How advice can do more harm than good
As moms, we’ve all been bombarded with “helpful” tips on how to raise our children. The one we’ve likely heard the most often is that time goes so quickly we must savor the time before our children grow up. And while I understand the reasoning, in my opinion, it’s terrible advice. I mean, what mom wants her children to grow up in the blink of an eye without enjoying their time with them? This advice, meant to be a kind reminder, can leave the most put together mom with a stomach full of dread and tears in her eyes. It happened to me.
I never understood the term “mom-guilt” until the day I realized I was pregnant. I read the results on the pregnancy test and suddenly mom-guilt literally reached out and slapped me in the face. Should I have had that glass of wine the night before? I shouldn’t have been changing the kitty litter. And oh fuck, instead of taking those advils to nurse my hangover, I should’ve been popping folic acid pills!
Throughout my pregnancy, I was bombarded with unsolicited advice, often contradictory to the advice I’d heard the day before. I powered through books. Scoured online blogs. I took a hypnobirthing course to have the beautiful birth my baby deserved. And then the day came when my little peanut decided it was time to make his way into this world. 24 hours, an unplanned C-Section later and my hour old baby was being driven to the next city in an ambulance due to complications.
I think it’s safe to say that the emptiness I felt being left in that hospital room while Charlie was an hour away was the most powerful emotion I’ve ever felt in my life. It was that day that I realized that nothing else really mattered. Which diapers we would use. When we would start sleep training. How ready or un-ready the nursery was. All that mattered was being with my baby. And one day later, I was. Two days later, we were home and he was healthy and strong.
I spent hours simply staring at him sleep. Listening to him breathe. Feeling the softness of his skin. I savored the hell out of those moments. I remember thinking, I will always put these moments first, forgetting everything else.
But, then sleep deprivation hit. And we struggled to stay on top of the laundry and dishes. I didn’t even water our plants for 3 straight weeks! I remember feeling frustrated, being torn between wanting to savor those moments, and simply wanting sleep and needing to get shit done! One evening while Charlie was sleeping on me I debated if I should him in his bassinet so I could go nap. Before I did, I read an article on facebook about a mother saying goodbye to her teenage boys as she reminisced about their toddler years and how fast it all went by. She spoke of her regrets, not savoring the time with them enough. All composure was lost as tears rolled down my face and I choked back sobs, feeling tremendous guilt for even contemplating the idea of putting him down. He was going to grow up, not need me, and leave me with a life full of regrets of not savoring the moments enough. I was distraught.
And then something shifted. A month after he was born, I decided to start back with my daily meditation practice. I took a 20 minute time out from being a wife and a mom and I sat in stillness and focused on my breath. Through taking this time to unplug, I was able to return to my life with a new awareness of what it meant to be present and in the moment. It allowed me to become more mindful of the thoughts I allowed to be running through my head. I began to choose the times I would spend savoring the time with my son and the time I would do other things – guilt free I might add.
So, in response to the endless articles about savoring the time with your children, I share with you this: A simple and practical way to find the balance between savoring those moments and still getting shit done!
How to use meditation to become a better parent
Start by committing to a meditation practice every day. Start small. Maybe 5 or 10 minutes, eventually working your way up to 20 minutes. Simply focus on your breath, becoming aware of your thoughts. Choose to gently let your thoughts go, not following them as they come in. This is the first and most crucial step towards becoming a more mindful mother as the results are three-fold.
First, by taking this time to recharge, you are better equipped to give more of yourself to your family. This time for yourself is anything but selfish because you cannot give from an empty cup! Second, by practicing mindfulness you begin to realize that you are not a victim of your thoughts. You choose which thoughts (and which reactions) you will allow to develop. This is huge when it comes to being the patient and loving mother we all want to be! And third, you learn to be more present. You learn what it means to truly savor the moment.
To truly savor the time with our children, we need to be fully present. Without this awareness of our thoughts, we never really understand what that means. We can be sitting on the floor with our toddler, playing a game, but our thoughts may be on what we must make for dinner or we may be wondering when their next feeding is. And just like that, the moment has passed us by and we weren’t even really there! By developing this skill of being mindful, we are able to spend those beautiful moments really with our children.
When we spend those moments fully present with our children, we are able to then complete daily tasks guilt free! I can spend an hour at the park with my son, phone off, thinking of nothing but him and that moment, feeling every single moment. I can then return home and put him in his high chair to play a game and I can throw some dinner in the crock-pot without feeling guilty that I’m not spending time with him.
How being busy is taking away from being present
Now, if you find that you are spending more time on your to-do list than those fully present moments with your child(ren), then it’s time to take stock of what’s important in your life. If you have too much to clean, get rid of your crap. Plain and simple. I love the tips written in this article sent to me by a friend on ways to savor your children. My favorite tip is to practice living simply. To me this means, get rid of everything you don’t need. Get rid of the clutter. Even get rid of scheduled time at clubs and sports and meetings. Say no! Make family time your top priority and only choose to do things that are a “hell yes” for you and your children!
If you are rushing from school to home, making dinner, cleaning up, doing laundry, barely finding time to stop and breath, maybe it’s time you look at things differently. And I know I may get a lot of slack for this opinion, but if you aren’t finding the time to be fully present and engaged with your children every single day, then…
Something needs to change!
Maybe you need to work part-time. Maybe you need to quit your job. If both you and your husband need to work to pay your bills, then sell one car and buy an old used car. Get rid of your internet package. Eat out less. Move into a smaller house. If that’s not possible, then make the most of the time you do have. Let that laundry pile up. Throw that dusting rag in the bin. Make a crock-pot meal and eat leftovers all week. Do what you need to do to ensure that you are living joyfully with your children. Every. Damn. Day.
These beautiful moments are not to be missed. Looking into the eyes of your child as they sparkle with laughter. Feeling their hand in yours as you walk down the street. Listening to the sound of their breath as they sleep. That is what it means to be fully present. That is what it means to truly be a mindful mama.
If you need help becoming a more mindful mama, check out my mindful mama meditations or meditation coaching! It brings me great joy to help people begin to realize the beautiful blessing it is to become fully present and truly savor each and every moment!