Saturday, 21 January 2012

Mindfulness and mothering: hand in hand & poles apart

‘Mindfulness’ was not in my vocabulary before I became a mother. Eldest child’s position in my life – fully central – determined my parenting approach. I did whatever seemed most natural: we were baby-led in everything, we co-slept, we breastfed. I followed my instincts, even though this was often in opposition to the ‘wisdom’ of the majority of baby books, health professionals and random old ladies in public places who felt that their day was not complete until they stopped to impart the benefit of their crystallised knowledge (NB: it is not true that babies cannot digest bananas unless they are mashed with sugar. Just putting out there, in case she stops you too).

Everything was going swimmingly, but I started to feel the need to be more mindful (even though, at first, I didn’t know that was the word for it). What I did know was that she was changing so very quickly, and I felt like I was letting a lot of those snapshot moments slip away.  It’s easy to lose your focus amid the nappies and the laundry and the paid work and the bedtime battles and the shopping and the cleaning and trying to find the time to fit in a selfish trip to the loo ~ your child can easily become another thing on the long list of chores and responsibilities. Sometimes I had to remind myself that she was more than just a list of things to be ticked off the list (Fed? Yes. Changed? Yes. Books read? Yes. Park trip done? Yes, yes, tick, tick, tick  … )

And then you blink and they’re a day older, a month older, a year older. Your newborn is walking and talking and there’s already a hint of the teenage ‘tude to come in the defiance and tantrums that pepper each day.

Being a more mindful mother might just help me to make the most of each moment.

But aside from what a more mindful approach might bring to me, the real beneficiary would be my child. By remembering to be mindful, I’d be more present, I’d be looking her in the eye and really listening to her, not muttering ‘mmmmm, yes …’ while wondering which of the twenty pressing tasks on my list I should do next. She’d know she was important, she’d know that I was fully there with her, rather than just in the same room as her.

Ironically, while mindfulness and parenting go hand in hand, it’s hard to master. There’s nothing more conducive to slipping into auto-pilot than reading the same story 45 times in a day. I’m not going to pretend I have the answer to this, but I’m working on it.

 (Oh, and if you do have the answer, could you pop it in the comments, please?)       

A couple of links you might want to check out, by Cassandra Vieten ('Mindful Mothering'):


1 comment:

  1. Your title is so perfect, and I am all too familiar with the experience of being on autopilot. Mindfulness was not in my vocabulary before motherhood either, but I am really trying to live it now, and I hope I'll get there one day!