When women come to my calmjoyfulmom.com website, many of them expect to find a calm, yogi-type, soft-spoken Mama with infinite patience. I wonder if they imagine me practicing mindful meditation with three calm children who only ever make daisy chains and gently hug one another, whispering sweet affirmations into each others ears.
HA! I’ll let you in on a little secret: NOTHING is further from the truth!
Only a few years back, I considered myself as a scatter-brained, opinionated, short-tempered and loud Mom. I often spoke (yelled??) without thinking twice, and often regretted what I said.
My three children weren’t (aren’t) easy and my parenting story was complicated. And still today, I find myself constantly navigating the messy motherhood road of right and wrong, too little too much.
Staying calm, grounded, mindful in the midst of the chaos that is my life, has been MY BIGGEST CHALLENGE.Click To Tweet
Fortunately, my commitment to raise authentic and confident children in a loving, emotionally intelligent and resilient home has surpassed this challenge.
Mindful living (and self care – can they really be separated?) are two life practiced principles that helped me to BE a mother who could make this vision of family life real.
And I figure that if I can incorporate mindfulness into my life, then anybody can.
I figure that if practicing mindfulness helped me to transform my crazy life, then it can help anybody to do the same.
After years of committed practice and study, I find myself calmer, more connected with my own emotions, with mySELF, with my kids and most recently, with my partner. (Shocking, I know.)
I mean sure, I lose it every now and then (we’re all human after all!), but for the most part my interactions with my little monkeys are mindful ones (save yesterday when a colony of knits who decided to settle in my 9 year old’s hair turned my day upside down – never mind…for another blog!).
Practicing and teaching mindfulness is something I feel passionate about. Because while many people teach mindfulness, not many teach it to busy Moms. (A whole other ball game, believe you me!)
So, what is mindfulness anyway?
1.the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.“their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”
2.a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
And if you’re curious about how this state of being or mental state can improve your life and your relationships, then read on.
Below I share my top 5 benefits that mindful mothering has offered me, my children and our relationships.
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 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 (which makes for a better life attitude)
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 and 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 (versus socially constructed or externally expected shoulds).
“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. My life is FULL!
And while I sometimes dream of it, 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.