How Mindfulness helps me parent.
Updated: Oct 1, 2019
It’s 4am. I’m lying on the floor in my daughter’s room next to her bed. I can’t remember the last time I slept for more than a few hours without interruption. We’ve had what seems to be a never ending period of sickness. I’m tired, beyond exhaustion, emotionally, physically and mentally.
Every time I try to move my daughter starts to cry and I don’t have the energy to deal with her waking up her little sister who’s on the bunk above her. So I lie here. My exhausted mind switches to negative thoughts ‘Why is it always me who the children want at 4am and not my husband?’ ‘I do so much for this family, nobody appreciates me’ ‘I’m so exhausted’ ‘My back and hips hurt’ ‘I can feel the roll of fat in my lower stomach’ ‘ I can’t wait till I can get some sleep’.
I take a few breaths, consciously, and become aware of my body and how it feels. I take some breaths into the spaces where the muscles are tight and feel them soften and release, the pain eases. I focus my attention on my thoughts. I acknowledge that my inner self critic is in full swing and it makes perfect sense to me why. I know the old critical default position comes out more often when we’re tired. I take a few minutes to re-frame my negative thoughts.
I find joy in the fact I have the time to savour these moments of calm and quiet next to my young daughter acknowledging that time goes so fast and I will miss this closeness when she no longer needs me at night. I acknowledge that yes I may have some weight on my stomach but I also know that that’s OK. I take time to acknowledge my privilege for the body I do have. I am aware that whilst I may judge my own body harshly at times, I do not face judgement and stigma for my body. I know that many others living in larger bodies do along with those whose bodies are judged simply for being different. I know that my value and worth is not defined by what I look like and that and that I am so much more than my body.
I take a moment to breathe and show some gratitude to my wonderful stomach that housed my two beautiful babies and I am grateful for the lines and marks on it that show their journey into the world and mine into becoming their mother. I also show gratitude for the fact my stomach works, is fully functioning and does an excellent job of breaking down my food to give me energy. Working as a dietitian I have seen lots of people who have issues with digestion or functional problems with their stomachs. I know that this too is a privilege. I breathe and step back from my thoughts focusing on my breath and spend a bit of time simply breathing and being.
This technique provides me with the head space I need to achieve perspective and calm. I can use it to give myself pause before reacting to a situation, or I can just notice my thoughts on something, and consider whether they are helpful or not. In this case, taking these few moments gave me space and time to remember that I am probably overdue for a break. That I can ask for help, and have many who would gladly offer it. Sleep will come, and until it does I choose rest, and moments of quiet to recharge and be thankful. I make a mental note to prioritise my own self care in the morning. I resolve to go for a mindful walk to re-energise and I peel myself quietly off the bedroom floor.
For me this is the essence of what my experience and training in mindfulness, self-compassion and body image work has given me and I am grateful for it. I wish I had known what I know now as a teenager and young adult. I I feel it would have saved me a lot of pain and I could have avoided all those years of hating my body and feelings of not being good enough.
I use this information and practices I’ve learned daily in my everyday parenting whether it’s knowing how to breathe so I can calm down in the supermarket when both my kids are losing it in the aisles. Ensuring that I can be a center for calm that they need amidst the storm. Helping them to process and deal with their own emotions so they can develop emotional intelligence and learn how to self regulate their emotions. Helping them to foster a positive sense of themselves so they know that they are valued as more than their body and showing them how to develop a sense of gratitude so that they can live happier and more contented lives.
Additionally, I use these skills daily with families helping mums postpartum finding acceptance for their new bodies. Also when working with families with feeding issues who have been told their child is a fussy eater to help them find peace at the dinner table. I’ve been interested in psychology and its effect on our relationship with food and our bodies throughout my career from looking in more depth at what motivates people to change behaviours or cognitive behaviour therapy. However, I feel my mindfulness, self-compassion, body image work and positive parenting skills have not only altered my approach to nutrition therapy they have immeasurably enriched my life and my families life.
As parents we so desperately want the best for our kids and I’m thankful that I now have some extra skills to enable me to add to my parenting so I can parent in a more peaceful way. I’m really grateful that I have the ability to pass this knowledge and information on and use it to support other parents with their struggles. Hopefully together we can make a difference with the next generation so they are able to know their value and worth as more than their bodies, they are able to be self compassionate, connected and present, able to deal with their emotions and able to connect with their bodies and the world around them.
If you’d like any more information about how to integrate mindfulness into your daily life, contact us for a consult with Rachael, our mindfulness coach and dietitian.