One of the main ideas from mindful parenting is to make space for just being, every day. But how do we make space for just being when we have money to earn, throats to feed, work to get done, goals to meet, and dreams to come real?
Is mindful parenting only for the privileged?
I came up with this question a while ago. I was sure Google had some answers for me, but I found none. So I decided to write an essay to answer this question myself.
My short answer is no. Mindful parenting is not just for the privileged. You can have goals and obligations AND be a mindful parent.
Let me walk you through it. I'll use "non-striving"—one of the main tenets of mindfulness—to explain why.
How can I both strive AND just be?
Non-striving is the practice of recognizing you're enough. As it frees you from having to be different or better, it helps you concentrate on the present moment.
As great as finding comfort in who you are sounds, how does it go together with our goals and obligations? How can we both strive AND make space for just being?
That's where the fun part begins.
Striving is not bad.
Striving is a natural part of being human. Our system was designed to strive for things: food, sex, relationships, success.
Mindfulness welcomes and accepts striving. But it also looks beyond it. Is your striving giving you pain and suffering? Does it have a hold of you? Or are you free?
Striving, in itself, is not bad. If we are aware of our striving and if we name it right, it means we've set a good relationship with it. If it causes us tension, then it's wise to look deeper.
Let's consider goals.
There is nothing wrong with having goals. Goal-setting is a healthy strategy for life. The question is, what happens when you don't reach your goals?
- Do your goals define you or do you accept yourself for who you are?
- Can you separate achieving your goals from enjoying your life?
- Do your goals control you or do you control them?
Practicing non-striving means you separate yourself from your goals. You notice how much of your time is spent "doing" and how much of it is spent "being." This awareness—in time—invites more of the moments in which you are fully present.
In short, mindfulness has nothing against your striving. It protects you against beating yourself up on the run.
How can I take this idea into my parenthood?
A parent's mind is always busy with things to get done. Notice how much of your day is spent in "doing" mode.
- Working at a job
- Cleaning the house
- Cooking for the family
- Doing laundry & dishes
- Trying to exercise and do self-care
How much time are you left with for just being? Notice the difference. Now let's see how we can use that time.
Start with half an hour.
Our lives are full of obligations but having more moments of presence in our day—no matter how small the number is—is a choice.
Start with half an hour of uninterrupted one-on-one time with your kid. How you spend that half-hour makes a difference.
Put away your phone and laptop. Put your boss's expectations on hold. Put your annual goals to rest.
Notice your regret from this morning's meeting. Let it go. Notice your worry about what to make for dinner. Let it go.
It might be painful at first. Remember, your only job is to be for now. All it takes is practice.
In that half-hour, try not to fix things. Try not to achieve things. Put a distance between you and your life's hurdles. Relax.
Kids are wired to live in the present. Let them take the lead. Become a cat. Become a fairy. Become a sandwich. Read to your kid. Gaze into their eyes. Comb their hair. Before you know it, those tiny time pockets will become your meditation.
It all comes down to balance. Practice non-striving to notice and accept your all selves. Especially the striving ones.