Week 1 Reflection
by Raidah Shah Idil
“At first glance, mindful motherhood can seem like an oxymoron. Zen-like calm is not the first image that comes to mind when I think of being a mother. So much about motherhood, and the language around it, is already so rushed.
“Just have another and get it out of the way!” is one of my favourites. It sounds so counterintuitive — are you a stressed out and exhausted first-time mum? I have a solution for you! Have another one!
It’s easier to get swept up in the embrace of endless to-do lists, instead of carving out time to stop and check in with myself. Ironically, exhausted mums like me are in desperate need of being mindful, to help us survive, and maybe — just maybe — even thrive.
One of my former colleagues is an active proponent of mindfulness. She left her full-time job to pursue her passion for teaching mindfulness, and I admire her for her courage. She’s also invited me to about three or four sessions, and I haven’t had to energy to take her up on any of her offers.
That got me thinking. This motherhood gig won’t get any easier. My toddler will continue to grow into her power and test boundaries. If I’m waiting for that perfect moment to attend a serene meditation retreat — it won’t come. I need to carve out the time to make it happen. Or at least, try to slow down a little, so when the opportunity arises, I stand a better chance of catching it. Or at least, catching a whiff of it.
So how exactly do I implement mindful motherhood? How can I practice mindfulness when my toddler is crying from overtiredness, throwing food over the table, or wriggling away as I try to put her diaper on? That’s where my mindfulness practice is the most important — in the heat of the moment. It’s called ‘making space’ for the present moment, and accepting what is.
To help me understand mindfulness in the context of parenting, I’ve been listening to a fantastic audiobook titled “Mindful Discipline: A Loving Approach to Setting Limits and Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child” by Shauna L. Shapiro, PhD, and Dr Chris White, MD.
The authors do a brilliant job of describing what mindful parenting looks like, and how we can practice it. This quote from the book sums it up: “The Mindful Discipline invites us to wholeheartedly meet our children, ourselves, and life, moment by moment.”
How does it translate to real life? Something like this: Ah, my toddler just threw her food off the table. I notice myself getting annoyed. I have to wipe up the mess. Again. I notice her looking at me, watching for my reaction. I remind myself that she’s still learning how to feed herself. I remember to breathe. I remember to reconnect with my beautiful little girl. I feel myself calm down and smile at my daughter. She smiles back.
(Now this is also the part where I resist rolling my eyes at myself. Apparently, it gets easier with practice.)
The authors suggest checking into my state three times a day. Am I feeling reactive, responsive, or intuitive? When I’m exhausted, I’m a lot more likely to feel very reactive. When I’m able to take deep breaths and tap into my inner wisdom, then I’m much more likely to respond intuitively.
Often, I’m too tired to even check into my state. Despite this, I know that self-care begins at home. If I want to model calm for my toddler, then I need to live it. If I want my toddler to be able to regulate her emotions, then I need to better regulate mine. Naturally, the perfectionist in me is already panicking. How on earth am I going to pull off this mindful motherhood business, amidst the messiness of real life?
By practicing. Every day. I try to make space to notice how I feel, especially when things get challenging.
From experience, I’ve figured this out: on really tiring days, my mindfulness practice doesn’t even cross my mind, not until much later, when my daughter is fast asleep. Exhaustion makes me reactive. Exhaustion also impairs my planning skills, and the end result is often me dragging my tired toddler around to run errands. That doesn’t end well for either of us.
I hope to plan better next time, chalk that up to experience and exhale. Like any skill, mindfulness takes practice. Some days are easier, other days are harder, but every day is an opportunity for practice.
My mantra? A little bit of mindfulness is better than none at all.”
Article title: “Mindful Motherhood, written by Raidah Shah Idil
Questions for Reflection & Discussion
As you reflect on the following questions, please keep in mind that there are no right answers. Perhaps you just want to pick one question and reflect on it for the week or maybe you want to spend time on each one, do what feels right for you (and what you can fit in!)
What resonated (or gave you conflicted feelings) about the above reflection?
What does the word “mindfulness” mean for you?
In what ways have you experienced moments of mindfulness in the context of motherhood? What has it looked like in practice for you? Or alternatively, in what ways do you think it might help if you began a practice?
What is one small way you can extend grace to yourself this week in those “reactive moments”?
Mindfulness Practice & Journaling Prompt
These are optional prompts you may choose to engage with or not. While we won't center our conversation on these responses, the process of journaling/engaging in a practice can be a helpful tool for deeper self-reflection.
MINDFULNESS PRACTICE: The author shares the suggestion of “checking into my state three times a day”, asking herself how she is feeling at various times throughout the day. This week, set a goal to check in with yourself at least once during each day. Pay attention to how you are feeling and what might be contributing to this - what are your energy levels? What is happening in your day when certain feelings seem to come up most often? You may want to keep a small notebook nearby or take notes in your phone to track. The first step in any mindfulness practice is simply becoming aware - there is no need to fix or judge. At the end of the week, see if you notice any patterns and go from there.
JOURNALING PROMPT: The author writes, “Exhaustion makes me reactive.” and shares how her practice of checking in with herself during the day allows her to notice what triggers those reactive moments. Take a moment to journal about how your are feeling right now. Describe what is going on in your environment, what is behind and ahead of you that could be contributing to your current state. Take a deep breath and write down a few sentences of what you might say to a friend feeling how you do at the moment. Read them back to yourself. Now, take a moment to journal about how you are feeling after checking in and offering some gentle words to yourself.