Many of my clients imagine me as a calm, yogi-type, soft-spoken Mama with infinite patience. I wonder if they imagine me practising mindful meditation with three calm children who only ever make daisy chains and gently hug one another, whispering sweet affirmations into each others ears.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: NOTHING is further from the truth!
Left to my own devices, I am scatter-brained, opinionated, short-tempered and loud. I often speak (yell??) without thinking twice, and doubly often regret what I’ve said. My three small children are active, mischievous and often provocative. (And I wouldn’t have it any other way!)
Staying calm, grounded, mindful in the midst of the chaos that is my life, is my biggest challenge. It is also EXACTLY why I have chosen to practise mindfulness. Nobody needs it more than me!
And I figure if it can help me (and all my Latin-blooded attributes!) it can help many Mamas out there. So, I’ve become pretty good at it now and in today’s article I want to share the top 5 benefits mindful mothering has gifted myself, my children and our relationships with.
So here goes…
Benefit #1: An authentic & trusting connection
When you are in the moment with your child, focused entirely on them without judgement, they will feel that you see who they are authentically. Your child will feel this and open up to you, knowing that you are there for them, listening, watching, being and loving them for who they are. They feel safe in their attachment to you, and you feel fulfilled (and safe) in your attachment to them.
Benefit #2: Empathy & understanding
In being present with your child and seeing who your child is authentically, you will begin to share in their emotion. You will understand their in-the-moment curiosity, the way they see the world with splendour and amazement, their human pace. And in joining them in this beautiful child-world, you begin to empathise with them, their joy, their frustration, their laughter, their tears. This too builds a stronger relationship.
Benefit #3: Gratitude for the moment
Joining your child in-the-moment, in their world invites you the opportunity to simply BE in the moment, and to let go of all your external pressures and demands. You are fully connected with your child and therefore feel no rush but rather a sense of gratitude for the gift of the moment.
An added bonus here is that being present in the moment helps you to remember moments more clearly – the way your child pronounces their first words, their squeals and giggles, their smiles. And what a comfort it is to know you have experienced moments with them as fully as you could have.
Benefit #4: Compassion & Patience
In these moments, the triggers of impatience – anxiety about the future or preconditioning/ regrets about the past – do not come into play. And so you interact from a place of infinite patience with them, simply being in the NOW.
Once you are in a place of deep and empathetic connection with your child, you are instinctively guided to act and communicate out of love and compassion. This helps us to manage our children’s “mistakes” without judgement and with a learning-orientated perspective. We begin to see their “mistakes” as natural developmental experiences, as opportunities for growth. And ultimately, they begin to see their own “mistakes” through this lens as well.
Benefit #5: Awareness & self-confidence
As we model active, compassionate listening to our child’s essence, they too learn to respect their true SELVES – their instincts, their passions, their vitality. They become aware of their inner voice and with self-respect, they too grow self-confident in their choices and decisions.
And as they learn to relate to themselves in this way, they will also learn to relate to others around them as well.
Meanwhile, for us, practising mindfulness “helps us to alter our habitual responses by taking pause and choosing how we act. When we are mindful, we experience our life as we live it. We experience the world directly through our five senses…We recognize the thoughts we are having. In doing so, we learn how our minds work, and we are better able to label the thoughts and feelings we are having, instead of allowing them to overpower us and dictate our behavior.“ Firestone, Lisa Phd, Psychology Today
Mindful organisation of our family lives involves an awareness of what is driving the decisions we make around our children’s activities, our own activities. When truly mindful in the planning process, we take time to connect with ourselves and reflect on what is driving our decisions – is it external expectations, fear that the past repeat itself, anxiety of the future? Or is our decision founded on our authentic values, our children’s most important needs right now? What we are doing to truly know and understand them, recognising our responses to what they do, in our planning of their activities, ensures that we design lives around their real needs as children. (Sign up for my free Get Clear, Get Organised e-course, here).
“In mindfulness you will be in tune with yourself, uncluttered by thoughts of the past or future. You will know what the right decisions are for your children because you will be hearing them more clearly, seeing them with new eyes, experiencing them as more whole beings. In mindfulness, the good and bad opinion of others, of you, will carry less weight.” ~ Meghan Nathanson (see her great article on benefits of mindfulness for mothers, here).
In today’s day and age where parenting books and opinions guide us in differing and opposing directions – often based on the authors’ values and personal experiences – this authentic power as a mother brings a great sense of freedom from conflicting messages.
So, the next time a child (no names mentioned!) chooses to explore how your only television remote control fits snugly behind your radiator, or is inspired to make a beautiful drawing with permanent marker on your custom-made African Mahogany dining room chairs, you are present enough not to become anxious about the cost of the repair man or whoever it is that can save your chair (?!) but rather see where the child is at in his experience and connect with him calmly and compassionately.
Now I know this isn’t easy if you are tired but the more you practice mindfulness, the more aware you will be of your own ebbs and flows, your own state of body and mind. This will help you to explain your feelings and reactions to your children. It will help you to forgive yourself when you disconnect and have a melt-down.
So, how do we do this mindfulness business with our kids?
As a Mama, a coach and business owner, I juggle many projects. I do not sit in the garden making daisy chains and chanting OM with my little ones all afternoon! Scrap that imagery !
Here are a few tips on what works for me:
Tip #1: RESPOND to them when they need you FULLY & COMPLETELY. Be present when they ask you something, when they tell you about an experience, when they reach out for a hug. Really engage with them heart and soul. If you can, stop what you are doing and be in the moment with them. If you cannot stop, ask them to wait and then come back to them when you can.
Tip#2: Schedule (block out!) times throughout the day and week to CONNECT with your children on a one-to-one basis. This time does not have to be a special occasion – it might be a walk, a cuddle, a chat. Take this time to exclusively listen, hear, BE with them with full acceptance and no judgement. Guide yourself from a place of love and compassion. Allow them to lead the way.
Tip#3: Take care of yourSELF and your mind by practising self-care (including meditation!). This will help you to stay grounded in your interactions with your children, yourSELF, and everyone around you.
In the last article of this series, I will be sharing with you a visualisation meditation that will help you to connect with your own essence, to trust and grow that sense of self-confidence. Please keep an eye out for it in your inbox in 14 days’ time!
If you like this article, please share it with others by forwarding on this edition of Essentially YOU, or by clicking on your favourite social media icon at the bottom of this blog. And if you want to receive more on information, strategies and tips on mindfulness sign up to my article series, here. My next and last article of the series offers you a free visualisation audio that promises to build up your confidence mindfully (and quickly!).