Moms, are you ready to master the fine art of letting go of your unhealthy attachments in your parenting? In our latest installment of Mindful Moms TV, Jen vlogs about how we can accept our powerlessness and choose FAITH over fear. Check it out!
THE POWER OF ATTENTION
I’ll never forget what I felt the moment I heard my daughter’s very first cry. With that tiny little wail, I felt this powerful, primordial pull to attend to her immediately. The moment the nurse placed her in my arms, and she calmed down, I witnessed the power of my attention.
Fast forward 4 years. With the craziness of life, I often forget about the magical powers of my attention. I forget that providing my daughter with my attention is as important as providing her with food, water, clothing, and shelter. While these basic needs are fundamental for her physical growth, my attention is fundamental for her spiritual growth.
In reality, she asks me for so very little. Just attention. In reality, when I give her my undivided, focused attention, I give her so very much. I give her unconditional love, approval, acceptance, and validation.
ATTENTION deficit PARENTING
As our lives pick up speed as our children grow, it’s easy to slip into attention deficit parenting. When we divert our attention in 50 different directions every single day, our attention gets scattered. We lose focus, control, and concentration.
The paradox is when our attention is everywhere, it’s actually nowhere in particular. When our attention is nowhere, we lose our power to be present to our kids. Our attention connects us to the present moment. Being in the present moment connects us to our kids.
You know you have slipped into the mode of attention deficit parenting when you hear your kids, but you don’t really listen, when you see them, but they don't feel seen, when you hug them, but you don’t really feel them, or when you are present to them, but you are not really there.
ATTENTION surplus PARENTING
We have a greater capacity to give our children our full attention when our minds aren’t cluttered with thoughts about everything we have to do. A cluttered mind = mindless mothering. Mindless mothering happens when we are not present in the moments with our kids because our attention is focused on what we want to get done next. This is how we miss precious, fleeting mothering moments. Every moment missed is a missed opportunity to use the power of our attention to demonstrate love, acceptance, and validation to our child.
If you want to focus your attention, you must know your focal point-- your values. When we're not aware of our core values and highest priorities, our mind thinks everything is of equal importance. Thus, it attempts to divert its attention in every direction.
Now, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that spending quality time with your kids is at the top of your priority list :). I am guessing there are not too many things more important than showing your kids you love them and that they are worthy of your love. Getting clear about our deepest values allows us to focus our attention intentionally.
Start by focusing your full attention on the “little” moments with your kids. The next time you are tying your child’s shoes, saying prayers before bed, brushing their hair, hugging them when they are having a meltdown, embracing them after a long day at school, smiling at them as you catch their glance, do these things with your full and deliberate attention. Be 100% present in that (sometimes only 5 second) moment. They’ll feel the connection. That’s the power of your full attention. It’s not the quantity that matters, it’s the quality.
YOUR MINDFUL MAMA PRACTICE
Just remember, paying attention takes practice. Let me repeat…paying attention takes practice!
Start your practice by paying your full attention to your kids in those “little” moments throughout the day. For it tends to be the culmination of the little moments with our kids that make the biggest impact.
Be intentional with your attention. Be deliberate. Mother with the awareness that your attention has magical powers! It has the ability to energize your child with unconditional love, acceptance, validation, and worth. Through your attention, you have the power to give your child everything they'll ever want and truly need.
RUNNING ON EMPTY
We're moms. We've all been there. Completely, utterly, totally....depleted. But this is good! In terms of our Mindful Mama practice, we can learn something in this space. I had just put my twin toddlers down for naps (thank goodness, at age 3, they still do this) and put my 4 year old in her room for her own alone time when I collapsed on the couch. I knew I was tired when I quickly abandoned my feeble attempt to reach the remote to catch up on a couple missed episodes of Giuliana & Bill. All I could muster the energy to do was stare blindly at the ceiling and breathe.
“So…how are you doing? How’s everything going over there,” Ronelle asked. She knows me well. This girl can correctly identify my overall emotional state from a one word text message. She also knows major changes are headed my way. In light of my husband’s new job, we're uprooting our family and moving to a brand new city, a new home, and a new life several states away. That means more chaos, more messes, and more work on top of the already rather chaotic, messy workload of being home full time with three kids age 4 and under.
“I think I just have to lower my expectations,” I sighed, defeated.
It’s only till I get completely run-down and exhausted that I realize how high my everyday operating expectations are for myself. Essentially what I was saying to Ronelle was, “I can’t spend a hour every day giving each child one-on-one attention with educational activities...," “I can’t make every single meal...,” “I can’t meet everyone’s demands the minute they want them met...,” and “I can’t keep the bathrooms spick and span, the kitchen floor gleaming, and the dust from forming a thick layer on the entertainment center...” without losing my mind!
I SURRENDER (but in a GOOD way!)
Step one was becoming AWARE of my slightly lofty expectations. I’ve noticed that it’s these self-imposed, rigid “shoulds” that I unconsciously attach to on a day to day basis.
Then came step two-- SURRENDER (which is much easier when exhausted, am I right?). This is the lesson exhaustion teaches us. Surrender. Wave the white flag. Throw in the towel, what have you. The moment we surrender, we release the grip our “shoulds” have on us. We let go of our expectations. We detach from thinking we have to do all the extra crap we think must do in order to feel a sense of accomplishment. The act of surrendering that comes so naturally when exhausted allows us to cease clinging to what “needs” to happen and allow what is happening to actually happen…without judgment.
“Fatigue is a gift. Like many of the gifts that come to mothers, it is not one you would choose...Fatigue helps you forget. When you are tired, you let go. You drop what you no longer need and you do not pick it up again. You slow down. You grow quiet. You take comfort. You appreciate the smallest things. You stop fighting.”
(Karen Maezen Miller, Momma Zen)
YOUR MINDFUL MAMA PRACTICE
You drop what you no longer need and you do not pick it up again.
What you do let go of when you are so tired you can barely muster the energy to brush your teeth? Pay attention next time (or maybe that time is now). Pay attention to the standards, things, events, ideals, or activities you let go of. Then ask yourself if you really need to ever pick those up again.
As for me, I am not suggesting that I’m not going “pick up”spending one-on-one time with my girls, meeting my family’s needs, or cooking/ cleaning (wait…I’d actually love to not pick up cleaning again!). Rather, what I won’t pick up is my unhealthy attachment to my thoughts about doing these things.
A Mindful Mama is sometimes just too darn tired to label, judge, or react. This is surrender! This is acceptance! When you are too tired to strive to make the moment any different than it is, you’ve just embodied mindfulness to its fullest extent. Make this your practice. Practice this mindset when you are exhausted and then practice it when you are functioning at full speed. You might just find that when you fully embrace not forcing things to be a certain way or pushing yourself so hard, you spend a lot less time being exhausted in the first place.
When you are tired, let go. Changes are pretty good that you won’t let go of anything worth fighting for.