Parenting during the Great Turning

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by Julia Smagorinsky



I breathe in and allow gratitude to fill every cell of my body. Breathing out, I smile. Breathing in, I breathe the breath of the trees. Breathing out, I gift my breath to the trees. Welcoming each new day, I ground myself in gratitude and connection within the web of life as I step into my many roles: mother, weaver of connections, healer of life, farmer, cook, friend, sister – these lists are long.

When my oldest son was born, we lived on a biodynamic farm. He spent his first four years in vegetable fields, amongst cows and pigs, horses and turkeys, dogs, cats and chickens. There was a lot of promise then, that he would grow up ready with skills for the Great Turning.

I move in and out of states of panic at the sheer impossible task of raising kids in these times. What will there be left for them?

Since then, so much has changed. We no longer live on a farm, but in American rural suburban-sprawl. The public school system is busy filling my children’s heads with knowledge they may or may not want to own – and I have long lost the cultural sense of entitlement of treating my children’s heads like empty vessels. So they are growing up not learning the skills I believe could be so useful in times to come. And I move in and out of states of panic at the sheer impossible task of raising kids in these times. What will there be left for them? How can I possibly prepare them in any meaningful way for a world that is falling apart? I am sitting with this fear and this not-knowing often. I am allowing the fear and the pain to break my heart open, so that I may feel again into what is present right now.

Where the heart breaks open, new roots can grow.  Photo by Julia Smagorinsky

The past decade has been a time of intense inner transformation and healing for me. Leading my fearful self one step at a time through an emotionally excruciating divorce, I seem to have come out stronger. More connected to my own inner rhythms and needs, more connected to my intuition and to the voice of the Earth. Able now to hold space for others. To give again.

And with it, my understanding of my role as a mother has changed fundamentally. I now see my primary role in holding space for my children to experience emotions.

I am no Earth mother. I am not a self-effacing, deeply nourishing woman, who is able to put herself aside in order to give all of herself to nurturing others (Blackie, 2016). But somehow, that is what the world expects of all of us mothers. While bizarrely many of us these days were also raised simultaneously to follow in their father’s career footsteps – in my case everyone expected me to be a successful scientist. Success and perfection – just do it all! Be the perfect mother and housewife and have a full career, too! Until we break and burn out and all that is left is a raging mess unable to nurture anything.

How can I break through the ever-perpetuating passing along of the  intergenerational trauma that I carry in my soul and in my cell tissues?

The German/European culture I was born into is a culture of violence and domination. I come from a long line of victims and perpetrators and I am very aware of the thread of superiority and dominance woven into my fabric. At the same time, I am a person who always feels a bit too much. I feel the assault on the Earth as an assault on my own female body. I feel very acutely that the rape of women and children, slavery, and the desecration of the oceans, the stripping of the face of the Earth to her bones – are all symptoms of the same disease. How can I break through the ever-perpetuating passing along of the  intergenerational trauma that I carry in my soul and in my cell tissues? As I begin slowly to heal some of this trauma in myself, I eagerly reap and sow the seeds of this healing, so that my children and their children and their grandchildren may continue to heal and to offer healing to the world. It will be a long intergenerational process for sure. There must be layers upon layers of trauma carried over from my ancestors and buried so deeply in my soul that I am not even aware of them and may never be. And I know that all that buried pain finds ways to be passed along. But there is hope. If I offer my healing to my children, they may be more able to uncover the next layer.

So I breathe. I breathe with my children and for them. I ground us in the breath of life – in connection to forests, oceans and grasslands. I ground us in gratitude for life. I breathe and I hold emotional space for my children. Breathing through my children’s emotions, holding space for what comes up. Breathing through my emotions as I am triggered, helps my children process their own. And I am working hard to move away from power-over parenting styles, moving away from controlling children’s emotions and behavior. And while I don’t make my children learn random skills any longer, I do make sure they go outside. Often. And I give them free range. They get to explore heights and water, darkness, space and time and their own bodies.

Mother love. Photo by Julia Smagorinsky

I have no idea if this will possibly be enough. There are no answers to the burning question of how to raise children in these times, how to prepare them for what may come, and for what will fall away. My hope rests on the tiny seeds I may be able to sow in their souls, by disentangling myself from the firm grip of cultural expectations and becoming more fluidly one with my intuitive power.=

I recently came across an alternative mother-archetype. A deep sigh of relief welled up from my inside. Aaaah, finally, an image of a mother I can relate to: The Creative Rainbow Mother – a maternal archetype that originates in the Mayan tradition. Lucy Pearce (Pearce in Blackie, pp. 206-207) describes this as follows: 

The world says you should have a nice tidy house, live only for your children. But as a creative woman, I can’t live like that. I say, sod the washing up, go get your hands dirty, write at this moment, because it matters, and the children can eat some crackers for now. That’s so hard for most women, because we’ve been socially conditioned to do what is expected of us. And if I put my own desires, dreams, visions and priorities ahead of those laid down for me by our culture, if I follow my creativity and the wisdom of my body, I might not look like what I’m supposed to look like in your eyes. And you’ll judge me harshly for it.

[The Creative Rainbow Mother] regularly needs to descend into her creative depth; she can’t live, otherwise. She has the energy of the seer, the priestess, the artist, the poet. That sort of woman, in order to be a mother effectively, inspires her children rather than doing everything for them and living through them. (…) The Creative Rainbow Mother regularly feels the need to fly free. And if she can’t… well, the flip side of her is the Crazy Woman: depressed, unable to touch her power, tied, numb, (…).

It was an exhilarating surprise for me to learn that the family law in this part of the US in the 21st century fully supports children’s rights to both parents, and thereby the emotional well-being of all involved. Sharing custody week-on/week-off  respects my children’s relationship with their father, allows me to focus on my children when they are with me, and offers me lots of quiet time alone. I now know that I easily burn out if I am constantly around people. I am a sensory and energetically sensitive person and my neurological system tends to go crazy when under constant input. I also have a lot of inner drive and energy to create, to heal, to grow food, to write and play music, to dance and to create healing, artistic landscapes. Allowing myself to fully be and to express what wants to live through me, and allowing time to nurture myself, time to rest – I am finding a balance that allows me to show up with greater presence in my children’s lives.

I am learning to let myself be guided by voices of life, rather than the expectations of my culture.

In the sacred calm, my intuition can speak, and I am learning to let myself be guided by voices of life, rather than the expectations of my culture.  I always had this strong sense that my children are older than me, in terms of their soul development. They are the wiser, older souls; they are leading the way—and I am here to serve them as best as I can. And there again, my biggest role is to presence them, to hold space, to breathe for them, to tune the energy, so that their souls can fully live into their bodies and into this time.

It is our children who carry the gifts for the Great Turning. And it is an honor to parent any child in this time.

When I turn this realization into a practice of filling myself with gratitude for the presence of these wonderful teachers, who are my children—something fundamentally shifts. It is our children who carry the gifts for the Great Turning. And it is an honor to parent any child in this time. Humbly, I can create a space in which energies can align and my children can grow fully into embodying their purpose. Like a cow licking love and life into a newborn calf’s fragile body – motherly, loving touch serves to presence a young body so that the soul can fully grow into it. Sherri Mitchell writes: 

As we move through these challenging times, it is important to remember that none of us are here by accident. We entered this world with the express purpose of facilitating the changes that are manifesting during this time, and we brought with us the gifts needed to accomplish that task. None of us are out of time or out of place, though many of us remain out of step with our true path.  (Mitchell, 2018)

Our task as parents then would be to allow our children to fall into step with their own true path.

It is the fractal property of the spiral that offers me sustenance. I walk through the WTR spiral simultaneously on different time-scales: in a moment, in 7-year rhythms, when attending a WTR workshop. The biweekly rhythm of my family’s custody agreement offers me a framework to weave in and out of the different stages—I gather what I perceive and go forth into the presence of my children, approaching them with deep gratitude and humility. When they leave to be with their father, I enter into a stage of presencing the pain of the world and my own intergenerational trauma, and I open into seeing with new eyes, connecting to deep time, connecting to my ancestors, perceiving with more diverse senses and overcoming cultural and social conditioning, finding my intuition and my power.

Our biggest role as mothers may well be to find our power as women again, rooted in the Earth, allowing life’s wisdom to flow freely through us.  Honoring ourselves. Loving ourselves fully in all we are and do.

During a WTR online workshop I recently attended, Jolie Elan (Go Wild Institute) made the suggestion to include “Nurturing Life” as a fourth dimension of the Great Turning. I feel endless gratitude for this suggestion that so deeply honors the feminine qualities of nurturing and giving, of showing up with unrelenting reliability to the same repetitive tasks and filling each one with love and warmth, caring and beauty again and again. We wake up the children and cook the same soup, we wash the laundry again and scrub the floor again, and now we sit with our children in front of screens to assist with their schoolwork during quarantine and we seed flowers and sing the same song and tell the same story and cook another meal – and maybe we write another article. And we love ourselves some more. And we step out of the masculine measures of success and know we are doing enough.

I honor you, nurturing parents everywhere!


Sharon Blackie. (2016). If Women Rose Rooted. September Publishing.

Lucy Pearce (2016) in Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted, p. 206, 207. September Publishing.

Sherri Mitchell. (2018) Sacred Instructions – Indigenous Wisdom for Living Spirit-Based Change. North Atlantic Books.

Recorded by Carmen Rumbaut

Julia (“Yulia”) Smagorinsky (ki, she, he) is a farmer, mentor, writer, mother, and facilitator and a registered facilitator of the Work that Reconnects Network. Yulia is a passionate advocate of the rights of nature. Ki is the founder of the Emergent Abundance Farming Collective, sharing food, knowledge, skills, information, access to land and sources of healing with the local community. Yulia is actively creating platforms and pathways to hold space for others to heal, to listen deeply and to transform. Ki is the founder of Widening Circle LLC, offering classes, WTR workshops and consulting services toward healing and transforming ecological, social and emotional systems.  Yulia lives with her two sons in south-eastern Pennsylvania. Contact here:

One thought on “Parenting during the Great Turning

  1. Thank you, dear Julia! I feel deeply moved, and inspired, and seen by this sharing.

    Thank you! Love, Raphaela.

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