I was going to write about my anxiety and a recent bout with depression due to stress and overwork.
I was going to write about ways of approaching the self-care. I was going to write about learning to say “no” and finding “me” time and journaling and all of the other very important things that are often overlooked by moms and parents who give so much to others while sacrificing their mental health.
While I have clearly just shared nuggets of all of that, I decided that I what I really wanted to share was something so simple, that has become a buzz word, but that very few people understand or understand how to practice: Mindfulness. This very simple practice (and it does take practice) has become essential for me in disrupting all of the above consequences of what has become a very chaotic life. Most importantly, my mindfulness practice gives me very simple tools to help me be the mom that I want to be.
What is Mindfulness?
According to Mindful.org, “Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” It is simply paying attention without judgement. That’s easy to do if you’re sitting at the beach on a blissful morning with no kids around to break the calm. That’s not so easy with the rugrats running around shredding any semblance of nerves that you have left.
I am compassionate. I am calm. I am peaceful. I am joyful and full of childlike wonder.
I am not stuck in the insanity of my “to do” lists, and my busyness, and my taking note of every single thing that my kids and partner do wrong so that I can correct them-ness. That is at least who I want to be. I am unfortunately nowhere near this when I am triggered by something my kids or fiance do. There are moments where absolutely no one could call the way that I react to things “sane.”
However, I have found that when I habitually spend at least 5-10 minutes in the morning in silence, breathing, stretching, or meditating, or I am able to pause in the moment and just breathe, I show up as a far more non-reactive, giving, loving and joyful parent.
I began reading a book about a year ago called The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary. It was recommended by Oprah who had the author on her “Sunday Soul” show. I haven’t finished yet because I’m too busy (I am a work in progress). Also, frankly, it took me months to get past the first couple of chapters.
I found the topic of parenting consciously intriguing, but upon my initial reading I couldn’t get past what the author was getting at as far as how I needed to check my own ego and let my kids be their own person.
“Be their own person? NO way, Jose,” I thought. “That is exactly why so many kids think they can get away with anything. What will this ‘person’ look like if I’m not in charge?”
Yet, as I started practicing mindfulness, the words of the author started to make sense. The need to control everything my kids did because I didn’t want them to make me look bad or because I think everything is “my way or the highway” was literally making me insane and my kids, at times, unhappy. Not only did my ego fuel the way I interacted with my kids, it fed my anxiety at work and any place where I felt I was not living up to my own expectations. Yes, my kids need guidance, but do I need to get upset at everything that is not perfect (whatever that is) in my eyes?
Going with the Flow
I love this quote from Tsabary’s book.
“Life happens, pure and simple. No matter how we try to manage it, it has a force beyond logic or coherence. When we swim in the ocean, we allow water to move our body. We don’t protest…we accept that we have no dominion over the ocean. Why then when it comes to relationships or events in our life are we unable to simply go with them?”
Now see? This is it. Right here. I have always thought of myself as an easy-going, go-with-the-flow kind of gal. I was shocked to realize I am actually not this person usually. What’s worse? Why am I struggling to be this person with my kids?
Learning to push my ego aside.
Taking moments to just breathe and recognize a situation with my kids for what it is without placing judgement DOES NOT come easy for me. And yet, when I can do this, when I remind myself that I can’t control everything and that I can preside over a situation without choosing to be angry or distraught about it, the situation is automatically better and more manageable. Mindfully being present, observing my feelings without buying into them all of the time, dropping into my body and breathing, is the only way I find I am able to cope without completely blowing up and then completely withdrawing.
I am by no means the model of mindful parenting. There are everyday battles. I could write an entire post about the time I ended up apologizing to my daughter for making her cry, again, when she made me more late than we already were. That was despite the fact that I woke us all up late to begin with. Like I said, work in progress.
I look forward to sharing more tips on cultivating mindfulness with the whole family. I truly believe that it has become essential to the mental health of us all. In the meantime, here are a couple of links that you may find useful in mindfulness journey:
mindful.org has all kinds of resources for your own practice and mindful parenting.
stopbreaththink.com explains the practice very simply and has an accessible app.