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What is mindful motherhood? It is the need of the hour for several stressed out working mothers today.
As mothers we are experts at being gentle, compassionate, loving, unconditionally giving and patient with our children. With ourselves though, we tend to be more exacting, demanding and unforgiving.
The role of a working mother is much more fraught with obstacles from within and without. As a new mother (or even a ‘veteran’ mother) we demand from ourselves the ability to nurture our children, our families and our work tirelessly. We feel inadequate when we are unable to meet all the demands we put on ourselves.
We feel guilty for going back to work, guilty for staying late at work, frustrated with our daily life dealings at home, jealous that our child seemingly prefers her father (or worse yet, another carer) over us and torn and woebegone about our state of being. If you saw your daughter or son experience these exact same feelings, wouldn’t you be overcome by compassion and love? This is precisely the feelings that we need to develop for ourselves.
Mindful parenting is possible for all mothers, and here are some simple ways to get there:
Often, working mothers feel guilty, sad and even devastated about going back to pursue their careers. The decision to go back to work may be driven by several motives; accept them and the reality of the decision. When you are able to accept the decision you will be able to focus on dealing with the adjustments that going back to work deserve in a more realistic and kinder manner.
Remember that no one can make the decision for you and you alone are responsible for this precious choice to follow your dreams while at the same time nurture and help your children do the same. So take your time and make your decision; be gentle with what arises as a result.
Separation anxiety, guilt, anger, meanness, jealousy and all that other heartache you expect to come, will come when you take off to work for the first time. You will probably feel waves of anger, frustration and guilt on and off later too. Let them be. They are germinating from you just the way love, compassion and selflessness germinates from within. Remember, the stage of going back to work after childbirth can be considered as the period of labour for the mind and the heart, experiencing aches and pains before consolidating a new you.
The stage of going back to work after childbirth can be considered as the period of labour for the mind and the heart, experiencing aches and pains before consolidating a new you.
However, when feelings like these emerge and you feel you might end up acting out these feelings by being irritable at home and work, by being stressed about deadlines and chores to be done, by being excessively worried or frustrated about people you love, take a step back and exercise the following practices.
Get help for things to be done around the house (and at work, if need be). Even if you believe that you can do it all by yourself, get hired help, or maybe your husband or family’s help to share responsibilities at home. Ensure that you clarify work roles at home and then don’t hold on too tight, either to people or chores to be done. Further, can you talk to your husband, a friend or family member, or even a therapist who can give you a shoulder to cry on or valuable advice? Emotional support is just as important for practicing gentleness on yourself.
Try to get up, preferably an hour before the rest of the household. This is your “Me” time. A time that you can spend in the calm and quiet of a silent morning, doing things that set you in the right frame of mind for the day. This can be anything from practicing yoga, meditation, running, writing, praying, painting or reading an inspirational book. This is your time and yours only. To connect with yourself, your day, your sacred source of strength and passion.
Change the way you use your to-do lists. Instead of listing out chores to do, deadlines to meet and tasks to check off, pen down self-care activities to partake in everyday. Schedule, perhaps in your planner, all your self-care practices that help you relax, feel good and look good. The idea is to feel energetic, loved, nourished, relaxed and stress-free.
Parlour visits can be a part of this to-do list. Brushing your hair before you leave to work might be something that you need to be reminded about (with a baby around, anything is possible). I for instance schedule self-care routines that I would like to pursue every day. It helps me do it come hail or storm and it helps me focus on caring for me.
I write up on my wall-planner (a large chalkboard wall) routines such as washing my hair thrice a week, going to the parlour, applying moisturiser twice a day, keeping next day’s work clothes out at night. These might be really simple things but I often find that, unfortunately, they are the first to go when I am stressed (leading to more stress, clearly). Putting them up on my planner lets me know that there is time for everything. That nothing is as pressing as the mind makes it out to be.
Yes, you heard that right. One of the skills many women are endowed with is the skill of multitasking. You might think that getting home and starting dinner, while at the same time putting clothes in the laundry machine and feeding and playing with the baby all at once is a great way to get all there is to be done, out of the way. But stop and listen to yourself. You are trying to get things done. Out of the way. Why? What do you plan to do after?
Why get things out of the way? This is YOUR life. Make the daily, the divine. Your everyday chores give you an opportunity to be gentle with yourself.
Why get things out of the way? This is YOUR life. Make the daily, the divine. Your everyday chores give you an opportunity to be gentle with yourself. If you are able to just go home and play with your little one for a bit, completely and fully, how gratifying is that experience. If you are then able to just cook and do it fully and with love, how delicious is that meal, if you are able to then just sit and sip a hot cuppa, how energizing is that. There is no need to rush in your daily life. The chores don’t NEED to get done this instant. Learn to delegate and prioritize. As a gesture of gentleness towards yourself and others, focus on one thing at one time, completely, fully and with love.
Every night (or whenever possible during the day) write three things that you are grateful for today and why. It can be anything – small or big. For example, “I am grateful for my husband for bringing home ice-cream today, it shows that he cares for me and thinks about me.” is a lovely gratitude entry. Also write three things that you are grateful for about yourself and why. For example, “I am grateful for giving myself the gift of a 10 minute meditation practice today; it is my way of affirming my love for staying aware of my everyday experiences.”
In both examples, you will see that there is the event that made me feel gratitude (ice-cream and meditation) and the cause (show love and desire to be aware). Writing a gratitude journal is one of the most powerful ways to become aware of what is. To feel a greater sense of appreciation for the low points and the high points of your days and also feeling more capable in managing difficult patches of life.
Finally, mindful motherhood is a lifelong practice. Do not feel discouraged when you seem to falter. The key is in being gentle with whatever arises from within and without. These pointers are a good way to start a practice that will help you begin a life time of gratitude, compassion and love towards yourself and those that you love. A gentle motherhood to you!
*Photo credit: Nadia Carol (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)
Aarathi Selvan is a clinical psychologist, Mindfulness guide and a Contemplative artist. Trained in the
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