Mindfulness, one of the 4 key skills of well-being, is defined as nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment.
Heh? I know, as a mindfulness teacher, I often forget how mysterious that can sound.
How does that actually look for a mom who can’t sit around all day and stare at the sky, you might wonder?
Here are 11 ways I use mindfulness to support my sanity – and enhance my enjoyment – of motherhood.
Being present. It sounds easy, but it’s not. Studies show that humans spend 50% of their waking life lost in thought. Mindfulness helps me recognize when my mind is stuck in planning mode (what’s for dinner, when will I workout, what will Brooks wear to school) and come back to reality. Of course I still plan, but I make a point to connect with people and experiences I love in this moment, too.
Accepting my imperfections. I can be neurotic about messes, presumptive about the “right” way to parent (just ask my husband), and anxious about sleep routines. Mindfulness helps me befriend deep-seated, quirky habits without turning them into problems to overcome.
Pausing when I’m upset. As adorable and sweet as our children are, they’re also notorious button-pushers! Mindfulness helps me slow down and breathe when I’m triggered, helping me to choose how I want to respond.
Prioritizing rest and renewal. I used to think resting was for the weekend, and then I’d perpetually put if off until the next weekend. Now, I see it as a vital component of motherhood, knowing that when I’m zapped and overscheduled, I simply can’t be the mother I want to be.
Slowing down. Sometimes I find myself rushing for no reason. Mindfulness has taught me that most of life is not an emergency. Slowing down my body when I cook, clean, or drive infuses more peace and calm into my day.
Parenting – and living – with intention. It’s easy to zoom through life on autopilot when we have a zillion things to plan and do. Mindfulness helps me pause to consider what I care about and make choices that are aligned with my intentions and values. For example, how do I want to show-up when my children are upset?
Communicating with kindness and understanding. To quote Jon Kabat-Zinn, our children are live-in Zen masters, ie. people that constantly test us! Mindfulness helps me see situations from a child’s perspective (losing a truck really is the end of the world for a 3-year old), so I can communicate with empathy and care, ie. I know this must feel awful to lose your truck, buddy (which helps them know it’s okay to be upset).
Nurturing relationships. Mothers pride themselves on being self-reliant. While seeing ourselves as capable and resourceful is a beautiful thing, we also need to give ourselves permission to ask for help. Mindfulness helps me remember to make a point to be with others – no matter how tired I am – and to get support for things I can’t handle alone.
To let go of expectations. This one’s a real challenge! But so worth it. Mindfulness helps me notice when I’m holding onto an expectation, such as, “He’ll love this breakfast.” Or, “She’ll go right to sleep.” I have to tell you that meeting situations as they really are has brought a great deal of relief to my life.
Mothering- and living – authentically. When I first became a mom, I unconsciously bought into many ideas that weren’t truly mine… about how I should give birth, use certain diapers, follow so and so’s sleep guidelines, etc. It’s easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing when we’re equipped with a brain that may default to comparing. Mindfulness helps me listen to and trust myself, and ultimately, use this wisdom to find what works for our family.
To establish rituals that help me remember what’s most important! On any given day, I could forget one or all of these things – and sometimes I do. This is why I prioritize practices that give me access to presence, kindness and calm when I need them most.
A final point. Please don’t view mindfulness as one of those things you should do to attain a “good mother” badge of approval. It’s more important that you be true to yourself than force yourself to to become someone you’re not.