All Things Considered is a collection of Tarnya Davis’s popular weekly columns from the Newcastle Herald Weekender section. Local mum of four sons and clinical psychologist, Davis provides warm, practical advice without excessive psychobabble. It’s a beautiful book containing various columns interspersed with photos. The columns cover a gamut of subjects including kids, families, love, life, happiness and grief.
I first came across Davis’s columns years ago when she wrote a piece about couples facing infertility. I was so moved by her words, I clipped out the column and re-read it constantly when I was going through the rollercoaster of IVF. Her supportive words were of great comfort to me and helped me through some incredibly difficult times.
I’ve been reading her book over the last couple of months reading one or two columns at a time and reflecting on her words. Being of short length, the columns are perfect to read when you have a few moments on your lunch break or are waiting for the washing machine to finish or are unwinding before bed.
The warmth of her personality shines through in her words. Never condescending, she offers considered thoughts and shares her psychological knowledge and wisdom. It’s like having a trusted friend giving you advice about a variety of topics such as kids’ nightmares, diets and Motherguilt. It’s helpful and reassuring.
I found it almost impossible to choose a favourite column to share but Nobody’s Perfect especially resonated with me. It’s a reminder to not be so hard on others and myself.
Davis writes “It seems that when someone else makes a mistake, let’s us down, or messes something up, we respond to their behaviour from the perspective of a superior human being. It’s as if we believe we would never stall a car, we would never forget something, make a mess, say something hurtful or make a mistake. The truth is, none of us is perfect and we have all done all of these things – and often they happen every day. We have all been the person who stalled their car or absent-mindedly missed the lights and we have also been the person angry with someone for something they’ve done and its impact upon us. We are, in fact, all human and with this comes imperfection.”
And so my imperfect self will take to heart the wisdom contained in All Things Considered.
All Things Considered ($25) is available at Newspych either online www.newpsych.com.au or at the practice at 15 Queen Street, Cooks Hill, Macleans’ Booksellers, The Herald and at the ABC Shop in Charlestown Square.
Tarnya was kind enough to answer a Q&A. As always, her words provide so much wisdom.
1. With four sons, managing your own psychology practice and writing a weekly column, how do you do it all? How do you manage work and family?
The whole world is busy, and it can seem like business is the mantra for a good life. But it’s not really. As they say, less is more. I am currently working at minimising. I try and declutter something everyday, with the idea that the less we have the less we need to keep tidy/put away. Other minimising is about what I do with my time. It’s easy to have high expectations about each aspect of our lives, but there are only so many hours in the day and some of those need to be spent doing not much at all. I try and lower my expectations of what I can achieve and this helps keep a lid on perfectionism. And finally, I need to make a choice, minute to minute, to put my family first, whether that sometimes means working or not working. Tidying, or leaving what needs to be done. And finally, I couldn’t do anything without the help of others. Husband, family, office staff, psychologists, my editor. What I produce is a sum of the support from others.
2. You describe yourself as an imperfect mum. Why is it so important that you emphasise this to readers of this book?
I think that it’s easy to fall for the idea that the perfect mother is achievable and in fact achievable all the time. Perfection is not realistic and all that happens is that most of us end up feeling inadequate – starting from the kind of birth we have, whether we breast or bottle feed and what we pack in our kids lunch boxes. There is so much information about raising children that there is always a source of guilt. Brene Brown and Kirsten Neff, social psychologists, have much to say about self-esteem and imperfection. I also think it’s perhaps refreshing for a psychologist to be sharing flaws and mistakes rather than preaching an unobtainable ideal. We are flawed as well!!
3. The photos in the book are a wonderful addition to the text. Are those stock photos or your own family photos?
They are all photos of my family. I love all of them, and I think it grounds the book in history. Much of what we struggle with, our parents and their parents struggled with as well. We are not alone.
4. What have you learned from writing your weekly columns?
So much! I am so grateful for the opportunity to dedicate some time each week for reflection, contemplation and writing. I am very lucky, indeed.
5. What’s the one piece of advice you would give to other mums?
Be kind to yourself. You don’t need to be perfect. With good enough parenting, our kids will turn out just fine. But do look after your relationship. I see so many couples come for counselling way too late, after kids have been put first every time for years. Your relationship is like a pot plant – it needs to be watered sometimes. Just because you loved each other at the beginning doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Time together without the kids is also for the kids. Providing them a loving and intact family will teach them how to have good healthy relationships as adults.