Have you ever found your mind playing awful tricks on you related to parenting, particularly future related fears? It might sound something like this: “What if the baby cries all night?” or “How long is this phase going to last?” or seeing a group of “naughty” looking older kids and thinking, “Oh I hope we don’t have to deal with that”. And then there are all the intrusive images of 1001 ways we could accidentally kill our children – dropping them, car accident, dog attack, and the list goes on. And man can our mind send us to some scary places. This is just what minds do. They are good at it. From an evolutionary perspective worrying minds have in the past helped us survive in a dangerous world (lions, tigers, other tribes coming to steal food). There are no tigers and lions roaming around in my neighbourhood, but I guess old habits die hard .
One of the most challenging things about parenting I think is how little you can control. From the moment you discover a baby is on the way uncertainty takes a seat in your home like never before (at least that has been my experience). Hands up if you love uncertainty?? Sure some people cope with it better than others and yet it seems to be one of the biggest lessons in life to learn to let go of what we can’t control (the key message of the famous Serenity prayer).
The beautiful thing – if we keep coming back to it – is that we actually only have to parent in the present moment and when we can really experience this most things don’t seem quite so overwhelming. Each cry can be heard without getting caught up in the “will it ever end?” story. Each tantrum can be faced on its own rather than the awful anticipation of the next one and the one after that and so on. A sick child with a bad cold is sick for now, not forever (even though it may feel like it in the middle of the night).
A while ago I read a wonderful series of three books called “Buddhism for mothers” by an Australian author, Sarah Naphali. I wanted to share something that I personally have found so beneficial. For me it helps me to contact my values, be present and be willing all at once, in a few moments. It is a simple question…… So here it is. “What is required of me?” or “What does this moment require?” In a split second I remember my values of being loving, patient, acting calmly, staying present and so on (these are just mine, what are yours?). I love how simple it is and how this question can bring us back to what is happening in this moment, not some other distant future or past moment. This one, here and now. Parenting today will be different tomorrow and 5 years from now. All we can ask of ourselves is to parent as best we can in this moment, right now, right here.
If you want to read other great books about parenting I’d also recommend “Mindful motherhood” by Cassandra Vieten http://www.mindfulmotherhood.org/author.html and “The joy of parenting” by Lisa Coyne and Amy Murrell http://www.amazon.com/The-Joy-Parenting-Acceptance-Commitment/dp/157224593X
By Louise Shepherd