The Beautiful Chaos of parenting

Parenting is often one of life's most challenging and humbling experiences. Here, bestselling author and Instagram poet Jessica Urlichs shares her approach to both motherhood and writing with Natalie Moutafis.

With a writing journey that began on Instagram, Jessica Urlichs’ poems are what many parents – particularly mothers – would call ‘relatable’. From describing the depths of love for your children, mental health, and the rollercoaster of sleep and midnight feeds, Jessica likely has a poem that will articulate just how you feel in the moment.

In this Q&A with The Parents Website, Jessica explains how her own experiences of motherhood led to her writing and how she hopes ‘making sense of the messy’ allows parents to feel connected.

Congratulations on Beautiful Chaos. It’s your fourth book of poems – an anthology from the first three, plus some new ones – so you’ve been writing for some time. When did you first start writing poetry?

As soon as I could write, I was rhyming. At 5 or 6 I had my first little sparkly notebook, I remember it so well. Then, maybe at 8 or 9, my primary school teacher read out one of my poems at her wedding. The need to be able to express how I was feeling through poetry started very young. Everything felt more beautiful and interesting through poetry, even then.

Did you find that becoming a parent influenced your creativity and approach to writing poetry?

Definitely, it was when I picked up a pen again. Writing for me fell by the wayside after I left school. I dabbled in it now and then, but it was never a priority; I think had it been, it would have really helped me during some of the very emotional years that come with growing up.

As soon as I became a mother my whole world changed, and it was not only remarkable, it was scary. It felt like magic, but it also came with its darkness. So I began to write about it all after my second born as a way to make the messy make sense, to highlight the beautiful and to give a voice to the hard.

Many people write down their thoughts and feelings as a way to process what they are going through. What advice would you offer to parents who are writing (poems or stories) about their experiences?

Write for yourself, even if you intend to share. The healing comes from giving truth to your experiences. Only will you ever truly connect and reach into someone’s heart by doing that. You know when you read a piece, and it feels completely validating and cathartic, a piece that you never forget? It will have been written from a place of vulnerability and truth.

Your words continue to be incredibly empowering for parents, particularly mothers, who may struggle to articulate their emotions. It’s common to feel adrift without the right words, yet your work resonates with many. Do you primarily draw from personal experiences when writing your poems, or do you also engage with other parents’ perspectives?

Always from my own, I have been asked to write poems for C-Section mamas or mums of twins, and because we didn’t have that journey, I just know I couldn’t do those words justice as someone else could. I also know how hard it can be not to be able to articulate yourself or get out how you’re feeling. Despite being a writer, the past month of sleep deprivation has had me feeling a little that way myself! Connecting with others on this journey is so important and makes us all feel less alone, so I am forever grateful that mothers find my words empowering.

In Beautiful Chaos, you share ‘Just a Minute’. This poem hit home for me. It was a reminder to stop and let all the ‘things’ wait. What advice would you give to parents feeling like they are in the trenches of parenthood?

This poem was emotional for me to write, it came from a place of letting go of my own personal high expectations of everything else around me and allowing myself to just be present with my children. I struggle with this, life is busy, there is mum guilt, appointments, mess, the mental load, constant juggling… all the many things. But the advice I would give is to know which balls you can drop, the ones that won’t break. I can’t give my children all of my time, that’s impossible. But I also know this time won’t last, and they’re growing so fast.

How do you think your writing will change as your children grow?

That is a great question because I wonder that often myself. I will continue to share but more from my story; as they get older, their stories become their own to tell. I will always share my poetry from my postpartum days because I know it will reach someone in that moment that it needs to. But I guess as we evolve as mother’s my writing will too, and I’m excited to not know what that will look like yet.

About the book

 Jessica Urlichs is a bestselling author and poet from New Zealand with over 500,000 supporters across social media platforms. She has written a variety of children’s books to help babies and young children navigate their emotions in their early years. Beautiful Chaos is her fourth book of poems.

Beautiful Chaos is published by Penguin Life, RRP $32.99. It’s available now for pre-order and released on 5 March.

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