Parenting and Mindfulness

Mindfulness

I put a lot of thought into how to be a happy mom. I’ve been seeing a therapist regularly for years to work on my tendency towards anxiety and depression. I had made a lot of progress. So much so that she told me at one point that she thought we could consider stopping my therapy if I weren’t about to become a mother.

I was fortunate that I was able to spend time in therapy during my pregnancy discussing my fears about parenthood. Would I mess up my kid? How could I give him the skills for good mental health when I felt like I was just learning them? She told me it was important to make sure I was taking care of myself because it would be much harder to take care of someone else if my needs weren’t met.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, in the beginning I was just trying to get through it. It was hard to make sure my needs were met while caring for a newborn. I couldn’t get all the sleep I needed and it was hard to find the time to eat when I was hungry.

Now the stress and urgency have eased up a bit. My husband generally doesn’t leave for work until I’ve had a shower and something to eat or at least that first cup of coffee I need to feel like I can start the day. My son is less demanding most days so he will play on his own nearby while I cook or start a load of laundry.

If you saw how my situation had changed, you’d see the world of difference and might think, “she must be so relieved and happy”. But I wasn’t happy a lot of the time and sometimes I’m still not. Why not?

Well, have I mentioned that spending time with a baby can be really boring? I love spending time with my son, but I do it nearly 24 hours a day. He could be the most adorable, funnest baby in the world (and of course I think he is) and it would still be reasonable to want some variety in daily activity.

Now that he’s a little more independent I try to do other things while he plays nearby, but I’m limited in what I can do. I’d love to write or read a book, but neither is interruptible enough or allows me to keep an eye on him. Instead, I spend my time doing housework and occasionally I get the chance to reply to an email.

But just like playing with a baby, there’s only so much time one can spend on rote tasks like housework. Plus, Siddhartha needs and deserves some interaction. The problem comes when I try to just unwind and play with him. All I can think about is what else needs to be accomplished. All I can feel is unproductive. I hate feeling that way. I hate that it’s so hard for me to relax and just have fun with my son, completely focusing on him.

I am honest with myself in knowing that I will never feel like everything is accomplished. I know that there will always be something that “needs” to be done and, because of my anxiety, even if there weren’t any tasks needing attention, I would feel as though there were and possibly invent something.

I shared my conundrum with my therapist. She told me these were the times to practice mindfulness, to notice the colors of Siddhartha’s clothes, the beauty of this smile, feel the softness of his hair and notice the metamorphosis of his babbling as it worked its way toward intelligible words.

It hadn’t occurred to me that one could practice mindfulness anywhere, at any time. I had been thinking it was a shame I could not meditate because I very rarely have quiet moments to myself. In my mind, meditation practice was only achieved through sitting with body and hands in a specific position while counting one’s breath. Of course, the irony of thinking of it as an inflexible activity hadn’t occurred to me.

Now, after I’ve thrown in a load of laundry, done the dishes, and both Siddhartha and I are fed, I sit down on the floor and practice. I hear the washing machine stop, feel the impulse to get up immediately in order to switch the load to the dryer, stop myself and return my attention to my son. In this way, we have fun.

Have you ever felt bored hanging out with your kid(s)? What do you do to enjoy your time with them?

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4 thoughts on “Parenting and Mindfulness

  1. I identify with this, even though I’ve never had a child! Working alone (as a painter) I often find myself frowning for little to no reason. It is amazing how worries and stress can build up, and put me on a sort of negative autopilot. Thanks for the reminder to be mindful — I know that with a bit of effort I can bring back the joy of my painting practice. Very thoughtful blog!

  2. I know exactly what you mean! I have absolutely felt bored, possibly every day, multiple times a day. Sometimes it helps to do something tiny for me, even a drink of water can feel like a little private time and then I can join in the fun again. Music helps too – dancing together, singing songs together or singing songs and bouncing the baby on my knee. It’s hard to not be mindful of a big smile and lots of giggles.

  3. I definitely remember feeling like that when it was just me and Peter. I tried to leave the house at least once a day with him. We didn’t have a second car until he was 10 months old so we rode the bus or walked and it was great. He loved the bus (but hated sitting in the car seat when we drove). It was weird having time after rushing around for 25 years. And 3pm-5pm lasted FOREVER. But I wouldn’t feel antsy out walking or riding the bus somewhere. Also, playgroups. I’m a big fan of playgroups. I went once a week with the baby, 2-3 times once I had a toddler and a baby and REALLY needed to get out of the house and let the toddler run around somewhere and not hurt his brother.

    These days everything’s busy, especially once Dan and Peter come home. I appreciate my laid-back mornings with Tim and can’t say I ever feel bored then.

  4. I’m so bored myself right now but I don’t have so much to do. I do have my volunteering, and my part time job so I have some responsibilities. More time never seems to equate to more being done unfortunately, apt is only as clean as it was before. I’m looking forward to moving in with the bf and being the housewifely one actually. Somehow it’s more motivating when it’s my job, well other than being in school, and our home. I have the same problem though, with the boredom making me anxious and not enjoying the time that I do have.

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