posted in Parenting
Everywhere I look, people are reminding me to be mindful. It’s kind of annoying. I don’t know how to be mindful. How the heck can any mother, whose very job description demands the ability to multi-task and forever be planning ahead for the next day, week, month, year, lifetime — be expected to stay in the moment?
But I’ve recently learned a mantra, in yoga class nonetheless, that has helped me understand how even fleeting moments of mindfulness can benefit my health and possibly make me a better, happier mother.
Practice letting go of what no longer serves you.
Every time I hear these words, usually at the beginning of class when I’m lying on my mat thinking of the thousand things I should be doing rather than just lying there, my thoughts race, desperate to pick just one of the many things that no longer serve me, both as a person and as a mother.
What no longer serves me?
How does one choose? How does one recognize, out of all the things I carry with me, what am I hauling around unnecessarily?
Here are some things, in the spirit of the New Year, I’m pretty sure are no longer serving me, nor did they ever.
Comparing and despairing: Is it really helpful, every time I see a wistful image on Instagram, or while flipping through an Athleta catalog, or simply imagining people having a more vibrant social life than I do, to automatically go to that irrational place that tells me my life is not measuring up to other people’s lives? Comparing myself to other moms, who so often seem more together, more organized, calmer and happier than I am, is bad enough, but when I start to compare my children to other people’s children? Nothing good has ever come of that temptation.
Excessive worrying: Parenting in itself is a practice of faith and hope. Any sense of control we have is most often an illusion.The amount of time and energy I spend worrying about things going wrong, from my youngest having a sneezing allergy attack in the middle of her ballet recital, to my oldest’s decision to drop an honors class, is absurd. Worrying has never been proven to be an effective parenting method, so why do we do it?
Unrealistic perfectionism: Every human life is an experiment. My children are human beings, not a cake I’m baking,that, if I follow the recipe exactly, will come out flawless and delicious every time. As much as I know that, it’s still hard to practice letting go. This quote about the folly of seeking perfection hits home for me:
“Aspiring to be perfect doesn’t get you any closer to being perfect; it just makes you less loving. In fact, perfection is the lowest standard a parent can have. We aren’t going for perfect. We’re going for love!”
Gratuitous guilt: That guilt is most often a free floating sense of somehow not measuring up to some sort of self-defined ideal, is proof of its uselessness. The only service guilt performs is to make me feel like crap about myself, which makes me a grouchy mother.
Not feeling like you are enough: There is no finish line in life and motherhood. No one is waiting there to congratulate me and put a medal around my neck one day for reaching it. Crawling into bed each night with the feeling that you aren’t entitled to be there because you haven’t accomplished anything remarkable, doesn’t serve anyone and it definitely isn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep. One of the benefits of mindfulness is all the tiny, remarkable things that do happen in a day when you are actually paying attention.
What might you let go of that no longer serves you?