I saw a somewhat cynical take on the idea of mindful parenting recently. An online article whose headline ran along the lines of, ‘Mindful parenting. Oh great, there’s another impossible goal for parents to fail at and feel terrible about.’
I don’t agree with the writer but I understand the sentiment. As a parent it’s easy to feel that you’re not up to the task, that everyone else has somehow got it down in a way that you haven’t. And some of the ways mindfulness is presented in the media can add to this sense of inadequacy. A glossy spread featuring a photogenic mother and child in some spotless dream home adorned with buddha statues seems to bears no relation to your own mess-strewn life.
Messing up is part of mindful parenting too
But this kind of presentation tells you more about the media culture than it does about mindfulness, which in a lot of ways is just about accepting yourself. You can mess up (you will mess up), you can lose your temper, burst in to tears, be totally unreasonable… I do all these things in front of my daughter. And it’s okay. I’m a human, I get overwhelmed. There are things from my past that I haven’t full resolved. And it’s okay.
The point about mindfulness, as far as I can see, is that when you take the time to bring your attention to yourself in the present moment you begin to see these behavioral patterns better. And through recognising them you create a little distance from them. I don’t mean that you remove yourself from your emotional life (God knows, I’ve tried that and that didn’t work!). You still experience everything as fully as before. You just begin to develop a kind of dawning wisdom that all this mental noise and emotional ups and downs, it doesn’t define me. Who I am is something quite extraordinary, a beautiful being (mostly unrealised) who lurks beneath the layers of all this baggage.
So mindful parenting should never make you feel unworthy or like you’re failing. If it is to mean anything it should help you love yourself more deeply. To show you that you’re amazing, warts and all.