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.
LETTING GO OF CONTROL
It’s true. Sometimes not being in control is the most beautiful thing in the world. Why? Because fear fosters control. And every single time we release the power fear has over us, life becomes beautiful!
Think about those times you’ve tried to control situations in your life or in your child’s life. This impulse to control stems from the fear of not wanting something to occur or from wanting to protect yourself or your child from experiencing pain, hurt, or disappointment. Control and manipulation are not derivatives of love. They are derivatives of fear. Each moment we live our lives or mother from a place of fear, we unintentionally impede the flow of love from emanating from us out into our lives and towards our children.
LOVE is the opposite of fear. TRUST is the opposite of control. Every time you make the conscious decision to trust yourself in your mothering, trust your child to do something for herself, or trust this moment to be perfectly placed in your life, you become a shining beacon of love (kinda like a lighthouse that projects light out into the foggy night). This is the beauty that arises when you allow yourself to not be in total control of every single aspect of your life or your child’s life.
"A wise mother does not unnecessarily interfere with her child's life. Your children have their own process-- their own thoughts, feelings, and reactions-- which must be allowed to unfold. If you do not trust your children's process, your children will not trust anyone or anything. Your confidence in them builds their confidence in themselves."
(Vimala McClure, The Tao of Motherhood)
Being aware of our habit (and egoic desire) to control is important to mindful mothering. It’s only in this awareness that we grant ourselves the ability to make the choice to let go of just the right amount of control at just the right time. Trust yourself as a mama, and you’ll instinctively know when you should allow your child to rely on himself in certain situations.
When it comes to our kids, each time we make the choice to trust and not control, we allow our child’s confidence and self-pride to grow. Self-confidence is the bedrock of trust. When we believe in ourselves and our abilities, we trust ourselves. It’s only when we truly trust ourselves that we can then begin to trust other people and the moments of our lives. When you LET GO of control, you ALLOW for your child’s confidence to grow.
YOUR MINDFUL MOTHERING PRACTICE
Trust is an expression of divine love. This week in your mindful mothering practice, pay attention to your urge to control. When that urge strikes, draw your attention to the fearful thoughts that underlie it. Choose to think a different thought. Remember the beautiful tradeoff that occurs every time you choose trust over control. Trust instills confidence, love, and hope-- in your child, yourself, and the moments in your life. And just like your mindfulness practice is built by small actions over time, so is trust.
As a community of Mindful Mamas, we want to know:
How have you let go of control and trusted
your child recently?
How have you let go of control and trusted
How have you let go of control and trusted
a moment in your life recently?
Drop us a line in the comment section below and inspire us! You'll be entered in a drawing for a FREE copy of one of our all-time favorite mothering books, The Balanced Mom, by Bria Simpson. Gotta love a giveaway!!!
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!
"As much as motherhood has awakened a stronger and more loving spirit in me, it has opened my eyes to areas in which I am weak" (MomSense, Blackmer).
I am certain you are nodding your head in agreement after reading that quote. This is the inherent duality that is a part of mothering-- we become better versions of ourselves as mothers, but in the process, we have to come face-to-face with our limitations and weaknesses.
Giving & RECEIVING
From one mother to another, I know how much you love your children. Hands down, it’s probably the most profound love you’ve ever experienced. Thus, I can infer that you believe that your children deserve the very best version of you as their mother.
Everything you want to give to your children, you first have to receive from yourself. If you want to give unconditional love, you must receive unconditional love from yourself. If you want to give respect, you must receive respect from yourself. If you want to give acceptance, you must receive acceptance from yourself. You get the point.
Part IV of the Miracle of Self-Acceptance in Mothering reminds us that it’s important to balance our giving energy with equal parts receiving energy. Being receptive to receiving allows us to give openly, unconditionally, and endlessly to our kids.
Sounds easy, right? It is until our beliefs about ourselves get in the way. Old, out-dated, negative beliefs can drastically inhibit our ability to receive.
As moms, if we accept that we are able to give more when we receive, it’s imperative we come to terms with the limited beliefs about ourselves that hold us back receiving, and by extension from being able to give our children everything they deserve.
The Nature of (past) Beliefs
Have you ever considered where your beliefs about yourself come from? I know this is a complex question with multiple answers, but let’s just focus on one here. In the book, You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay states that when we were very little, we learned how to feel about ourselves by the reactions of the adults in our lives. Makes sense, right? I’d like to add one thing to this line of reasoning. The way your parents felt about themselves most likely influenced how they reacted to you.
Imagine if you will, a mom who is unhappy, angry, and depressed with her life. Chances are good that she is in this state because she harbors negative beliefs about herself and her ability to change her life. Now, imagine how she might react to her children on a daily basis. Since she is unhappy and angry, chances are good that she is overly critical and condescending toward her children and their behavior. Her children then learn that this is “normal,” and that this is how they deserve to be treated-- thus treat themselves the same way.
So the million dollar question is, how are your beliefs about yourself and your life impacting how you react to your children and by extension how your children feel about themselves?
(Before you attempt to contemplate this question, take a moment to breath. Don’t hyperventilate on me. I say this because after I thought about this question, I started to panic just a bit. I had this moment where I couldn’t believe I was a mom! When did I grow up? When did this all happen? And..OMG…I have three (three!) impressionable little beings continually in my presence watching me, listening to my every word all the time. I tend to forget what a tremendous influence I have on their precious spirits, their self-concepts, and how they perceive life.)
Okay, deep breath....
As we consider this fact: we treat ourselves the way our parents treated us (Hay), think about the present moment and consider how you treat your children. Simply put, your children will treat themselves the way you treat them. If you treat them with compassion, they will be compassionate toward themselves. If you forgive them when they mess up, they will forgive themselves. If you treat them with acceptance, they will accept themselves. Conversely, if you treat them judgmentally, they will judge themselves. If you criticize them, they will in turn criticize themselves.
How Have You Been Treating Yourself Lately?
So, how have you been treating yourself lately? Have you been judgmental? Have you been neglectful? Or have you been kind? Have you been attentive?
It matters. It really does.
If you acknowledge that you need do a little, or a lot, more work being attentive, kind, and compassionate toward yourself, you might just find the impetus for change to be the knowledge that your kids will directly benefit from the loving kindness you extend yourself.
The next step on this journey of self-awareness is illuminating those deep-seated, often unconscious, beliefs we have about ourselves that inhibit our ability to treat ourselves with compassion, kindness, and reverence.
Adapt a Warrior Mentality
Your child deserves to have a mother who is her best, most authentic version of herself at this particular moment in time. In order to achieve this, I’m afraid you’re gonna have to do a little digging. See, we have to get uncomfortably real and honest with ourselves to uncover old beliefs that don’t serve us anymore.
“It takes courage-- this is often called the path of the spiritual warrior-- to endure the sharp pains of self-discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives”(A Return to Love, Williamson). A warrior has strength and courage. You are a mother, thus you are a warrior. And every day, for the good of your kingdom (aka, your family), as a warrior, you must make a commitment and have the courage to become your most authentic self. Because, when you live your life authentically, you show up differently to yourself and your kids.
Give it away, Give it away, Give it away now
(Red Hot Chili Peppers… get it?)
In order to give it away, we have to have it first.
“We can’t really give to our children what we don’t have ourselves. In that sense, my greatest gift to my daughter is that I continue to work on myself” (Williamson). LOVE that! The reason this rings true is because we know that our children learn best by imitating us.
I think we have to remain vigilant about how we treat ourselves otherwise it's easy get stuck in the whole “do as I say, not as I do” conundrum. It simply won’t work to try to “tell” your kids it’s important to love themselves and to be kind to themselves if you don’t model this behavior to them on a daily basis. The little buggers are smart! They’ll see right through your façade.
Your Warrior Work
This week, pay attention to how you treat yourself. As you do this, also pay attention to the beliefs that dictate this treatment.
For example, if you seen a pattern of self-neglect or negative self-talk manifest, is this behavior due to misinformed beliefs you have about not being worthy or a belief that it’s selfish to take time for yourself?
Take some mental notes.