I recently caught up with some friends I studied psychology with. In fact they are one the greatest blessings to come out of my studies. We all live very busy lives so don’t get to catch up as often as we use to, in fact one of my friends I had not seen in 18 months since my baby shower.
I walked away from our catch up grateful that these wāhine are in my life, however also deep in thought. The evening was filled with compassionate eyes and loads of validation - i guess a given when your closest friends are in the business of caring and are good people. It felt like a speed review of the last 18 months and had me thinking about my whānau. My friend asked me what motherhood was like - in all honesty it has been tough.
I love being a māmā, but having a kōtrio with complex health issues - type 1 diabetes, has been a whole haerenga in itself, let alone learning to be a māmā in the first place. Ill save that korero for another day.
My whānau - parents, friends, siblings and what not have held us in so many ways. However, the change in roles, loss of time and decreased energy has really had an impact a lot of my relationships. This combined with wanting to make generational changes has led to a state of flux within my whānau. One that is not always easy to navigate.
All resulting in new ways of relating - which i now kind of refer to the tikanga of my whānau. That being the tikanga for my husband, kōtiro and I.
The reason I refer to it as my tikanga is because its a mix of
- Customs - things from my upbringing and culture; the why.
- Practices - the actioning of my tikanga; the how.
- Values - what led me to creating the tikanga.
- Outcomes - what I want them to do.
This hasn't been easy for all of my whānau because I guess the status quo, whilst not always functional, is the way people want to keep it - the comfort of familiarity really. You know the mentality ‘this is the way we have always done things, so why change’. However having my kōtiro really opened my eyes to what I want for her - and don’t want for her. Most parents can relate to the feeling of your tamaiti feeling like a piece of your heart lives outside of your tinana. A scary thought really.
Establishing some tikanga with the support of my tane has led to some friction. At times we have been surprised by some reactions to the tikanga we have set out. Things we thought would be kei te pai, has created a stir. And other things been accepted with no fuss or comment.
I had not realized fully the severity, progress and tension points in this haerenga until I caught up with my friends. They asked about a whole heap of pātai which led me to filling them in on some of the tension points.
I wanted to share some of our whānau tikanga and some of the ways we have approached it. Now we don’t always get it right, its a work in progress and are constantly learning within this space. But I really want to normalize people being able to set up their own tikanga in a safe way - regardless of with its with whānau, friends or colleagues. We all have different capacities in different seasons of life. So this is not limited to being a parent, new-parent. Whānau is complicated and while can be our greatest source of support, can also cause headaches and heartbreaks.
Some of our tikanga for our kōtiro:
- Not around others dogs. We expect people’s dogs to be put away.
- No sleepovers with whānau - there may be rare occasions in the future this happens however not until she able to speak for herself.
- No sleepovers with friends until she is 16 years unless we are present.
- We don’t let others make negative comments on body image around her.
- No remarks that other people i.e. A (labels culture) today and they did....- our rule is if culture/religion/etc. are not relevant to the story don’t share those details.
- We don’t let her be present around domestic disputes - mainly our neighbors currently. We don’t want this to be her normal.
Work has to be to the value or close to the value of having time away from our kōtiro. So no free jobs, or jobs for a box of beers as this does not equate to a missed afternoon with our kōtiro.
- She has tino rangatiratanga over her tinana, so its her decision if she wants to hug.
- We ask others not to kiss her due to her being immuno- compromised.
- If you are unwell, whether that be māuiui in terms of your tinana or hinengaro, we will not expose to our kōtiro to behavior or experiences that will cause her harm or distress. We still support but not with her.
Now there is more tikanga then this but I wanted to share some of our tikanga - our non-negotiables. You may read some of these and think this is intense, or crazy or wild. However as I said they are value driven, with our kōtiro wellbeing at the heart of them all. They have been created following lengthy wānanga with my tane about what we want to try safeguard her from. I never want her to experience the mamae I have in life especially if I know that some of it could have been prevented. Don’t get me wrong there have been times she has seen things or tikanga has been impinged on, however these times are not her norm.
We have gone in strong with some tikanga as we want to leave as little room for ambiguity as possible. This is knowing that ambiguity causes mishaps. So for the time being we are not willing to loosen up on things.
When tikanga isn’t followed we either gently remind people and call them into a korero, ask them to stop or have removed ourselves from situations. Not everyone in our whānau agree or get it, and removing ourselves is often the result of not wanting conflict or our tikanga ignored.
I know in the future this tikanga will adapt and change. That is also ok, at the time of setting some of this tikanga we are just doing the best with what we know in the moment. I know its often not until we have hind sight are we able to reflect and respond in a more fitting way.
Things that helped up us:
- Respecting our whānau.
- Setting and sharing tikanga gradually. We started with our top priorities first.
- Patience - it takes time
- Recognize that it's okay to prioritize your own needs and boundaries. You have a right to take care of yourself and whānau.
- Review and Adjust as Needed.
Tips on setting and communicating your Tikanga:
Reflect on Your Needs: Before communicating tikanga, take time to identify what you need and what is necessary for your wellbeing.
Be Clear and Specific: Clearly define the tikanga you want to set. Use specific examples to illustrate what you mean.
Choose the Right Time and Place: Find a suitable moment to discuss your new tikanga. Avoid times when emotions are already high or during whānau conflicts.
Use "I" Statements: Frame your boundaries in terms of your own feelings and needs. For example, say "I need" or "I feel" rather than making accusatory statements.
Stay Calm and Firm: Maintain a calm and assertive demeanor when expressing your tikanga. Be confident in your decision.
Write them down: Jot the tikanga down on a bit of paper or your phone to help keep you on track when sharing.
Be Consistent: Uphold your tikanga consistently. This helps establish a clear expectation of what is acceptable behavior. But also it takes time to get it right and communicate, so be compassionate to yourself if you feel like you are struggling to speak up. Try again next time.
Seek Support if Needed: If you're having difficulty setting or maintaining your tikanga, consider seeking advice from a trusted friend, family member, or therapist.
Practice Self-Care: Prioritize your own wellbeing. Taking care of yourself allows you to follow tikanga effectively.
Listen Actively: Be open to hearing the perspectives of your whānau. Understanding their point of view can lead to more effective communication. This also provides an opportunity to korero. This does not mean you have to follow what they say, however the same way you want them to listen to you, you can reciprocate. Of course as long as its not abusive.