July 25, 2014

Mindful Mothering (Not). ~ Olivia Downing


This morning the boys and I decided to get to the market before kinder.

We thought it would be fun to go early, before all of the crowds got there. Now, this was going to be an amazing effort as my husband is out of town and pulling everyone and everything together on my own in the mornings is not one of my greatest skills, especially before 8am. However, we were looking good. I had even managed to make the bed and tidy up the lounge room.

Then there was that little voice inside my head, ”Wow, you are so clever and organized and capable; you are just a legend being able to get the kids out of the door at 8am on a Friday morning.” And then the fatal mistake came, I listened to the voice and I believed the voice, rather than just watching the voice and commenting, “that’s interesting” as my beloved discipline of mindfulness teaches me to do.

And so, I was feeling a little bit puffed up, a little bit proud and a little bit smug.

And then, it all suddenly turned (as it does so quickly in this game of motherhood) and before I knew it, the baby had hit his head and was crying and the preschooler was kicking shoes across the floor and refusing to put his jacket on.

Then, that same little internal voice whispered, “Now you are actually not so good, now it is all unraveling because of you,” and, like a dill who has never practiced a day of mindfulness in their life, I listened and I believed and what is worse, I acted.

Like the rumbling of Mt Vesuvius and a shrill I have not heard for sometime, a scream that sounded like it came from someone else erupted from my being and I bellowed, “Go to your bedroom now!” to my somewhat shocked preschooler. Who just stood there looking blankly at me. So again my ego roared, “Go to your bedroom,” and so away he went, confused and probably holding back tears.

Wow. What an experience to witness.

So, I pulled myself together, soothed the crying baby and ventured upstairs to explain and to apologize to my beautiful (and sometimes cheeky) five year old. He got it, he understood that he was being cheeky and that I was frustrated and trying to get everyone organized to get out of the house to do something nice together.

All the same, I apologized for my behaviour. I started to promise that it would never happen again, however I then corrected myself and said that I will try really hard not to let it happen again. I didn’t want to set up unrealistic expectations for the poor kid.

So, we made it to the market. We had a baby cino and a macaroon and we even got to kinder on time.

As a parent I believe we have the dual responsibility of providing a safe and loving environment for our offspring as well as preparing them for the realities of life. There will be times in their lives when people yell, when people react without complete consideration and there will be times when people make mistakes and need to apologize.

While I am absolutely not proud of yelling at my son and I know I could have managed the situation more skillfully, I do believe that it was authentic and I believe I managed the “clean up” quite effectively. I did however learn a fair bit from this little experience (and hopefully it hasn’t scarred him too much):

Self-Judgment is unlikely to be useful.

Whether positive or negative judgments, that little internal critical voice that constantly judges us is given way too much power. Through simply bringing awareness to the thinking we are more likely to see it for what it is—just somebody’s thoughts and opinions, not useful facts. Through changing our relationship to the thoughts we are in a better position to choose how to respond rather than react and we are therefore more empowered in our life.

Parenting (and life) is constant change.

Parenting is full of lots of stuff. Lots of stuff to do, lots of stuff to learn, lots of stuff to enjoy and lots to challenge us. The thing is this stuff is always changing; there is always something else to do, always something more to learn, always something new to challenge us. So, the trick to managing this constant change is noticing each moment as it comes, simply as a new moment, nothing more. I recently came across a quote I love that I think sums this up well:

“Nothing is a big deal, it is whatever it is and then it is something else.”
~ Syliva Boorstein

So, take the time to notice when things are going well but know that things can change at any moment so don’t become too attached to the feeling of enjoyment or the opportunity to sit down and read a magazine, take it for what it is, knowing that it is likely to change soon.

Let it go and show yourself some compassion.

I absolutely know that I responded unskillfully in the situation in which I found myself. I also know however that I am human and, while I am committed to bringing more clarity, calm and connection into my life through my regular meditation and mindfulness practices, I acknowledge that I am on a journey and constantly learning and growing.

My reaction was simply another growth opportunity. In the past, I may have berated myself for yelling at my kids; I may have carried with me that sick feeling of guilt and shame for a day or so, or at least a few hours. However this time, I managed to let it go and have completely forgiven myself for this little freak out. Self-compassion is possibly one of the most important skills and attitudes for us to cultivate in our lives. Through kindness to ourselves we are more available to show others patience, trust and love.

So, to the other Mums out there, try not to give your internal critic too much attention, notice the changing nature of life and when you do totally lose your cool, take a moment to soothe and forgive yourself and then soldier on, safe in the knowledge you are not alone in this journey—we are all doing the best we can.


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Editor: Travis May

Photo: Wiki Commons

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