I had to laugh out loud. I was in my car, on my way to a yoga class, in tears because of an unrelenting week of attending to the constant demands of my three small children. No Doubt’s, Don’t Speak was doing a fine job of causing a sense of temporary amnesia as I sang along. When the song came to an end, the DJ announced, “Here’s an interesting tidbit about the band; Gwen Stefani (lead singer) admits to shutting herself in her closet to get away from her kids every now and again.” That’s when I had to LOL.
I’m not sure why I was laughing. Perhaps it was because I couldn’t help but picture Gwen Stefani sitting in a fetal position in her totally amazing closet while her children beat relentlessly on the door, or because I was in the middle of a “get me the hell out of here” crisis of my own; and identifying with Gwen Stefani felt really good.
Either way, I concluded that the Universe was speaking directly to me: it’s okay to put a little space between myself, my kids, and my mothering. All moms (even super famous ones who probably have housekeepers, chefs, and nannies) need their space.
Wide Open Spaces
Gwen needs it, you need it, I need it, and most importantly, our kids need it, too: SPACE.
It's easy to underestimate the importance of space, I think, because it's not tangible; it isn't something we can see, touch, taste, or grab. But just because we can't quantify it doesn't mean it doesn't have tremendous value. For instance, consider the importance of the space between music notes, bites of food, sunrise and sunset, contractions during birth, or words on a page. Without the space between, none of these things would be the things that they are. Music would be one sound, food would have no taste, days would have no end or beginning, one big contraction would be…well, hell, and if all the words on this page ran together, they’d have no meaning.
Space is essential because it allows for physical things to be defined. Space allows for things (including you, me, and our kids) to be what they are.
Since this idea of space is rather illusive, it's importance in relationships can be looked over. After the DJ exposed Gwen’s "confession" of retreating to her closet for a little space from her kids, he went on to say that in a recent survey (of what, I have no idea), several working mothers openly admitted to looking forward to business trips and going to work. “Yeah, and….,” I thought. There was something about the way the DJ talked about these confessions, or guilty pleas, of mothers that perpetuated the myth that it is taboo for us to admit that we all need a little space away from the demands of motherhood, and yes, the sometimes slightly annoying behaviors of our kids.
As mindful mamas, we know our perceptions of things impact how we feel and how we mother. Thus we choose to perceive space in our mothering, not as something that’s “bad” or something to feel guilty about (I have in the past, I totally admit it), but as something that is essential for both the growth and development our children and ourselves!
Thus, as mindful mamas, we intentionally create space between ourselves and our kids because we know that when we create space for our children to be heard, express themselves, explore their emotions, do things on their own, struggle (the good kind), and create, we allow them to define themselves. Not only that, space in a relationship allows the other person to feel seen, heard, and understood because they are given the space to express themselves. It's strange paradox, but space in a relationship actually brings people closer together!
Mindful Mama Practice
Creating space takes practice, mindful moms! Test, tweak, and try out these tips that will help you create a little space to grow (that means both you and your kids!):
Create Space AWAY:
Finding physical space away from our kids is mutually beneficial. It was a bit of a hard pill to swallow, but I had to admit to myself that my kids were not only just fine without me being there all the time, but that they actually flourished in my absence.
Interacting and being with other loving individuals in their lives (like their dad, grandparents, teachers, and babysitters) allowed them to discover more about themselves. Interacting with different people in different situations helps us to grow into ourselves because we discover things about ourselves that only these people and circumstance are able to teach us. We act differently in different settings around different people.
Same holds true for you, too! You are still growing into yourself everyday. Get out there and meet new people and do new things. As you create the space for your children to be taken care of by someone else, seize the opportunity to get out and expose yourself to new situations that teach you more about who you are continually becoming.
Create Space to Just BE:
It’s important that as mothers we protect our children’s schedules so there is space for them to just be themselves with only themselves. This space looks different at different ages of our kids. When my girls were babies, I gave them space to self sooth and to entertain themselves even if that meant lying on their backs and watching the mobile spin around for 20 minutes. (Okay, quick confession-- about 90% of the time back then, I felt totally guilty about it.).
Today, with a new shift in perspective, I am so much better about just setting out craft material for my preschoolers and getting out of the way for them to create-- that means, I no longer hover over them, asking incessant questions about their choice of color combinations, suggesting they do X with Y, or overly praise every action they perform. Other times, I'll just say, "go play." That's it. "Go play," encourages them to create, imagine, be free, discover, have fun, and explore...just be. When you create the space for them, you create the space for yourself, too. As they are spending time with themselves, what are you going to do with your space?
At every age, our children (and us, too) need space to be alone, to just be with ourselves. So when your teenager comes home from school and slams the bedroom door behind himself, just give him some space (without the probing questions and unsolicited advice). He knows you are there even though you are not right there. When our children are given time to process their thougths and feelings on their own, not only do they learn incredible things about themselves, they become empowered to solve their own problems in (mostly likely) more creative and unique ways than we could have ever come up with.
Create Space in the PRESENCE of Your Kids:
We can also create space in the presence of our kids every single day. The biggest way I’ve been practicing this lately is by being a good listener.
Every time I am intentional about listening to my daughter when she speaks, that means not internally judging and analyzing and then externally advising, I create the space for her to be heard, validated, and empowered to solve her own problems. In this space of my seemingly “non-doing,” I am doing so very much.
I have this tendency to do too much or say too much because of my desire for my girls to feel noticed. Ironically, the more I do and say, the less space I create for their thoughts and ideas; the less I actually notice them.
Create a little space between your instant reaction to solve their problems, offer advice, do a specific task for them, or to discipline. It may sound counter-intuitive but try talking less, asking fewer questions, explaining less, and offering advice only when asked. You may notice, as I did, that your children naturally open up more, share more, inquire more, explore their emotions more, and do more for themselves. Crazy, I tell ya!
Create space, mama. That's really all you have to do! Gently release your grip on doing everything, being everything, controlling everything for your child (yes, I'm exaggerating to make a point). Create the space and notice how darn good it FEELS to be free-- free from the pressure you put on yourself to perfect every situation, interaction, and moment with your children. I bet you'll find when you intentionally create the some space in your relationship with your child, they feel this freedom, too; a freedom to discover, explore, and just be themselves in a loving, accepting, and safe space of your heart.
Visualization is such a fun way to approach life. It allows us to focus time and attention on the positive things that we want in our daily lives, thereby NOT focusing on what we don't want to occur. THIS is how we create the lives of our dreams, ladies! My tip for you today has to do with four essential steps that can help you bring any dream to life.
So, pick a dream... any dream you've been thinking of lately, and hold onto it for a moment. Or start small, if you wish. You can imagine a phone call, a kiss, a flower, or a bubble bath.
The first step is to visualize your desire. This is the fun part! Take your dream step by step and give it pictures! Whether you create a vision board, write your vision down, or simply think of your dream using vivid mental images, this step is all about using your mind to consciously create. And don't be afraid to visualize often! This is not an obsessed preoccupation with your desire, necessarily, but a chance to cement your dream in your brain by spending some "quality time" with it.
Spend a couple moments now assigning 2 or 3 different mental images to your dream. Make them joyful, colorful, delicious, pleasantly scented, seriously...anything you want! Just make sure they're full of "you"! Now... take a few deep breaths, close your eyes if it helps, and then begin to visualize your picture sequence.
Energize It with Emotion!
The next step is all about the energy and emotion we can give to our dreams. If this sounds hard to do, just think about it this way... think of an example of when you DON'T want something to happen (e.g. like situations when we think our children are about to injure themselves, and we DON'T want it to happen!). Think about how quickly you give this situation a picture in your mind and a VERY STRONG emotion. You instantly picture what you DON'T want to occur and fear floods your system. See, we do this all the time! Attaching a strong emotion to a situation is one technique your short term memory uses to remember that experience for the future. Except, we mostly (unconsciously) envision images and experience emotions that we DON'T want to occur. Now simply reverse it and apply this same principle to your dream.
Take in some deep breaths. Pull up the images of your dream that you created above, then think of how you will feel when this dream is fulfilled: joyful, relieved, accomplished, perhaps? What will your body experience once your dream is fulfilled: relief, relaxation, health? What will your mind experience: assurance, stillness, contentment? What will your heart experience: peace, happiness, love? And what will your spirit experience: tranquility, connection, oneness? These thoughts energize your dream with emotion and will bring it to life. Creation of our dreams and desires takes having an awareness of what we DO want to occur. This is mindfulness in action! Spend time with the images of your desires and hold them steady in your mind. This will bring them about, and quick!
The third step has to do with surrendering to the truth that "anything is possible." Once you create your visualization and energize it with positive emotion, you must then release it with the faith that it will eventually come to you. You deserve your dreams and desires, and the sooner you realize this the sooner those dreams will become a reality in your life. Holding on too tightly to things is not the best way to keep them safe and sound. As any mom who has struggled with their child starting kindergarten, playing outside by herself, or leaving the nest for college knows, if you grasp too tightly with your heart, then what you want is ultimately pushed farther and farther away. The same is true of our desires. When we feverishly grasp at them, worry and fret about them, it sends a signal that we are not yet aligned with our dream... as if we're not quite ready for it to happen. Many times I catch myself grasping at the idea that I can control my 4 year old's every move. When she (not surprisingly) does not act accordingly, I feel frustrated and like a failure as a Mom. My mind says, "I know what's best for her... if only she'd listen to me on this!" I grasp at the notion so tightly that I ultimately create a conflict and the situation escalates. When I stop, take some deep breaths, smile and release, then I can get back to dealing with her mindfully and lovingly. Win - Win.
A release of your desire will help to bring it about more quickly. Prayer is the tool I use most often to release dreams and desires. Writing is also a wonderful tool for releasing.
The final step is to allow it. "Now what are we allowing here?", you might ask. This step is about being open to new situations, new people, new ideas (and serendipity, in general) to occur in your life. This will allow you to take advantage of opportunities and insights that will come your way as your dream begins to manifest in reality. As things begin to occur in line with your desire, a few things can happen:
1. you allow it and thereby hasten the manifestation
2. you doubt it, doubt yourself, doubt your worthiness, doubt the messenger, etc. and thereby slow down the manifestation
3. you deny it, and thereby push away your manifestation as if to almost stop it all together
No worries, though. All of these options are perfectly normal and we've all done all three of them throughout the course of our lives! If you find yourself doubting or denying, you can always stop and choose to allow in that moment. It's never too late to make a different choice and allow life to flow. What you want to begin developing here is an allowing spirit that is open to new experiences and opportunities. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on how you look at it), we cannot always create the exact way our dreams and desires will materialize. Hope, faith and trust are states of being that can help in developing a spirit that is open-minded and unlock the door to allowing the dreams you create into your life.
You Deserve It!
the attitude of gratitude
Drawing our dreams toward us takes mindfulness, time and attention. However it is a pretty exciting way to spend our time here if you think about it! Visualization is also easy and ultimately deeply rewarding. We deserve to live out all of our dreams and desires. Each and every one of us here on Earth. Think of what we could create if we each visualize, energize, release and allow the deepest desires of our hearts into our lives. It will be truly beautiful.
PS: If you have a favorite tip for visualizing go ahead and share with us below. We'd love to hear what moms are doing to bring dreams to life for themselves and their families!
It’s that time of year…cold and flu season. And this year, they are predicting it to be bad. Yep. Didn’t need to read the headlines to know this one. 4 of the 5 of us in my own family have it at this very moment.
That said, I’ve been practicing my mindful mama techniques like mad! Here are my favorite 4 that will make your next run-in with sickness more manageable and (believe it or not) actually bring out your most fanatically calm and compassionate mindful mothering self. (Seriously, we mindful mamas are masters at making the most out of difficult situations!)
1) SWITCH out of guilt mode
Upon hearing that first cough, feeling that hot forehead, or hearing the dreaded, “Mommy, my stomach hurts,” notice if your mind goes to guilt. I've noticed my tendency to beat myself up for my kids getting sick. That first cough sets my mind into action; I immediately chronicle all the recent places I took them: the gym child care center, the indoor community play structure (aka-- the McDonalds play structure on major steroids), or the moms group with all the kiddos running around where they most likely picked up the bug.
Just notice when you are tempted to take responsibility for stuff that isn’t your fault. We know it's not realistic to live in a bubble, and our kids are going to be subjected to germs no matter how much we attempt to avoid it. So if your thoughts go to guilt, a mindful mama switches them around to a more realistic and productive thought: “This just makes their bodies stronger.” It’s true. Challenges in our lives make us emotionally more resilient and sickness in our bodies make our bodies more resilient. Seek the silver lining here, mama.
2) SURRENDER to the moment
This may be the hardest for moms to do. It takes incredible mindfulness and awareness to let go of our everyday, high expectations for how things “should be” in our mothering and allow them to be as they are, especially when our kids are sick.
If, for days on end, your child has been in their pj’s (you, too for that matter), has had nothing to eat but popsicles and ice cream ('cause that's all that feels good on that sore throat), and has watched unlimited television (because that’s the only activity they can muster the energy to do), LET IT BE.
Notice when your thoughts start to resist the present moment and shift to how you think they should be. As you notice them, let them pass like clouds across a blue sky without emotionally reacting to them.
3) SLOW DOWN the speed of life
When anyone in the family gets sick, it’s such a good time to get back to basics. During these long days of caring for your sick child, continually ask yourself: “What’s really important right now?”
As a mindful mama, notice your temptation or desire to keep pace with your “to do” list. Your child will most likely be calling out for your attention every 30 seconds, and if your mind is situated on getting other things done, you are going to get very frustrated, and may inadvertently take it out on your child.
Finding your focus--comforting and caring for your child-- will help you acknowledge the fact that you may not get much of anything else done in the next several days. You might just notice that this break is kinda nice. It’s a great reminder that we tend to do too much anyways.
4) STOP and take a break
How long does it take you to hit your wall? You know, the “I can’t take this anymore” wall. We all hit our walls at different times (I think I lasted about 3 days before I hit mine this time). We all have breaking points. Pay attention to yourself and how you feel. Your body will give you cues that you need to rest.
Caring for a sick child takes constant attention, compassion, and kindness. Maintaining this level of attention is really, really hard day after day, sleepless night after sleepless night. You simply must give yourself permission to take a break! We can’t maintain the levels of compassion that our children need when we are totally depleted. Do anything, something other than caring for someone else, for some part of your day. It will help you to remember the most important mindful mama mantra of all: This too shall pass. It always does. Repeating this mantra at 3 am as I respond to the cries of my sick child really helps me mother in the moment.
Being mindful during stressful times like our child's illness, we are able to give them the ultimate medicine-- attention+love+compassion.