“This post was republished with permission from Elise Bialylew, Mindful in May”.
Motherhood is an exhilarating spiritual journey of epic proportions where each day we are faced with the privilege of witnessing our most creative project flourish.
That’s on a good day.
On a bad day it’s an exhausting, frustrating ride where we are tested beyond our limits through sleep deprivation, mastitis, stress, relationship tension, and self doubt.
Mindfulness has been a crucial part of my motherhood survival tool kit, not only in managing the emotional dips but also in enabling me to appreciate the daily magic. Although motherhood brings significant challenges to a regular mindfulness meditation practice, it can be integrated into daily life in a way that supports greater wisdom, presence and ease.
Here are four ways mindfulness can help you better manage the rollercoaster ride of motherhood.
Accepting what is out of your control
A friend once likened motherhood to backpacking around India: “as long as you accept that fact that most of the time nothing is going to go to plan you’ll be right”. If you’re someone that fancies a plan or a schedule, new motherhood can be a rude shock. That’s where mindfulness, the practice of coming into the present moment and meeting it with acceptance and compassion, is a great support. When things aren’t going the way you’d like and you feel frustration or impatience building, mindfulness can bring you back into your body, and help you release the physical tension to regain your cool.
Developing greater self compassion
A fundamental aspect of practising mindfulness is to meet your moment to moment experience with kindness and compassion. When dealing with the many challenges that come with motherhood, self compassion is a powerful antidote to any feelings of inadequacy that can arise. Rather than being bullied by your inner self critic, practise being your own best friend. The next time you feel like you’ve fallen short of how you’d like to be mothering, put your hand on your heart and silently whisper to yourself “this is tough but I’m doing the best I can and just like everyone else I’m not perfect”.
Communicating more effectively in relationship
Having children puts stress on relationships and under stress communication can get seriously impaired. There are actually neurobiological reasons for this. The fight or flight response, driven by our amygdala, is a reflex response which gets activated when we sense a threat in our environment. This response evolved to protect us from danger. However, this warning system has not changed for about 100,000 years and nowadays rather than the threat of physical predators, we face psychological stressors, like arguments with our partners when we’re exhausted and still adjusting to the new reality of motherhood. When the stress response is triggered our higher brain functioning regions, including the prefrontal cortex, go offline. A key to better communicating under pressure, is developing the capacity of this part of the brain, which supports us to stay cool under pressure and communicate with greater calm and wisdom.
Regular mindfulness meditation has been shown to increase the thickness of the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with higher level brain functions such as the capacity to calm ourselves down in the heat of an emotion and communicate and problem solve with greater effectiveness.
Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance — Eckhart Tolle
The daily routine and challenges of motherhood can easily make you numb to the miracle that you actually created a human being! Mindfulness helps us slow down and absorb the miracle of creation in each moment. We can watch in full presence and awe at our little children learning new skills, like how to use a spoon, and suddenly the morning porridge ritual becomes a miraculous spectacle. Whether it’s being more present to the delight of a child playing with bubbles, or taking a moment to listen to the peaceful sound of their breath when sleeping, mindfulness can deepen our appreciation of the little miracles that are there in every moment, if only we remembered to pay attention.
As we practice mindfulness in motherhood, we model a powerful skill to our children supporting them to meet life with greater wisdom, self-compassion, and resilience.