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One of the biggest challenges of motherhood is time. Too short, too long, never enough, too much… Sometimes I find myself wondering how I ever managed to do all that I used to do during the day and other times, I feel so efficient and productive that I wonder ‘What the heck was I doing with my life before I became a mother?’ Oh that cheeky time… What is it and where does it all go?
So when I heard of mindfulness for mothers, I thought it must be some sort of oxymoron! Does it mean even MORE to do in our already busy days?
It seems these days that everywhere you turn, someone is dropping the ‘M word’. In a sense it feels like mindfulness is the latest ‘self help’ tool that might or might not work. It has been getting a lot of attention this past few years but it is an age-old practice that doesn’t require you to be of any particular religious persuasion.
Mindfulness is mostly about moment to moment awareness and acceptance. The good news is, you don’t need to sit in solitude for hours on end in order to experience the benefits. Mindfulfulness during motherhood (and indeed general family life) can lead to more emotional stability, better self awareness and greater happiness for all.
For mummas who want a taste of mindfulness without the extra ‘to do’, here are some great informal micro mindfulness moments that even the most time poor mumma can integrate into her daily life.
Mini mindfulness hacks for busy mums… one step at a time.
The next time you open your eyes after a night’s sleep (or sleeplessness) begin with a long, slow, deep breath and express gratitude for another day of life… You don’t have to jump up straight away! Gratitude is the single easiest way to invite present moment awareness into your life.
1. Take a mindful walk with your child. If your baby is still young and rests/ sleeps in a pram, just focus on the walking. Notice your path, feel your feet touching the ground and feel your hands on the pram handles. Just focus on the task at hand.
2. If your child is of toddler age or older, try a mindful walk together where you can simply observe your surroundings and open your heart to what is happening in that moment. Watch your baby with curiosity. Little beings are the best teachers of mindfulness. What can you smell? Is the climate warm or cold? What can you hear? How does your child explore? Listen to the observations your toddler may speak about.
Shine a New Light on a Boring Task
Re-fashion a ‘boring’ task into a mindful one. For example, brushing your teeth. Forget about what happened that day or what might happen later. Focus on the task of brushing. Pick up the toothbrush- how does it feel in your hand? Slowly squeeze the paste onto the brush and begin brushing. Focus on each area of your mouth until done. Swish the water around your mouth, feeling the sensation. Rinse and repeat. Sounds a bit weird but try it and give your busy mind a rest for a couple of minutes.
Step Away from the Phone!
1. Next time you are waiting for something (at the coffee shop, in the queue at the supermarket etc.) DON’T TOUCH YOUR MOBILE PHONE. It is ok to wait for something or someone and just feel the feelings in your body. How do you feel? Accept it, feel it, stay with it- then let it go!
2. Speaking of phones, next time it rings with a call or beeps with a text, take three deep, long breaths before attending to it. Try to retrain yourself not to be a slave to the little digital monster in your pocket. Use it to help you return to your breath. 3. Take your phone to the next level! Set an intention to take a mini mindful moment each hour by setting an alarm or reminder on your phone. When it chimes, bring yourself back to the present moment. Feel your body. Check in with your emotional state. Notice your location. Oh and don’t forget to breathe!
Mindful, Heart-Centred Play
The next time your child wants to play with you, allocate a period of quality time to do just that. Allow your child to lead the play and open your heart to what is going on in their play world. Refrain from setting up scenarios (E.g. ‘Let’s play doctors and nurses’) or giving your opinion about things. Allow your child to lead. They will feel honoured, special and empowered at the chance. If your mind wanders, acknowledge it and gently bring yourself back to the present moment.
Temper Tantrums for the Win!
Use sharp environmental sounds (such as the shrill tones of a tantrum) to allow yourself the opportunity to breathe, check in with yourself and deal with the next moment. How can you best be of service to your baby at that moment?
Eat a meal mindfully with your child. Instead of scarfing down your food standing at the kitchen bench while the little one sits in front of the TV with a bowl of cereal in front of them, try sitting down together to eat mindfully. Focus on the tastes, textures and smells of the food. Chew your food thoroughly. Make it a ‘game’. Here is a link to a great blog about mindful eating with children (show me)!
Listen with an Open Heart
Listen openly and carefully the next time your child tries to communicate with you (or throws themself on the floor in front of you!). Try to stop yourself responding immediately and let the other person hold the space. Sometimes that’s all that they need. Being a parent brings great challenges and great rewards. Each moment is different and never to be repeated. Mindfulness can help us appreciate these moments more.