Ok, I’ll be honest from the outset. This blog post is really just a thinly veiled cry for help and advice from all those parents out there who manage to successfully juggle ‘mindful parenting ‘while maintaining their own sense of identify and purpose, along with the ability to actually get things done.
Although mindful parenting means different things to different people, to me it means spending time actively engaging with your child / children, not using TV as a babysitter continually, seeking to capitalise on their natural desire to learn and explore and just generally paying attention. The question that I have is; how much is enough? Is there such a thing as a happy balance?
The guilt from engaging in other activities (writing, study, yoga) while my little one is awake and active has bothered me for a while now. Perhaps it’s an only child thing and will lessen with the arrival of B2…
If you are like me and struggle to balance mindful parenting with retaining a sense of self, some of the following ideas may be helpful for you.
Ideas to parenting mindfully in the modern world
• Play when you can. Babyhood and toddlerhood will pass in the blink of an eye. Ensure that you set aside some time each day to truly play with and engage with the delightful little person that your child is becoming.
• Get outside and spend mindful time together whenever possible (first thing in the morning / straight after work etc…). This means no iPhone distractions, no keeping an eye on the TV (really, is the Today show that interesting) and preferably no ‘work’ during this period.
• Reduce, declutter, simplify! The less stuff that you have, the less time it will consume, effectively leaving you with more free time to engage with your family and work on things that are important to you.
• Do the housework while your little one is awake and get them involved in the tasks. Folding the washing, sweeping floors, preparing dinner / baking, decluttering, polishing furniture and hanging out clothes are all activities that children can get involved in from the moment that they are able to crawl. (Admittedly, chores may take a little longer but think of it as a long term investment in a helpful family member)
• Encourage your child to learn to entertain themselves. Praise them when they use their initiative, offer open ended toys and allow them to use their creativity.
But what about me??
So many friends have described a loss of personal identity as being almost synonymous with parenthood. But (deep breath), it doesn’t have to be this way!
• Set personal goals and share them with your family. If you are working on something that is important to you, you’ll feel less guilty about saying ‘No darling, Mummy / Daddy is working on something at the moment’.
• Get out of those pyjamas. Regardless of whether you had a rotten sleep and the highlight of your day is going to be dancing the hokey pokey; getting up and getting dressed will set a positive tone for the rest of the day.
• Connect with others. It’s amazing the good that a conversation with another adult can do. Preferably connect with others in person, but if you don’t know anyone local that shares your (non-baby) interests, try connecting with others online.
• Take care of yourself. I get it, you’re tired! You have a baby that wakes every 40mins and a toddler that still won’t sleep through. Regardless, being unfit, eating unhealthy foods and being a generally frumpy Mummy won’t help with retaining your own sense of identity and positivity. Sorry, but it’s true!
• Continue to learn and challenge yourself. Did you used to pride yourself on your knowledge of global affairs? Spend 20 minutes looking at Al Jazeera.com rather than Facebook. Try to have at least one non-baby related piece of conversation ready to share with your partner every night.
There’s no getting around it, balancing mindful parenting with retaining a sense of personal identity is a challenge. But, it’s one worth attempting. I’d love to hear your tips!
P.S – I’m a parent too and I get it, parenting can be really hard. These suggestions are designed to help encourage and support you, not as a criticism or to incite guilt!