, having fun with friends…and sex – because that’s the other area parental stress affects! (We all laugh) I genuinely don’t know how people stay together and have the energy to have sex when they have a child with them 24/7.”

 

What did you find changed most for you when you found yourself as a co-caregiver to a child?

Ashleigh – “My life had changed drastically anyway because of lockdown, as I used to travel around the world. I was very much a free spirit. I was free to explore and expressmyself without having to take anyone else into consideration. So, I would say asking for my own self-care time and taking it guilt free has probably been the biggest challenge. I’ve really had to learn how to create a space for self care when in a relationship with other’s and as a result i’ve really come to see the real value and importance of it, which is one of the reason’s i feel so passionate about facilitating women’s circle and creating sacred space for other’s. One of my favourite pastimes was having a cup of ceremonial cacao, lighting a fire withcandles, dancing naked in my living room, with no interruptions. That was my way of reconnecting with myself. Whereas now there’s an 11-year-old present and a partner in my life that wants my attention too, and although I’m not as ‘witchy’ in the same way i used to be, I now enjoy planning intentional time to connect to that part of me. (We all laugh) I found fun ways to adapt, so I will still light a fire in the garden for instance on a full moon, Rachel and her son will be with me. Hereally see’s my magick in that persona, he’ll call me witchy at times, which makes me smile and helps me to feel more confident sharing that side of myself with other’s. He’ll create his own rituals now and we really connect in that way, he brings out a playfulness in me that I have only really seen with myself.

Rachel is really great at knowing when I need my own personal space, especially around my moon time. She’ll take her son out during the day to spend time with friends on the weekend’s before I bleed so the house is quiet, i feel this has been revolutionary in our relationship as I feel cared for and appreciated by my family and i have the space and time to just focus on taking care of my needs.”

 

Do you have any advice for people who struggle to feel ok with finding time for themselves since becoming parents?

Ashleigh – “I think that people don’t give themselves permission to grieve, I personally have worked through a lot of grief, my mum died in 2016 when i was 28, I hold grief ceremonies and grief rituals for my clients, that’s part of the reason I need that time to come back to myself, to understand who i am in that moment and to re-charge. I have grieved for the various parts of myself that have shape shifted throughout this relationship – which is no different to when I was single, grief brings us back to love, which eventually makes us feel whole again. I find that alot of people resist the grief journey of going through the pain because they don’t know who they will be on the other side and they worry the tears won’t ever stop, but they do, and they purify the heart, this is how we evolve and grow. The old identity must die in order to make way for the new, just like the caterpillar does when she becomes the butterfly. Look at the seasons, the seasons change constantly, as do we. I think we’ve forgotten those cycles of change and how to let go so that you can move forward. And I don’t think you can do that when you become so enmeshed in patriarchal conditioning as to what relationships, family, sexuality and parenthood is “supposed” to look like. So, I think you need to set healthy boundaries for yourself. That’s really important. But also, community – like what BROOD is about – building a community and I think especially after lockdown, there is almost like this calling back to the village. I believe we all need that kind of support.”

Do you think that in modern society parents can struggle to accept support? That there is almost a stigma attached to it – like if you ask for help or accept help then you are ‘less than’ in some way – as society continues to place such unrealistic expectations on people?

Ashleigh – “Yes. If you look back in history, after holding their baby for no more than four hours, the mother would have passed the baby to a ‘grandmother’ or ‘auntie’ within the tribe so that they had time to come back to themselves. It would be a tribe of women, not just one isolated woman looking after her new baby.

And lastly, do you think it’s important for children to understand that life can be stressful at times for parents and how would you implement involving them without putting any unnecessary worry onto them?

Ashleigh – “Communicating with your children is so important. If you have a lot on, then be open with them – explain that you have a lot on. I’ve found the best results come when i’m able to shift my energy into feeling grounded, staying consistent and holding my boundaries. Because if you don’t, they just see you stressed and worrying, and they won’t understand why. I encourage expression of emotion in our household but not to project it out onto another person, taking radical responsibility for our own emotions issomething we can teach our children. If anxiety and overwhelm start to pour out or we suppress shame and anger and become passive aggressive and emotionally lash out, the child doesn’t have a clue what’s going on – they’ll feel confused and frustrated because they won’t feel safe. But if you can be mindful and come back full to presence with yourself and explain a little bit about what’s happening for you, ask how they are feeling and validate their experience, then you may find they are more open, understanding and willing to help you in the small ways that they can. This builds a more trustworthy relationship between parent and child and teaches them how to self regulate their own emotions, because they’ve witnessed you do it. But, Sometimes the mask needs to slip and it’s for children to understand that their parents aren’t perfect – because no one is.”

Written by Lolo Stubbs

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