...Question: How can I be the perfect parent?
Answer: You can't
In the world today there is so much pressure to be perfect. Perfect weight, perfect clothing, perfect house, perfect car....etc etc....and as parents we give ourselves a hard time comparing ourselves to Mary Poppins and falling short. Here's the scoop.....she was in fact a fictional character. She doesn't exist. Neither does a perfect parent. We can only do our best. That best may be considerably lower at some times versus others!
One thing I have learned over the last few years is that in order to be a good parent it's important that you start with yourself. We're programmed not to put ourselves first as that is seen as 'selfish' but we aren't any good to anyone if we are not functioning properly. Think of the safety announcement on a plane "If the cabin air pressure should fall oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling. Please secure your own mask before helping others." YES. THIS! We're no good to anyone if we're passed out on the floor. It's the same in life and most definitely when it comes to parenting.
So how does mindfulness help? What IS mindfulness? Why should you be bothered with it?
The definition of mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment, on purpose, non-judgementally and with compassion.
It can be SO hard to live in the moment. Particularly if that moment is stressful/tiring/boring/just plain crap......
So how do you do it?
It takes time. You won't go from frazzled Mum to Zen guru overnight. My own mindfulness journey started with a retreat in February 2015 with Akanista Mindfulness. I was literally at the end of my tether. I was stressed beyond my eyeballs and couldn't see a way out. I was failing my family and myself and I just needed to escape. I went online and started searching for retreats to help overcome stress and anxiety and I somehow ended up on the Akanista site. I'd never really heard of mindfulness but the retreat looked like exactly what I needed. And it was. I came back a totally different person.
What brought about the miraculous tranformation? Firstly some time on my own was great. I love my husband and kids but having that time to myself for the first time was genuinely needed. Secondly I learned that I was allowed to feel my emotions. Even the negative ones like anxiety. For months I'd been trying to get rid of it with pills and talking therapies when in actual fact I just needed to FEEL the emotion and accept it. I needed to be in the moment.
Not everyone has the time/money/desire to go off on a retreat and its not entireluy necessary to start practising mindfulness. There are so many books and apps you can access. Here are a couple of my favourites:
This app is fantastic for guided medition. It's free to download and to do the basic beginner sessions. After that its a subscription service but well worth the money I would say. There are specific packages for pain, stress, anxiety and even a kids section.
Book: Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world
Mindfulness isn't just about meditation. Yes, the meditation will help you to achieve focus and will ground you in the moment but it's also about the way you live your life on a moment to moment basis. This book comes with a CD full of guided meditations and has 8 weeks worth of lessons. Within the lessons are various tasks to help you become more mindful.
But I don't have time......
Ok so I know.....when you have kids there is NO time. Like EVER. It's like you give birth and then they suck all the time out of the world, along with any energy you may have. I'm going to sound like a cliche but you must MAKE time. To begin with just take 10 minutes out of your day. I personally prefer to meditate in the morning but it doesn't matter what time of day you do it. It could even be the 10 minutes before you go to sleep. If you forget or it just doesn't happen for whatever reason then just try to remember the next day. Mindfulness is about compassion and non-judgment so scolding yourself isn't allowed.
There is recent scientific evidence that neural pathways within your brain will change after 12 weeks of daily meditation. You will start to feel calmer, less stressed and you will become less reactionary to daily challenged. Different types meditations can give you different perspectives on the world and can help you to allow yourself to let go of anger and resentment which only hurt yourself in the end.
My advice to any parent who wants to feel a little more content, less anxious and/or stressed and maybe shout a little less at their kids/partner/random strangers is to start by downloading the Headspace app and go from there. It's free financially and the time cost is honestly worth it! Just do one 10 minute mediation a day and see how you go. You'll likely feel a little silly at first, I know I did, but it starts to become more natural and you may start to even look forward to your meditation sessions. So what are you waiting for?