Finding a Mindful Life as a Parent
Mindfulness is a buzzword today but it is an old concept. Mindfulness is the idea of being present here and now. Really...that is it. You remain present in this moment and because you are here in the present, you will make more conscious choices to better your own life. I had sought mindfulness my entire life without calling it that. I wanted more for my life. I wanted to be stable, balanced and happy but when I became a mom this drive for leading a more balanced life seemed harder to attain.
My journey into being a parent was one of tears, anger, struggle and anxiety. My daughter was born six weeks early. She was a preemie in every sense. She was small, she could not latch but she could breathe on her own. I remember giving birth to her and falling in love and immediately the nurses taking her away. I remember lying in my hospital bed sobbing because she was in the NICU and I was not with her. I was discharged without her. I was told she had to stay in the NICU and needed a feeding tube. I remember crying and not sleeping at home. I remember rising early to be there first thing when the NICU opened. I remember the doctor needing to speak to us before we got to see our baby. I remember the doctor crying. I remember panic. I remember rage. I remember fear. I remember sobbing. My daughter had been neglected in the night and suffered an IV infiltrate with protein in the IV. It burned her foot from the inside out. I remember signing papers to have her moved to a better hospital with a better NICU. I remember her going by ambulance while my husband drove us by car. I remember the new hospital. I remember the bright lights and the smell. My daughter stayed in this NICU for two and a half weeks. Time slowed down. This new hospital was wonderful and so was the Ronald McDonald House that supported us while we stayed down there. I was crying all the time, I wasn’t sleeping, I was going up and down flights of stairs and pumping milk in curtained cubicles in the hospital. My daughter had to have a skin graft surgery in order to heal her wound. I remember fearing her death constantly. I remember telling my husband that if she died I would kill myself. Raw--doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.
After Lucy came home from the hospital, I was still a mess. I could not sleep or leave the house without her. I started therapy. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had to be off of work for six months and I had to start medication.
This was my dark night of the soul.
But being a mom was all I had dreamed of. I so desperately wanted to be happy. I wanted to have all the new mom feelings and experience but my experiences were a trial by fire. I do not regret this path. I am stronger and more empathetic to others because of it.
Prior to having Lucy, I was a spiritual searcher. I hard read Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth and had glimpses of the ego diminishing and felt a sense of peace. But the trauma had me living in a state of fear.
Living in fear is the opposite of a mindful life.
It took me years of self-work, seeing Lucy grow strong and healthy and then experiencing a "normal" birth with my son to help me lead a less anxious life. But I was still not truly mindful. It took another dark night of my soul to force me to surrender to really help it all click into place. You do not need a dark night to achieve a more mindful life, but some of us need to reach a low to really learn the lessons.
Now, I am not saying I am a bodhisattva or anything but I am not living in a state of fear. I feel peace in my heart and truly have a joyful life. I am here writing this to you because I know parenting is not easy. I am also well aware that many of today's great spiritual leaders are childless. It may seem at times that a mindful life is not attainable.
The old stereotype of the guru living like a hermit alone upon a mountain is born from an unconscious belief that to truly discover inner peace one must be alone. This stereotype is a common thread in all religions and cultures. The Buddha leaves his life of riches, his wife and son to find enlightenment. Moses goes alone to the mountain top and receives the commandments. Muhammad meditates alone near the cave to hear a message from Allah. Jesus wanders alone in the desert for 40 days and 40 night to solidify his holiness. Native American shaman would travel alone on their vision quests to prove their spiritual strength. The belief that the path to mindfulness is one that takes solitude and extreme commitment goes across all cultures. But you are not after becoming a prophet, religious leader or healer.
You are here to lead your best life.
In life, we can only control our thoughts and reactions. Much of our daily life is out of our control. You are practicing mindfulness within the confines of your normal life. You are raising a family, doing chores and working inside or outside of the home, while nourishing your spiritual self and guiding the rest of your family to do the same. You are amazing. You are working to achieve a balance that will serve you throughout your life. The path you have picked is not easy at times but eventually will lead to an ease that you did not have before.
Small changes to nourish yourself in anyway are conscious moves to a more mindful life. A dedicated hour long daily meditation practice or a month long retreat may not be attainable as a parent but who says you need those things? A little bit goes a long way. This site is designed to help you change your habits easily little by little to attain the mindful life you are looking for.
Take a deep breath and smile. Be here right now. You are reading this post. This is now. This practice is all it takes to be more mindful. Breathe.