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Imagine for a moment that you’re in a rollercoaster. The little car you’re in is clicking up the slope.
You’re nearly at the top.
There it is, that moment of silence just before the cart inevitably rushes down.
The voice in your head tells you that you must not forget to buy the milk. And that the car will need some cleaning after your brother borrowed it this morning. Better not stay too long at the park, you’ll want to beat the rush of traffic at 6PM when everybody leaves…
I hope that’s not you…
Because when you’re in a rollercoaster, you want to enjoy the ride (I work on the assumption that you like rollercoaster rides, but that to the side). It’s the same with your life, which might sometimes resemble a rollercoaster life, you want to live and experience it. You don’t want to listen to that boring voice going on and on in your head all day.
Related: Married with Children
The problem with mindfulness for moms
The problem with mindfulness, with meditation really, is that it requires you to sit down for 30 minutes every day. Sure, you can meditate for 10 minutes, but to get the full effect you have to practice more than that. Like, closer to 30+ minutes.
Do you have that time?
If you do, please tell me how you do it. Because between work, kids and life, finding time on a truly regular basis (as in, you know, daily), I have great difficulty making meditation a habit. And I know that a lot of moms struggle with the same.
Plus, that it’s not just finding 30 minutes a day. Because, sure, finding 30 minutes and investing it into my health and happiness wouldn’t be so much of a problem.
It’s more that finding 30 minutes of time each day at more or less the same time each day is the real challenge. To top it off, often us moms don’t even know whether the kids will give us that half an hour until that half hour is over. Which doesn’t help much, does it?
But mindfulness is important!
When you’re unable to focus and all you get is that nagging voice in your head, it’s probably better not to sit and meditate. It only exacerbate the state in your head. Likewise, if you can’t focus because half of your attention is with the playroom, where you’re listening whether the kids aren’t getting into trouble…same thing. You’ll be wasting your precious time. If you find you can’t meditate, don’t.
However, mindfulness is important. And since kids are very talented at testing how mindful a person is, moms can probably use it the most! Especially when we’re not meditating (but cleaning up a spilled cup of milk instead, while trying to keep the kids from running through the spillage…)
Fortunately, you can still get some results by practicing being in the present, wherever you are and whatever you are doing.
Here are some ideas to get you started!
Other practices that cultivate mindfulness
Fortunately, many of us are already involved (or thinking of getting involved) in other activities that also cultivate mindfulness. Here you can think of things like yoga, or tai chi. But also things such as running, or even roller blading! As long as it’s something where you keep your body busy enough and you keep your focus on your movement. No cheating by listening to music!
Mindful practices in your life already – that you might not have thought about!
Here you can think of things that require a lot of focus to do. Activities or hobbies that are, in fact, very difficult to do without paying attention to them. Here you can think of the following:
Mindful without meditation during household chores
There are plenty of things that each of us do during the day that lend themselves quite well to mindfulness practice. One of my least favorite chores, but one of my most favorite ones to do mindfully, is folding the laundry.
Whenever I fold the laundry, I take my time and focus entirely on what I’m doing. I try to feel the fabric underneath my hands. And I try to feel the love I have for each of the owners of the clothes I’m folding. That way, I can become completely focussed on a task that, to me at least, is normally quite boring.
You can do the same, chose a chore that you would normally find quite burdensome and transform the experience by being mindful without meditation while you do it. As long as you do it with your full attention.
Kids provide us with ample opportunity to be mindful without meditation
Like I said earlier, if anyone needs mindfulness, it’s us moms! With two young boys, there’s really no end to the adventures, noise, sand and craziness in our home. You think you’ve tackles one thing, but the kids will come up with some new crazy idea to drive you insane. If you let it!
I’ve noticed a great difference between days when I’m more mindful, relaxed and generally living in the now and the days when I’m not.
The kids are basically the same on those days. Yes, there are days when they seem to be pushing the buttons a bit harder than on other days. But how I respond to it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with how they push the buttons. Instead, it has everything to do with how I’m feeling.
Am I feeling overwhelmed? In that case I’ll be up the wall in no time.
Am I feeling at ease? Then I can very calmly take control of the situation. I can calmly discipline the children. Better yet, I can usually find a way to turn the situation around without any craziness ensuing at all!
So, being mindful and really there when the kids are with you is doubly beneficial:
- You get to practice mindfulness without meditation;
- The kids are less likely to drive you to despair;
How to be mindful without meditation and with kids
I’ve found that crafting with the kids is one of the best ways for me to be mindful while with the kids. It takes a good deal of focus to guide them through the crafting process, but without the glue ending up on the ceiling.
Reading to them is another great way to be mindful without meditation. We’re all completely into the story, while mom tries her best at all the various voices and tones and noises that are in the story.
Another favorite thing to do that requires me to be mindful is to bake together. We’ll make muffins, or cookies (or play-dough for that matter). Cooking is a great activity to practice mindfulness, that requires to be in the here and now. Cooking also requires you to make use of your senses
Lastly, take a walk with the kids. Whether you live in the country or in the city, there’s always so much to see for children! Just this morning, my youngest son and I took the short walk to the train station to watch the trains come and go. On the way, we saw busses, trucks, boats…to him it was an adventure. And his enthusiasm keeps me in the now as well.
So, in short, some easy ways to be mindful without meditation but with kids:
Quick wee side note: Because I know how hard it can be to come up with fun games each time, I’ve created a 7-day challenge for parents of toddlers and preschoolers. This is a great way to get started if you’ve fallen out of the habit of playing with your kids, or to learn about fresh ideas and activities.
Each day for 1 week, you will receive an e-mail with an activity that you can do with your kids. Join the newsletter and start your 7 days of play today!
Mindful without meditation during bedtime
You can also be mindful without meditation when it’s time for bed. Both your bedtime and that of the kids. Let’s start with the kids.
Bedtime to children is an important event. Not just because it means the end of play for that day, but also because they won’t be seeing you for a while. Bedtime is one of those times during the day (together with getting up in the morning and coming home from school in the afternoon) when how you respond to them has a great impact.
Take a few minutes extra (it won’t hurt, I promise) and un-hurry when you take the kids to bed at night. Give them your full attention as they change into their PJs. The same for when they take a bath. Sit next to them, follow their play, just soak in their joy and imagination. It’s difficult sometimes, I know (boy do I know) but it’s worth trying. And then trying again next time.
When they’re in bed, read them a book with your full attention. Don’t just rattle off the story because you know all the words by heart. Try to turn it into a show for the kids. They’ll appreciate it and it gives you the opportunity to be fully present.
As for your own bedtime rituals, see it as a wind-down before sleep. If you do this daily, you’ll not only practice being mindful without meditation, but you’ll also train your brain to understand that it’s time to sleep. That way, the practice can improve the quality of your sleep.
Pick just a few things, or even only one thing, that you do before bed and do them with your full attention. Brushing your teeth might be a good thing to do completely focussed and in the now as it’s something you do every day.
Living through the senses
One of the reasons that I believe mindfulness is so important for us moms, is that without it we tend to only live in our heads. We all know how much planning and thinking through the steps parenting is. Especially when the children are still very little. So many things every day that need to be taken care of. Another load of laundry to do, dishes on the kitchen counter, one of the kids suddenly has a stain in his shirt. You want to go to granny’s this afternoon, so right now while it’s still morning we need to do this, this and that…
There’s a very real danger of getting worked up over everything! But even worse, by living in our heads so much, we run the risk of actually missing our children’s childhoods! While we’re so busy planning and scheduling and worrying, we miss the crazy little things our kids say. We fail to see the plethora of emotions on their little faces as take in new experiences. If we’re not careful, we might even fail to hear the outbursts of laughter, in the way that only little kids seem to laugh.
The only way to live properly, to really feel as if you are living, is to get out of you head a bit (I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with planning or organizing, on the contrary! Sometimes we just overdo it a little) and feel our bodies and senses more. As a result, we experience more. We’ll become more calm and happier. We’ll see those smiles on our kids’ faces and feel that smile in our hearts.
Take action: be more mindful without meditation
So, take action today: while you’re sitting and reading this anyway, where in your life can you apply mindfulness. What is it that you could do daily with your fullest attention? Put a reminder in your phone, or a post-it on the washing machine.
Get mindful, relax, and enjoy things more