Recently I experienced a mindful parenting moment.
Life was getting increasingly busy for me, and one particular week I found myself taking mammoth strides to get everything “done” so that I could have that “relax” time. For me, this meant having some quiet play and cuddles with my girls before bed. Fortunately it didn’t take long to realise I was in a repeating pattern getting us nowhere.
It started with the thought “I only have 2 hours before bed so I’ll just quickly make food, quickly clean up, quickly pack for school….and then I can relax”. One night, as I began to feel the familiar adrenaline course through my body, it hit me. Hang on! Even when I do finish all I that I wanted to, I couldn`t quite relax, or even properly enjoy that quiet time.
Mindful parenting 101
Have you ever found yourself in a similar position?
My situation goes something like this…
I arrive home with the kids and there’s about 2 hours on the clock before I need to get the girls into bed. Since I am an early-to-bed person, that also signals the end of my day. This means dinner, clean up, showers (mine still need hands-on monitoring), and wind-down.
As we walk through the door I think to myself, “if I can multi-task to get everything done, then I can find 20 minutes to chill with cuddles before bedtime craziness`. Do you think I was succeeding?
I have concluded there are two reasons.
Thinking plays out in the body
Mindful parenting means being aware of our thoughts, and how those thoughts decide our actions. When I initiated a sense of urgency in my mind it signals action to my body. My thoughts are fast and furious with my mind planning three or four items ahead. My heart starts to race a little more with the adrenaline – I need to be alert to get everything done! The body is pumped full of stimulants to assist me. By the time I am ready to stop, I literally cannot settle myself down quick enough to even want to sit down. I find myself jumping back up to do “one more thing”, and the next minute I look, we’re heading upstairs to bed.
Thoughts attract similar thoughts
I`m sure you will have noticed that once you start down one train of thought, similar thoughts come to join. As I contemplated all the things I wanted to get done before I “stop”, more came to join. Things like, “since I`m here I may as well quickly put the laundry on”. Or, “I may as well quickly get the school clothes packed for tomorrow”. Or, “I should quickly clean out the fridge while I`m in it”.
The combination of the two forces sets my body and mind into over-drive keeping the down-time ever elusive.
Mindful parenting to the rescue
So as I caught myself mid-flight about to repeat the same fruitless endeavour. I thought, hang on, why do I need to sit on the couch to let go and enjoy the moment. Couldn’t I drop my shoulders, slow my breath, look around enjoy what I see. Couldn`t I stop for cuddles and play WHILE I did the chores.
Would I really finish that much quicker with a racing mind. Surely I`d only save a few minutes going at top speed.
Then it occurred to me; why save the chill moments for last. “Because we may not get everything done before bed” my logical brain retorts. Well the way we`ve been doing it doesn`t get much more achieved other than added stress for everyone I argue back.
What was my real goal for the moment anyway?
Wasn`t it to have more relaxed time cuddling?
Couldn’t we start with those by taking a few minutes beforehand to chill and breath. It may not get anything done any faster. But I had the feeling I would sure enjoy my tasks a lot more feeling loved up and relaxed, over stressed and pressured.
So I gave it a try
I decided no point standing around arguing with myself, may as well give it a go. I tried it for a week and at first I would find myself beginning the old habit. So I’d stop and remind myself to slooow. I’d look around, calm my body, slow my thoughts. I also decided to think of things I appreciate in my life which always brought lightness to my body and mood.
Whenever I could I would opt to do the fun and chilled things first. We’d come home and instead of diving straight to the kitchen, we would chill and cuddle. Then in that relaxed state I did whatever else it was I needed to do. My focus was on being slower, calmer and way more relaxed about what I had to get done, with mild curiosity to see what it would return for me.
Thank goodness for my mindful parenting moment! I found that I really did enjoy my chores so much more. Not only that, but because of my relaxed state I came up with creative ways to get more done with less. My kids helped me more so we had that bonding time I was after. The bedtime routine was peaceful and heart-centred after all the play, giggles and cuddle pit-stops.
I’ve kept up this practice for a few months now and I don’t recall the last time I felt pressed towards bed. This idea of noticing when my body feels adrenaline pumped has served me in so many other areas of my life.
Do you have any mindful parenting moments to share that will help all of us on this beautiful journey?
After all, we’re all in this together.
Meditating Mama Hannah
Online Worlwide Health Counsellor