Parenting is tough. Parenting with mindful awareness is just as tough.
Just because we practice mindful awareness and exercise in compassion for self and others and have written a mini thesis on mindful parenting doesn’t mean that we are perfect parents, that our children are perfect or that life is bliss.
In some ways, parenting with awareness feels tougher (this is only based on my own experience of parenting before and after training in mindfulness).
So there has been tough parenting moments in the ‘McGill’ household today - heck yeah - tough situations and tough responses. Training in awareness brings close up and very personal thoughts, feelings and emotions and sensations in the body associated with warmth, happiness and comfort or difficulty and suffering. So at times today, even although inside my heart was racing and felt full with a mix of sheer despair, frustration and irritation, I was able to recognize it, feel it and create some space round about it, holding it in awareness without caving in and reacting without thought. So, internally, a volcanic eruption of about 7.3 on the Richter scale, but externally the response in the face of very typical parenting challenge was probably just above baseline.
Now that doesn’t mean that the thoughts and feeling then suddenly disappear. If only. As many of us know (parents or not), difficult thoughts and emotions like to hang around just to ‘keep us company’ and then to transform themselves into a rather unfriendly voice!
So, for any other parents who may have faced some very normal and expected parenting challenges in their day, perhaps I share this little practice with you: The self-compassion break (by Dr. Kristin Neff).
Allow yourself some quiet time, sitting on a chair (or a mat)
Taking some slow intentional breaths (maybe 5 or 10 and concentrating on them as best as you can)
Following the feel, flow and movement of the breath (not thinking about breathing but feeling the breath)
If it feels comfortable to do so, place you hand(s) on your heart
When you are ready, repeat slowly these phrases, no need to rush, just take each one in turn:
- This is a moment of difficulty
(Touching in with the fact that you are suffering and having a hard time - the first act of self-compassion is recognizing that we are in fact suffering. See if you can recall thoughts and feelings around this, particularly where in the body you felt any difficulty. Not trying to relive the experience, so careful not to be sucked inwards.)
- Everyone experiences (parenting) difficulties
(Drawing in here to the fact that none of our lives are perfect and difficulty is part of common humanity, so we needn’t isolate ourselves for the fact that things aren’t perfect and difficulties happen).
- May I respond to myself with care and kindness
(The loveliest way to meet with yourself in the midst of a struggle is with a true and authentic hand of kindness. Perhaps, ask yourself this question):
Finally, ask yourself these questions:
- What words do I need to hear right now, what would offer me comfort?
- What act can I chose right now to offer comfort?
Breathe and move onto the next unfolding moment of your day