Discover how mindfulness can help you be a more-present mum
As a mother, it’s natural to have a million and one thoughts racing through your head at any one time. We become experts at managing schedules, nap times, family menus, and pleasing our tiny humans who scream at us if we miss a beat anywhere along the way.
Some people thrive on living life in the fast lane; others from a more mellow approach. I belong in the latter group, and for this reason, found myself struggling with the transition to motherhood and the chaos that it brings.
Transitioning to motherhood requires many life changes; another human being’s needs now take precedence over our own. We must forego sleep for as many months – or years – as our babes demand, give up pleasures we were free to indulge in before baby, and for many mothers, put our careers on hold. Because of this we can be hit with a sense that our pre-baby self has been ripped out from under us.
The thing is, motherhood doesn’t ask that you stop being you. It demands you find a new way to do it.
Practising mindfulness can help bring awareness to each day, to bring a sense of calm and stillness to our chaotic mother-minds.
This new norm we find ourselves in – the frenzied existence that sees us collapse into bed each night – often has us living in a state of distraction. The most important thing we can do for ourselves, for our children, is to merely be present. Simple, yes, yet it is possibly the most powerful strategy we can employ as mothers.
A Mindful Approach
Sarah Napthali, bestselling author of the highly praised book Buddhism for Mothers, advocates mindfulness as an effective tool to be more present, enjoy motherhood, our children, and the transition to motherhood.
When my daughter was around three months old I spotted my copy of Napthali’s book gathering dust on the bookshelf. Her chapter on mindfulness so resonated with me I found myself preaching its brilliance to anyone who’d listen; taking steps to be more mindful in my daily life and in doing so, being a more present mother.
Of course distractions are inevitable, we are only human after all. In her book, Napthali reveals we succumb to distractions more than one hundred times each day. However, how conscious we are of these distractions, and how we go about dealing with them when they arise, determines how present we are.
Practising mindfulness can help bring awareness to each day, to bring a sense of calm and stillness to our chaotic mother-minds. And in doing so, allow us to truly be present with our children.
Mindfulness doesn’t need to be formal, nor does it have to eat into a huge chunk of your day. The idea is to simply be awake in your daily life, to live moment to moment.
Mothers, by nature, are lacking in time but rich in fleeting moments. These are the opportunities in which we can draw on for mindfulness.
Three Simple Ways to Practise Mindfulness
Below I share three simple ways I was able to incorporate mindfulness into each day, in spite of those days when I couldn’t even find the time to go to the loo without an audience.
More mindful chores
Napthali recommends using domestic chores as a way to practise mindfulness, noting the repetitiveness of these tasks as the perfect opportunity for mothers to incorporate mindfulness into their day.
This can be as easy as taking notice while folding laundry. Use the rhythm of folding as a point of focus; consider how each fabric feels against your skin, and breathe in the scent of fresh, clean clothes.
While preparing dinner breathe in the aroma of the foods you’re chopping, appreciate the various colours of each food, and take notice of the sounds the knife makes when cutting into the vegetables.
Share your child’s sense of wonder
This is one of my favourite ways to practise mindfulness because I can involve my daughter – or rather, she involves me. Children are experts at living in the moment and seeing the world for what it truly is. They see, hear, and experience so much more than adults do simply because they’re curious about the world, approaching it with a sense of wonder.
When my daughter and I walk to the park I like to share with her the sights, sounds, and smells we happen upon as we walk. We take in the sounds of the birds, listen to the trees as they blow in the wind, feel the warmth of the sun.
These moments are the perfect opportunity to adopt your child’s sense of wonder and curiosity about the world, and in turn, be more mindful.
Take one minute
As a toddler mum, sometimes the only chance I get to practise mindfulness each day is in ‘one minute grabs’, as Napthali calls them.
When your day is filled with running around after children, making sure they’re fed and rested, keeping the house (mostly) in order, and working when you’re not maintaining the family, being mindful is often the last thing on your mind when it should be the first.
But no matter how busy we are, we can usually find one minute to ourselves. Using this minute to breathe mindfully – noticing the intake and exhale of breath, how your chest moves up and down, the sensation of air filling your lungs – is usually all it takes to clear your mind.