We live in a culture that is dominated by masculine consciousness, and this is the type of thinking that we use most often, as individuals and as a society. Masculine consciousness has developed, according to one version of history, as men have honed their skills in hunting. This way of thinking is goal-directed, usually competitive (although it can also be co-operative) and information is processed in a logical and often black-and white way. Masculine thinking is more likely to generate solutions in which there is a winner and a loser. Masculine thinking has created much of the fabric of Western societies and especially our advances in science and technology. Feminine consciousness has a different history, being the mode of thinking that women have traditionally used to raise healthy and happy offspring. Feminine consciousness is exploratory rather than goal-directed, and recognises shades of grey that would be impossible to include in tasks such as hunting (or using a computer), when logical thinking and quick reactions are needed. Feminine thinking has, through the very physical experiences of childbearing, become expert in interdependence, and is more likely to generate solutions that meet everyone’s needs. Neither masculine nor feminine thinking is superior- both are useful in different situations, and their balance is also important. Unfortunately our society is currently very unbalanced, with masculine thinking predominating, and most of the advice that we are given as mothers comes, inappropriately, from this masculine perspective. For example, in our society we tend to view the needs of mothers and babies as competitive, and we are encouraged not to “let our babies get the better of us”. Yet Nature has designed mothers and babies to be interdependent, and what is good for our babies is almost always good for us. Breastfeeding is a good example; women who breastfeed have lower risks of cancer of the breast, ovaries and uterus and stronger bones, yet masculine thinking- including the dangerous idea that science can create a healthy breast-milk substitute- has encouraged women to wean early or not to breastfeed at all. Masculine thinking is often evoked during difficult times of transition. When our little ones are moving from one state to another- eg from in-arms to crawling; from breast to weaning; from night waking to sleeping through, we are usually encouraged to think logically and move quickly towards a defined goal, which invariably involves further separation between mother and child. This approach can hurry the child whose goal is also independence but at their own pace. The mother can also experience stress, because she needs time to extract herself from the previous stage. When a transition is hurried, relationships can be strained even after the solution has been enacted. Controlled crying is a good example of a hurried transition. Controlled crying is an attempt to rush a baby or small child through the transition from frequent night waking to sleeping through the night. In my experience, this transition is naturally slow and gentle, with most children still waking- although less frequently- until two to three years old, and sleeping through reliably some time after age four. Although we live in a culture where frequent night waking is problematic for adults, withdrawing support from our babies in order to hasten this transition is not in anyone’s best interests. Our babies’ first task- the task upon which their subsequent emotional development will be based- is to learn to trust in the safety and love that surrounds them. Techniques such as controlled crying can fracture this trust, which is also the basis of all their future relationships, including those with us, their parents. Transitions can be challenging, and it can seem easier to reach for quick solutions. However transitions are also our doorways into new states of being. Transitions teach us to be sensitive, flexible and trusting of our children, of ourselves, and of the natural process. Transitions can challenge us to re-vision our parenting philosophies so that we can respond to our child as an individual. We may even find ourselves contradicting long-held beliefs and practices. This can take courage, but I believe that, as authentic and responsive parents, our primary devotion is to our child, not to a particular parenting dogma. How does a transition present itself? In my experience, it begins just as we are feeling comfortable. Then something shifts. There is an awareness of something that we were previously unaware of- maybe a little discomfort with something that has been unconscious or easy up until then. For example, we might begin to notice that sometimes we dont want to breastfeed our older baby or toddler as much as he/she wants to be fed at night. This is what we might call stage one. If we stay with this mild discomfort, it will probably progress, as our child gets older, and we will come to the stage when we think about doing something about it- for example, feeding less at night. We could call this stage two. This can be a difficult stage because we live in a culture that is always trying to separate mothers and babies, and it can be easy to let masculine thinking- from inside ourselves or from outside- lead us to a hurried transition. Our partners and families may also want to help us through the difficulty as quickly as possible. We can choose to change our behaviour at this stage, but I believe that it is vital to check in and see what really feels right, and to move at our own pace. An example is my experience of co-sleeping with my first baby, Emma. Emma slept in bed with us for six months before I started putting her to sleep in a cot in our bedroom. When I look back, I can see that I wasnt totally comfortable with this move; I was influenced by ideas that my partner and I shared, and by the many (many) others who disapproved of co-sleeping. I also remember my pleasure when she slept all night with us on holiday, because I could enjoy it without feeling I was doing the wrong thing. After stage two, there could be several more stages (depending on the child, ourselves, and the situation) before we really do, from deep inside ourselves, want to change what we are doing. For me, this discomfort needs to get really big in order for me to act- maybe I could call it stage five or six- but it is only at this stage that I have the certainty and motivation that I need for it to work easily for my baby/child and myself. I also need a vision of the future, and may need to spend time envisaging different things at this point- being creative with how it might work. For example, several years ago we decided to put Jacob, our co-sleeping two yo, into a bed with his siblings, and we talked about this for some months before it actually happened. Last stage is when we enact the change- it could be year or more from stage 1, and the timing depends a lot on feedback from on the child. There are no rules, and the best arrangement is the one that works most satisfactorily for everyone involved. For example, I still have Maia, who is three and a half, in bed with me because I feel that she needs the extra security of co-sleeping, and Jacob, aged eight is also back in our bed at present. However, I could say Im at stage one of getting them to sleep together in Jacobs double bed. Overall I feel comfortable with this- we have about nine feet of bed between the four of us- but I also imagine that some other arrangement will ensue, at some time; maybe the one I am imagining but maybe not. With these arrangements, and at several other points in the past, I have had to abandon my ideas about sanctity (and space!) in our bed, and to trust that things will shift and develop naturally, as they have always done, fuelled by our mutual and natural journey towards independence and self-mastery. I have observed that my children have a parallel process in their journey to independence. For example, Emma told us, at age five that she wanted to sleep in her own bedroom rather than sleep with Zoe, her two-year-old sister. At this time, I took her at her word and we moved all her gear into the back bedroom. However I later realised that she was stating her future intention, rather than her readiness to act. In other words, she was in stage two, and my stage five reaction saw her move into a bedroom that she never actually slept in! Perhaps I had also been too keen- too hurried and goal-directed- and this may have made her feel less supported and less secure in her transition, which actually occurred about three years later. The process that I describe is personal to me, yet I see many other parents having similar experiences. I also know that transitions can happen in many different ways, and may be initiated by our children rather than by our own discomfort, as I describe here. Transitions will always take us into new territory, but, with experience, we can become more familiar and more trusting of the process. Qualities that have helped me through transitions include flexibility, responsiveness, appreciation and faith Lastly, it is no co-incidence that most of my examples have come from raising my first child, Emma. Although I now have 3 other children to teach me about mothering, I will always be in a new space with Emma, now aged 13. I dedicate this article to her beautiful spirit, and to the spirit of all our children. May we always recognise and treasure their perfect teaching, and may we respond in our wholeness, encompassing the best of the male and female that is inside us all.