Why Mindfulness Matters in Motherhood
When I first began to study mindfulness, one of my immediate thoughts was: This is great, but how does mindfulness work for moms? Being a mama is my most important job, and I just knew the meditative practice – during which you focus on being present and on what you are feeling in the moment – would help me as a mom. I just wasn’t sure how to practice mindfulness with the chaos of motherhood around me.
Be Aware of Your Inner Child
During my quest for answers, I stumbled on the work of Dr. Shefali Tsbary – in particular her book, The Awakened Family. Dr. Shefali believes that as we parents become more aware of our own inner child and inner struggles, we can stop parenting from a place of reaction to our emotions. We can manage those emotions and parent the unique child (or children) right in front of us. So often, we let our own tribulations and traumas from growing up dictate how we parent. What our kids really need is for us to be as attuned to them as possible, just as they are, each and every day.
Mindfulness and Self-Awareness
Mindfulness and self-awareness are powerful parenting tools, to be sure, especially when it comes to the dynamic experience of being a foster parent. I am a foster mom, as well as a bio- and adoptive-mom. My mindfulness practice was recently put to the test when I was thrown back on the foster care roller coaster before I was ready. This experience caught me off guard and I “forgot” some of the benefits of mindfulness for moms.
As I began to receive upsetting emails from my kids’ bio mom, I began to worry more. We were assigned (yet another) new social worker, so I began to worry more. As I heard less and less from anyone at the Department of Children and Families or our daughter’s lawyer, I began to worry even more.
All this worrying was happening below the surface of my consciousness, and I really didn’t see it affecting my day-to-day life very often. Until one night, when my husband noticed I was wide awake at 4 a.m.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered.
“I can’t sleep; I’m worried about what the social worker said today when she brought the baby home from her visit.”
“What did she say?”
“She said that they had a really good visit and that she was surprised how well her mom did with her.”
“AND, that makes me worry that we’re not going to be able to adopt her.”
“Cathleen, she didn’t say we couldn’t adopt her. All she said was that it was one good visit. There’s so much more to this situation.”
The Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
And that’s when it hit me: my husband had just CBT’d me! Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the main way I teach people to overcome anxiety.
Let me assure you that even those of us fully versed in the treatment of anxiety can find ourselves letting our worries have a little too much power in our lives. The good news? When you’re fully versed in the treatment of anxiety, you return to what you know and you practice what you preach. Again and again and again.
I made room again for CBT, mindfulness, journaling and mediation in my day. And in making space for stillness, I had an epiphany. That’s usually when epiphanies happen, right?
Am I living life so scared of losing what I have that I’m not spending any time enjoying what I have?
Lose the What-ifs
I think it’s so easy for all women, but especially mamas to let those pesky “what-ifs” creep in and take over their thoughts. But when we do this, we miss the magic of what is happening in our beautiful, messy, chaotic lives right now. And even if life feels a little too messy and chaotic, it’s still beautiful because it’s here. It’s ours. It’s ever-changing, but right now it’s like this. And worrying it away is a huge waste of time.
So to get myself back on track, I breathe deeply for a while and I pray: ”Help me to enjoy the blessings of this day without worrying whether or not I will be here tomorrow.”
Live in the Moment
And then I brought myself back to the present moment, again and again throughout the rest of the day. Back to the toy-covered floor. Back to the kids playing in the yard. Back to the deep blue eyes of my little daughter. Today, she’s here. Today, I’m here.
Today, moment by moment, is all we really have. So this post is a reminder for you (and also myself) to stay mindfully present in life. Let’s readjust when we notice our worries taking up too much space. No one is immune to anxiety, that’s for sure. But knowing what to do with it when we experience it will allow us to spend more time living and less time fixated on the “what-if’s” that seek only to steal our joy.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice. If you think you are struggling with anxiety or any other mood disorder, please consult your healthcare provider.