I am not feeling very Zen today (whatever Zen is exactly). I was fine until just after morning tea, when we had agreed to go out, but husband took forever to get his arse in gear (or so it seemed to me) and then just when I thought we were finally about to leave the house he started faffing at the computer saying he needed to check which account to do shopping from. Why? Why must this always wait until we are at the front door?? And all downhill from there…
Oh, I am feeling all twisty inside!! Filled with simmering resentment and anger! A combination of PMS (curse these raging hormones), disappointment that period clearly imminent as we are in third TTC (Trying To Conceive) cycle, and the fact that it has been raining for days on end have combined to turn me into the least mindful mum imaginable.
There was one brief break in the weather and I insisted we all get down to the ocean for a quick walk before I lost my mind completely, and that did help a bit. However, it occurs to me that perhaps I should have gone and done that by myself and cleared my head, as might have been wiser for all concerned, especially given the mad dash back to make sure we didn’t veer too far from the Miss M’s new routine, and my inability to respond nicely to any comment, however well-intentioned…
So, one step forward, two steps back on this journey of mine. Husband is cooking dinner tonight, which I possibly don’t deserve, given I did kind of demand it in ranting, shrill tones of which I am now ashamed…perhaps I can still make good though. I’m shut in my sewing room trying to regroup self. Helps to write it out.
At the moment of waking up,
before getting out of bed,
get in touch with your breath,
feel the various sensations in your body,
note any thoughts and feeling that maybe present,
let mindfulness touch this moment,
Can you feel your breath?
Can you perceive the dawning of each in breath?
Can you enjoy the feeling of the breath freely entering your body in this moment?
Breathe in I smile,
breathe out I calm my body,
dwelling in the present moment,
it is a wonderful moment.
Sounds like a great way to start the day – I’m going to try it!
Miss M woke up his morning at the glorious time of 6.10am! I made a mug of tea and took it back to bed with Buddhism For Mothers until the even more glorious time of 7.30am, as it was my husband’s turn to do morning milk and play (part of me misses breastfeeding after 16 months of that unique closeness with my girly, but the rest of me in all honesty absolutely relishes the freedom that ending that chapter of our lives has brought!). Once again I felt inspired by this book and even shed some tears at the wonderful realisation that I am far from unique in my deep-rooted resentment and frustration with regard to various aspects of Motherhood (although of course I don’t wish them on anyone!) and that these feelings can perhaps be overcome and replaced with a sense of much needed peace, if I’m willing explore the solutions offered to me in Buddhist teachings.
Unfortunately after this marvellous start to the day, I then checked my email and was confronted with a continuation of Wednesday’s wider family conflict. I had just finished a chapter about dealing with negative emotion but didn’t imagine I’d be calling upon it within minutes of closing the book! As it was, I instantly forgot everything I had just read and began bashing out a lengthy point by point retort full of anger mixed with hurt and guilt. An hour later, emotionally exhausted, ready to be late for an appointment and having spent no precious time with Miss M, I started thinking about what I had read earlier. It finally dawned on me that I could perhaps try to control all my negative emotion instead of being carried away by it. I tried to be mindful and focus on what my body was doing, how I was holding it, my breathing. I calmed down enough to realise the absolute futility of an angry, point-scoring response. Instead I sent a short paragraph explaining that I’ll be in touch in a few weeks. I managed to end on a note of kindness that in all honesty I didn’t genuinely feel, but I wished it was genuine and I hope that is enough to diffuse things for the time being, while I sort out my emotions and decide how to approach these latest relationship difficulties in a calm and mindful manner.
From joyful relief to angry hurt in the space of a few minutes, and it was only 8.30am! But, despite my uncontrolled initial reaction I had managed to get it together in the end. Maybe there’s hope for this grumpy ol’ mindful mama wannabe after all!
What I really know about Buddhist philosophy could be written on the back of a fag packet. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in Southeast Asia, enjoying the temples, prayer flags and burnt orange robes, and done a bit of yoga and reading here and there over the years when times got tough, but that’s it. Having shied away from religion altogether following a very strict Christian upbringing, spirituality has been last on my list of priorities for most of my adult life to date. However, when I went to a recent local forum on anxiety and depression, a psychologist specialising in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy had us all do an exercise in mindfulness by taking a painfully long time to examine, unwrap and finally very, very slowly eat a Freddo Frog (of all things!) and once again I felt the urge to find out more about Buddhism. So, I have just started reading Sarah Napthali’s Buddhism For Mothers and I am excited – only two chapters in and everything she is saying resonates with me! Mindfulness is defined as “an awareness of all the present moment contains” and when applied to the life of a mother it has such massive potential for everyone in the family. Not to mention that it has the power to stop me stubbing my toes on an almost daily basis?! Can’t wait to learn more!
This morning my daughter and I went for our morning walk at the much more civilised time of 8.30am. It’s taken a lot of heartache but I am delighted to report that it looks like Tizzie Hall has indeed saved our sleep! Plus, I’m thriving on the new daily routine and I think Miss M is too. I only wish I hadn’t dismissed the idea of a strict routine for so long! She still wakes around 5.30am and cries a little, but she goes back to sleep by herself or plays until about 6.45am give or take a bit of squawking. To go from starting the day at 4am to this in less than a week, with the added bonus of no fights at nap time, is just wonderful!
Today we’ve had some distressing wider family issues, but because we started off with cuddles, a lovely walk by the ocean and a visit to the play park, I’ve been in a good frame of mind from the outset, so it’s all been manageable. My goal is to take Miss M for a morning walk by the ocean at least three times a week. She has a great time, and the benefits for me clearly go way beyond the physical. The ocean is there for the taking every single morning, it’s free and it makes me feel good. What better way to start the day!
Over breakfast this morning I read an article in Wellbeing magazine (February 2011) about mindful eating. My relationship with food and body image is something I’ll leave for another time because what really struck me today was the following:
The fastest way to increase your awareness of yourself, your moods and those around you is to switch off electronically and from information sources.
I immediately thought of my relationship with Facebook. Most of my IRL social life is organised via Facebook groups so it would be impractical disconnect myself completely. However, I also spend a lot of time just browsing and commenting and basically, well, timewasting. In fact I daren’t work out how many hours a day I spend on it if I include my late night browsing through sewing groups and joining in mummy chat. I had already checked in before breakfast but resolved not to touch it again until late afternoon. I didn’t suffer overly and got a lot more done that I would have otherwise – but when I logged in at 4pm WHOOOOSH I was sucked right in and before I knew it a whole half hour was gone, on nothing in particular. Being mindful of this morning’s reading I shut the machine down completely and haven’t been back in since. I’ll check for updates on tomorrow’s scheduled mothers group event, but I will not take my phone to bed and browse.
My goal is to limit Facebook to 20 minutes morning and evening, which is still way to much when I see it there in black and white, but it’s a start. It’s time to become more mindful of how I spend my precious time!
We have completed Day 2 of Tizzie Hall’s controversial Save Our Sleep routine and while the past two days have been very difficult I have suddenly had the rather shocking realisation that I actually like having a more structured day. I’ve fought against the idea of a strict daily schedule from the outset because I consider myself something of a free spirit, and never envisaged a life where I’d tie myself down to a strict routine for me and my daughter. Consequently I’ve meandered through the days with various half-hearted attempts at creating household management plans that never quite seem to work, becoming more and more overwhelmed and frustrated as the months pass. I’ve spent so much time standing in the middle of the lounge room simply not knowing where to start and suddenly understanding the true meaning of the words “desperate housewife”. But now that I have put my toddler onto her own schedule in an effort to teach her to self-settle, I appear to have inadvertently made the dull domestic side of SAHM life much more manageable. Granted the place is cleaner than it’s been in a long time simply because I have to keep busy in order to distract myself while my Miss M is screaming during nap time (supposed to stop by Day 4), but I am also finding that there are other little slots of daytime where I am actually getting the mundane but crucial tasks done without any great effort. Indeed the very fact that I know when things are going to happen is creating a wonderful sense of calm and control. And calm and in control woman undoubtedly has a better shot than a perpetually frazzled and disorganised one at becoming a truly mindful mum!
I entered Motherhood a big fan of the gentle approach and my little girl slept very well for most of the first year of her life. Then gradually, as she grew, things changed, as I now know they always will, and finally the upheaval of moving house a little after her first birthday did for us all. It’s been a pretty hellish few months around here with regard to sleep as she has lost the ability to self-settle, so bedtime and naptime are very hard, and she often wants to start her day at 4am. I now completely understand why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. I also know what it can do to a marriage. Sleep deprivation has the power to increase marital strife a thousand fold – it fuels the fires of resentment like nothing else.
I’ve spoken with Tresillian several times, and tried almost all the other recommended solutions, to no avail. Tizzie Hall’s Save our Sleep is a controversial method, but desperate times call for desperate measures, as they say. So, since waking at 4am today, I have listened with a breaking heart to almost 5 hours of crying, and I’ve shed a fair few tears of my own. And we haven’t hit bedtime yet! I’ve also dealt with some unkind comments about my methods (why in the hell can’t every mother just live and let live??). However, I have also been overwhelmed by the amount of support I have received from my IRL friends and my online mummy partners in SAHM life. And when I was about to reach absolute breaking point this afternoon, there was a knock at the door. D is a relatively new friend of mine, but she is one of those people that occasionally in life we are lucky enough to find, one with whom we just click, despite differences in years, background and circumstance. She knew today was a monumental struggle for me, especially because to go down this new path of strict routines is against my cherished earlier beliefs, and she wanted to make sure I was ok. As we talked, I managed to rebalance myself and by the time she left I was ready to keep going as planned, with strengthened resolve.
Today has been my hardest day of Motherhood since bringing Miss M home from the hospital. But my most overwhelming feeling right now (apart from exhaustion!) is not resentment or despair, it’s gratitude. I’m so lucky to have women in my life that can and do make the hard times better, as well as sharing the joys. Today especially, I am mindful of that.
One of the things I am struggling to accept is that the SAHM’s To Do list is NEVER completed. I have just carried 16 things into this week from last week’s list. This morning we needed to drop one of the cars at the mechanics, and usually I would want to head straight back home as soon as possible to get on with all my chores and lists, and my husband and I would then spend Miss M’s 90 minute nap in separate rooms doing our own thing. Today I decided to stop worrying about all the stuff I have to do, be in the moment, and put Family Time first. Instead of rushing home I suggested that we take Miss M to the play park and then have a walk to the marina, during which she would fall asleep and my husband and I could be alone together during the day without distractions – a very rare occurrence! The sun was shining, the waves were crashing against the rocks, and we walked and talked about our plans for the year ahead, and our goal of buying a house by the end of next year. We even did some snogging on the harbour wall, which was rather lovely!
However, experience has taught me that throwing caution to the wind with regard to household management for even half a day in an unplanned manner can cause a chaos spiral, so after a happy family lunch I consulted my organiser and I got stuck in to some baking and cleaning. While my husband fell asleep on the sofa. And thus The Resentment started to simmer beneath my surface. Being mindful, I told myself that he had been up since 5am, that he would be doing dinner and bath later, that he deserves some down time too; and I managed to put a lid on it. Until Miss M decided the TV was boring and being in the kitchen with mummy and her floury hands and hot oven was way more fun, and he did not respond fast enough to my call. Then some milk was spilled (literally), and my red mist descended. All my good intentions and a lovely morning spoiled. And I felt so ashamed because while my daughter is too little to understand an argument between her parents, I’m sure she gets the vibe. I struggled to regain perspective and control, and eventually managed to explain to him how resentful I was feeling and why his reaction to the milk being spilled angered me (oh, how trivial it all seems now!!). An unhappy silence reigned. But then, a short while later, he said the magic words: “would you like me to do the hoovering?”. And just like that, peace was restored. While certainly unpleasant, this horrible quarrel was shorter than most – perhaps in part due to the beautiful morning we had shared.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
My daughter is a very early riser. This morning she woke just before 5am and simply would not be persuaded that this hour is ungodly, so by 5.20 my husband had decamped to the spare room (his turn today) and I was trying to prise my eyes open while Miss M sat bolt upright on my tummy, thumb in mouth, swinging her little legs expectantly, waiting for this wonderful new day to begin. There are a so many mummy blogs and books in which women talk about grasping the early mornings with both hands and rejoicing in the extra hours in the day. I’ve made a couple of half-hearted attempts to do the same but in the end just figured that these women are a breed apart, and I will never be one of them. Usually I plonk Miss M in front of a DVD at this time, while I lie on the sofa lamenting my lot and praying that the day will soon come when she sleeps until some glorious hour, like say 7am. No more!!! I peeled the cabbage leaves from my crop top (nobody tells you bad things can happen after you finish breastfeeding!), got us both dressed, gave Miss M some milk and yogurt, and by 6.30am we were standing by the creek watching the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean. It is hard to feel resentful about being up very early in the morning when so much of the world is clearly up and at ’em already! The market stalls were setting up, the first stage of a triathalon event was underway and the path was buzzing with early morning walkers, yet still peaceful. The air smelled fresh and the day felt full of promise. I actually felt quite emotional – we live in such a beautiful part of the world, and watching the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean with my little girl in the calm of early morning, how could I not feel grateful and more than content? 4.4k later (thank you Cardio Trainer) we were back at the Surf Club ordering coffee before having a play on the beach. Instead of watching Disney, my daughter had met birds and dogs and people, felt the wind in her hair and shouted at the waves, and learned how to trap a leaf between her toes and carry it there. What better way to start a day in the life of a mindful mum?