“Motherhood makes a woman complete” I grew up with this belief. Naturally my goal in life was to give birth and I was successful in achieving that goal. However I wasn’t prepared for what followed. Motherhood is highly overrated and it is not how it looks like in those diaper, baby soap, and baby oil/powder ads. Newborns take time to adjust in the new environment and as a mother you too take time to get used to the new routine that the little one brings in. Learning to sleep when the baby naps, learning to take 5 minute showers and eat lunch in 10 minutes can leave a mother frustrated. Schedules change and it can become overwhelming. Things can become more challenging if you resume working after a child.
I too faced this challenge and what made it worse was that, I was going through a severe phase of depression while raising my daughter. This meant even getting up from the bed was challenging for me. During that phase my husband introduced me to mindfulness. ‘Mindfulness’ is a simple term that means, ‘being aware of the present moment’
Try this, now as you are reading this post, for a moment, just focus on your breath, how deep or shallow is your breathing pattern, right now. What are some of the sensations you can feel right now? Are you thirsty, hungry or sleepy? What are the sounds around you? How is the climate around you? Is it hot or cool?
If you reached till here, then surely you’ll notice a shift in your breathing pattern. Maybe you slowed down a bit and became more relaxed, isn’t it? This is ‘mindfulness’
As a new mother, I wanted to do all the tasks for my daughter. It was as if I wanted to prove to the world that I’m the best mother. However in doing that, I forgot that I’m a human and I needed to look after myself. I started multitasking.
A perfect example of multitasking- talking over the phone while folding clothes, checking messages while cooking, making chapatis while talking to my daughter.
Sounds familiar, isn’t it? We all do that, unconsciously, but have you ever felt a sense of exhaustion after multitasking. If no, then wonderful, but multitasking left me depleted and by the end of the day I had little or no strength to communicate with my husband and family. This led to frustration, tantrums and unnecessary yelling. That’s why mindfulness is necessary, to help you direct your energy, one task at a time and allows you to become centred and resourceful.
How mindfulness can help mothers?
Initially the idea of doing just one task at a time excited me, however when I sat to fold clothes, my hands automatically started to fidget. ‘Why waste time while folding clothes, you can call your dad and speak .’ said an inner voice. The challenge was to quiet this voice. Some days I could easily shut this voice, but on some days I failed. Gradually I started enjoying the calmness that doing one activity at a time brought. I stopped taking phone calls when I was with my daughter or cooking or cleaning the house. When I read a book, I stopped listening to songs and focused on the words and feelings of the author. When I listened to my favourite songs, I’d close my eyes and soak in the warmth of the feelings of the singer. I experienced peace for the first time.
As a child before you learnt to write A, B and C, you practiced holding a pencil and drawing strokes. Standing lines, sleeping lines, slanting lines and circles. Gradually as you practiced those strokes, your grip over the pencil grew stronger and slowly you started writing the alphabets. Do you remember the joy you experienced when you could write the alphabets easily? I’m sure you know how awesome you felt.
Practicing mindfulness begins with few moments and then it becomes your lifestyle and slowly it transforms the way you respond to challenging situations and makes you a better parent.
Here are some everyday moments when a mother can practice mindfulness.
- When you’re feeding your child. Switch off the TV or songs and pay attention to what your child is communicating to you (verbally and through gestures) Some children take a lot of time to finish their food and it’s quite normal for mothers to get irritated by the speed of the child. We are in a hurry most of the time. We’re running late for school or some classes or for an appointment. If possible, serve the food 10 minutes earlier, but stop rushing your child. Watch your child as he or she chews the food and relishes each bite fully.
- While talking to your children. My daughter loves when I sit with her to listen to stories. She goes on and on about her day at school and how her friend helped her and what the teacher taught. Earlier I would just nod my head while she spoke, but after starting mindfulness practice, I observe her as she talks, making gestures and smiling. This undivided attention fuels her heart with love and then she gets busy in her world. Once she finishes sharing these stories, I’m free to cook dinner or continue with my chores.
- While playing. Some days we spend time playing UNO or with the dolls. I make it a point to switch off the Wi-Fi when we are playing. It’s a distraction free zone, when we focus only on the game we play. This also helps in increasing concentration levels.
- While reading. If you don’t read out stories to your children, then you’re missing an important parenting connect. Storytelling and reading are the best ways to connect to your child after a busy day. It need not be an entire book. Just a page or a 5 minute story. What matters is your entire presence with your child. Encourage your child to ask questions and involve them in the story and watch how simple behavioural issues resolve.
- Before sleeping. Most parents face challenges when it comes to build a bed-time routine. A simple technique of mindfulness can allow your child to relax and feel safe. The moment that happens, your child will be fast asleep.
Mindfulness technique to relax children
- Ask your child to place his or her index finger below their nostril.
- Tell them to take a deep breath in and blow it out fully.
- Ask them if they felt their breath on the finger.
- Repeat this process two or three times.
- If you have two children, you can ask them to sit together and place a timer.
One more mindfulness exercise that helps
- Ask them focus on something in the room, like a fan.
- Ask them to observe the way it rotates and the sound that it makes.
- Slowly ask them to become aware of the way the air touches their skin and as you continue to build this awareness in them…you’ll notice they become relaxed and sleep better. This also helps them to wake up refreshed.
I’d like to leave you with a quote that sums up mindfulness-
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh”
Do you multitask or practice mindfulness? What are your views on embracing this practice in your everyday life? If you practice mindfulness, how has it changed your life? I look forward to hearing your thoughts and reading about your experiences in the comments below.
Love and gratitude,