Mindfulness is a practice of noticing and observing that which is arising within one’s internal space, in any given moment, without judgment or analysis. Although, I love the simplicity of this act of kindness towards oneself, I must acknowledge the difficulty involved in training the mind to become mindful as a mother.
If you are anything like me, you might agree with my long-held frustration towards the mindfulness movement being dominated by mostly a masculine point of view.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all the teachings and the plethora of research about the benefits of having a practice of mindfulness. And, I acknowledge the wisdom that these wise men have offered us – His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ram Dass, Dan Siegel, Ron Siegel, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Deepak Chopra, Thich Nhat Hanh, Joe Dispenza and Ken Wilber, to name a few. That said, as a mother, woman, and feminist, I have struggled over the years to embody the teachings of these masters because, well, they just don’t fit in with modern motherhood.
Since I was 13-years-old I have attempted to integrate a practice of meditation into my daily life for stress reduction as an athlete, to deal with symptoms of depression, and to find solace as a mother. The literature and current research clearly state the benefits of a daily practice of mindfulness. In an attempt to alleviate my daily struggles with depression, motherhood, and marriage, I figured a practice of meditation would offer much sought-after relief.
Needless to say, I struggled to include this isolated practice into my life as a mother, and I often felt like a failure. I tried waking up earlier, staying up later, listening to guided meditations, using binaural beats, engaging in shamanic journeying, and even participating with shamanic medicines.
Today, my children are teenagers and I have more space for uninterrupted time to include a practice, yet I still find myself jealous of my friends without kids who can sit in meditation for 1-2 hours a day, or go away on week-long retreats.
Can you sense the groaning frustration?
I held a perception that these practices only benefit those who can find the time and space for them throughout a day. Let’s face it, motherhood is all-encompassing and rarely gives rise to the space needed for such a practice. Sure, 20 minutes a day sounds doable. But when mothers struggle to merely take a shower, how are they supposed to find time for a 20-minute sit? Further, new mothers are chronically sleep deprived and by the time the day comes to a close, they are most likely to crash with their kids or zone out in front of Netflix to have a ‘break’ from the day. I get it, I have been there.
My intention is not to tell mothers that they ‘should’ give up Netflix and instead choose a practice of mindfulness because that would be better for them. Mothers have enough ‘shoulding’ in a day. The last thing we need is another ‘should’ that adds to our already critical mindset that lets us know all the ways in which we are ‘not good enough’ as mothers.
It is as if the ‘not good enough’ voice is amplified when we become mothers, and our children let us know on a daily basis all the areas in which we are ‘failing’. Although this negative perception of self-as-mother is almost always inaccurate, I have yet to meet a mother who is not challenged by a negative self-perception of motherhood.
WOULD MINDFULNESS HELP QUIET THIS INTERNAL CRITICAL VOICE? MOST LIKELY, YES. BUT…
But for some reason knowing this is not motivating enough to figure out a way to engage in a daily practice of mindfulness. I would argue the reason is twofold: a) the western worldview of modern motherhood does not support this q