Being a parent is one of the most challenging, rewarding, nourishing and depleting roles that we can step into. I often describe my own experience of childbirth as ‘The Agony and The Ecstasy’. Parenthood often continues in a similar vein, a swinging pendulum between joy and worry, wavering between different extremes. The times of stability and ease are dependent on the fragility of our life circumstances; the health and wellness of ourselves and our children and our faltering navigation through the frequently testing stages of growing up.
Within all of this we are expected to adapt and to know how to meet the needs of our children intuitively, with grace and an ever accepting and understanding heart. How wonderful we would be as mothers if we could realise this state of sainthood on a daily basis.
As a mother myself (of two now adult children,) I have lived through the various stages and challenges that life has presented, sometimes with grace but more often with the familiar nagging fears and questions: ‘Am I doing this right?’ and ‘Am I enough?’
When I experienced a traumatic event in my own life when my children where only 2 and 5 years old, I moved into automatic pilot. I was determined to prove that I was able to do all that needed to be done and more. My normal routine after finishing a very full and stressful day at work was something akin to a military operation. It often involved a series of pickups, drop offs, shopping, cooking, washing, cleaning, tidying, answering emails, following up on phone calls, organising childcare for the following day and more pickups and drop offs, making lunches, bathing my children, playing with them, reading stories, tucking them into bed, packing bags and preparing my own work for the following day. I mostly fell into bed exhausted and repeated the same the next day. Alongside this I was exercising excessively, not eating well and not achieving any kind of balance in my life
I lived like this for a couple of years, always striving, pushing myself, trying to fit more into my day, trying to improve myself and be sure that my children had all that they needed. As a single parent I felt that I had to carry all the worries and resolve issues on my own, and I managed quite successfully until a friend who was obviously baffled by my frantic striving asked me one day, ‘Veronica, what are you trying to prove exactly?’ Something gave way. I hit a wall. And fell apart a little. I realised that I was probably going to burn out if I didn’t slow down. By slowing down I started to get a sense of what was really going on for me for the first time and I took stock. I began to really see my children and to realise that all my frenetic ‘doing’ was creating a distance and that in my busyness I was not making time to simply ‘be’ with my children. In fact, I was missing out on my life and my children’s lives. I was living constantly into the future and at my worst times reliving and rehashing the past to painful effect.
Mindfulness had been a practice that I had dipped my toe into a little but had been too busy to embrace. I thought I didn’t have time to take it on, not realising that practising mindfulness would actually create more space and ease in my life.
I slowly began to develop a very simple mindfulness practice where I would meditate most mornings for maybe 10 or 20 minutes. My children joined me some mornings and we just enjoyed sitting together in silence. Sometimes I would guide a mediation, sometimes we would count our breaths, sometimes we would pick 3 people we were grateful for and send them kind wishes. I brought mindfulness into my everyday life and slowed down. I appreciated the very simple things like eating together as a family, walking, playing in the garden, noticing the very ordinary and taking pleasure in it. I started to have more of an insight into the lives of my children. I entered into their worlds and started to feel happier, more fulfilled and nourished by life. Through the practice of mindfulness I got to understand myself and my children in a much deeper way and for that I am truly grateful.
It is this experience as a parent and also as a teacher and mindfulness facilitator for children and adults that has inspired me to create this Mindful Parenting Course. It draws on my own personal experience and my professional experience as a teacher and focuses on the needs of the parent and the child.
Originally written for Mums NI. Please click here to check out their website.