Parenting can be one of the most challenging and most rewarding commitments we will ever undertake. Much of the battle is fought and won in our own mind, although many a parent struggling with children in the moment, may disagree.
If you are anything like most people, you may look around at the way other people are doing it, and wonder how they manage to make it look so effortless. But let us be clear about one thing, there is no such thing as the perfect parent. In reality, everyone is just winging it, doing the best they can, with what they know right now.
So wherever you are at with parenting, be kind to yourself, keep your eyes open, and learn something from every experience.
3 ways parents can thrive, not just survive
Let it go
There’s a little saying often attributed to author, Anne Lamott, that says, ‘expectations are resentments under construction’. As humans, and most especially as parents, we can often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to achieve in different ways. These expectations can show up as trying to keep a spotless house when the kids have other ideas, measuring our child’s development against the achievements of other children, or juggling too many balls at the same time, to fit into a preconceived idea about how we think we ‘should’ be.
The best thing we can do for ourselves and our children, as parents, is to let it go, be present in the moment, and let life flow as it comes. In parenting, like many other areas of life, sometimes things just don’t go according to plan, but training ourselves to be in a state of allowing, assists with greater peace of mind and happiness amid the changing tides of life.
Take time out
Taking time out to recharge your ‘me’ batteries is one of the most important things that you can do as a parent, even if it is only for 10 minutes a day. Ideally this would mean that you find some time to be away from the children, but for many parents, this does not happen too often.
There’s an old Zen proverb that says, ‘Before enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water; after enlightenment, chopping wood, carrying water’. It recognises that as humans we often do not have the time to step away from our lives to find our peace, and so we learn how to incorporate it into our daily practices through mindfulness techniques.
Vietnamese Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that through mindfulness we can learn to live peacefully in the present moment. One of his practices is called Washing the Baby Buddha, and can be done while washing the dishes, at the sink, where a lot of parents frequently find themselves! The simple practice involves washing each item with love and reverence, placing each stroke of the cloth with mindfulness, as though washing the baby Buddha, which brings the mind back into a state of calm and balance. Try it next time you are washing the dishes and use whatever imagery that represents sacred to you to focus on being fully present with love and gratitude. This is just one simple way to find time to meditate when you’re a busy parent.