I’ve been a mom for TWO whole years already. I still cannot believe how fast the time has flown by!
Before I became a mom I had all of these expectations of how I would be and things I would do, etc. Turns out, I am not the person I thought I was and all these massive plans I had regarding things I would do have not come into being. In fact, I’ve realized that I used to idealize motherhood and pass judgment on things mothers should do. Now that I am a mother, my perspective has shifted and have much more respect for all that mothers do, and understand some of the things that moms do not do and why. So I have had let go of this judgment. I’ve let go of the word should and I practice erasing it from my vocabulary all together. Also, I have introduced mindfulness into my parenting practices to gain a greater connection with my child and to fully engage, be present and enjoy all the moments we have together.
So leads me to giving a greater example of what mindfulness is and how it can be practiced in parenting. Mindfulness is a greater sense of awareness and it also intertwined with presence and being in the present moment. So it is not just being aware but a heightened awareness mixed with a fully in the now presence. Even before I had my son I had incorporated mindfulness as a practice within my life anyway. Mindfulness keeps you centered and focused on all things around you and within you. As a mother, there are others to consider when going about one’s daily duties and activities. Therefore mindfulness brings the intentions and focus back to the present.
In the time we live in people are scattered. Many people live in the past, live for the future, or have so much going on they don’t know whether they are coming or going. Clearly if you fit into this category, unless you take mindfulness breaks, you are not in the present or practicing mindfulness. The pace at which many people live is very fast, hurried and is not focused on this moment. Therefore, mindfulness is a gift to focus on just the present, just this moment and is a practice of an awareness of this moment.
I know many mothers who say they wish they had more time to spend with their children, or try to remember to use positive discipline, or even want to introduce better eating habits into their family. These are all great ideas and plans but require a sense of mindfulness. As we all go through the day-to-day activities of getting up, getting the kids up and dressed and ready for work and school, many people get lost in this trance of repetitive action.
I’ve also heard parents of older children say that they don’t know their children or feel they have lost them. Practicing mindfulness and a process of engagement starts early and with practice. So in this case it is not just about being mindful and present, but about engaging with your children and interacting with them.
Some ways to be mindful are to be fully present and enjoy those moments by being in the now. This takes practice to remember to do this as part of this practice is mindfulness and as you look for new ways to connect with your child or children in a fully present manner.
Here are a few tips to get you started on a mindfulness practice as a mom and see how things go. Also, post your comments on what you think about using mindfulness in your day-to-day life. Part of this might also include slowing down.
1. Take time to spend time – then notice the shift
In the morning spend some time hugging and snuggling with your little ones before they get up and dressed. Or spend five minutes playing with blocks, toys, puzzles or something else before getting them changed or dressed. This brings you into that moment and fully experience these moments. So instead of rushing to the next task, appreciate your child(ren), appreciate the moment, and share in that exchange. If you are not already reading stories before they go to bed, do this also to increase your engagement and be aware of this interaction. Find other opportunities to interact and be aware of the interaction.
Also, be mindful of your needs and your child(ren)’s needs. Maybe you need a time out away from your children and you being mindful of this is also part of mindfulness. In that way, take time to spend time alone or with your spouse away from the children. This will help you to appreciate them more. Get a sitter or send him/her/them to grandma’s and get a night out. Then be mindful of your own experience in that moment.
2. Eat meals with your child(ren).
Even I get caught up in making lunches and pouring coffee and running around the kitchen. But the most mindful moments for me are when I can sit down with my son and eat with him in the morning. We are both sitting and fully present in that moment. Sometimes I’ll play a game with him and bring out flashcards or a toy and in that moment we are fully engaged with each other. There are moments where we are fully engaged in eating as well. But bringing a sense of awareness into your everyday moments really helps to shift the perspective of the rat race into the calm and practicing mindfulness and engagement becomes activated.
Commit to a similar practice at dinner. Spending time together around a table when the TV is off, allows you to engage with them and be full present in that moment.
3. When chaos ensues, calm yourself down and practice mindfulness.
Try to put yourself in your child’s (or children’s) place when they misbehave. How are they feeling? Small children don’t have the cognitive capacity to understand their own anger and this is typically an expression of frustration, being overly tired, or not known how to express themselves. So instead of lashing out or punishing, seek to understand and then redirect to another situation or action. This brings you into the present and also helps you shift your perspective. Also, this may help you to respond instead of react. Reactions are quick and abrupt. Responses are thought-filled. So when it comes to your kids, look at how you are feeling, do a check in and then respond. This also teaches them to think before they act as well. How you act, is how you teach them to behave as well.
4. Look at your child (or children) with a new/fresh perspective.
Here is a wonderful little person, or people who you have brought into this world, adopted, co-parent, (or whatever your arrangement). This child relies on you for your teachings and guidance. You are the most completely awesome person in the universe to them, even when they fight you on going to bed, eating broccoli or trying to pry the iPad from your fingers so they can play with it. Just watch your child when he/she/they are playing. What do you see? What do you feel? How do you feel about this child or these children? Think about that, feel it, and experience it. Many times with the rat race and the hurried nature of our culture, just watching and appreciating our children is lost. I remember before I had my son all my friends, colleagues and even clients would tell me, “Enjoy every moment because it goes by so quickly.” or “Time flies and he’ll be 18 before you know it.” They were so right. This is another reason that led me to the path of mindfulness.
By practicing appreciation for your child or children daily, you find the little moments to sit back and enjoy the hugs, the gaze, the play time, and even the spilling of orange juice on the floor and then trying to surf on it. Fun times, right?
In the morning when I drop my son off at school, or in the afternoon when I pick him up, I practice mindfulness when I am holding his hand all the way to and from the car. I think about how awesome that moment is and how amazing it is that I’ve been blessed with being his mom. So I practice mindfulness when holding his hand as we walk, and in experience appreciation and gratitude for him at that moment.
Try your own version of these in your own life. Let me know what worked for you or add some other tips that you might want to share in the comments below.
Mindfulness is not only a growing trend but a way for all of us to practice being present in our lives and to be aware of all around us. This is also another way to increase happiness and enjoyment in life.
Here are a couple of questions to get you started:
In what moments of the day can you practice mindfulness via interacting with your children?
How can you actively incorporate mindfulness into your own parenting practice?