Finding The Ease Of Parenting
Hiya, friends. It’s me, Jesse here. I’m so honored to introduce a guest post written by a writer, artist & mother living in Spain with her family. I stumbled upon Asta’s work by luck. After devouring all of her inspiring blog posts from her website Wildish Wonder, then diving in to her instagram account where she shares her artistic journal entries (a must see) - I reached out and we quickly became fast friends! Without further ado, I have a feeling you’ll fall in love with Asta’s perspective on life and family as I have.
Finding The Ease In Parenting
Somewhere amidst pretending I am Frasier, the rabbit, who has to repeat the seemingly endless dialogue lines fed by my daughter, getting the wrong spoon AGAIN, and spending the whole night checking a little feverish forehead - I can feel it approaching. It’s the familiar heavy train of thoughts that starts with “this whole parenting deal is SO intense!”. Other similar thoughts rapidly join in and, the next thing I know, it feels like the train is about to derail itself. And yet - this might sound strangely radical - I feel like I am getting better at finding ease in parenting.
At the time when the social media is noisily exploding with chatter about the difficulties of parenting and experts’ advice on how to deal with them, it seems rebellious - or delirious, perhaps? - to go looking for ease in such an unlikely territory. The intensity and the challenges of parenting are quite evident, but what if our collective narratives and beliefs about these difficulties are what stops us from seeing the evidence of ease amidst it all? In other words, if everyone keeps insisting that something does not exist, we will most likely never choose to go looking for it. But what if it does exist, and we don’t even need to go anywhere to find it? What if ease simply comes into being the moment we decide to notice glimpses of it? What if we can observe it into being, create it?
I love that thought, so let me hold onto it while it lasts. 😃 In the meantime, here are my favourite rituals, tips, and tricks I play with my own mind to tap into ease.
Divert The Thought Train Early
So that train of thoughts mentioned earlier - it’s not always simple to stop it once it’s gained significant momentum, and we are already feeling overwhelmed. Therefore, the trick is to catch that first thought early, as soon as it appears on the horizon of our minds. For me it often means becoming aware of the subtle stages which tend to favour such thoughts - moments when I feel disconnected, impatient, bored or not playful. Simply noticing and observing these emotions, as if they were projected on a movie screen, often allows enough space to feel calmer and more at ease.
Connect With The Senses
Many of us spend our days living in our heads. The endless to-do-lists and appointments, the snippets of conversations constantly on replay, the worries. Throw in the complaints of someone upset that Frasier’s trousers won’t button up, and the mental noise can quickly reach its maximum limit. In moments like these, I find that connecting with my senses can do wonders. Closing the eyes for a second, and becoming aware of sounds, or smells around, or feeling the warmth of soapy water while washing those tiny toes. Even the smallest moments of connecting with our senses are moments when we step out of the mental noise and into a glimpse of simplicity and ease.
The Touch Of Gratitude
Speaking of connecting with the sense of touch, one of my favourite mindfulness practices is to become acutely focused on touch for a few minutes. To make the focus easier, I like to play a game of gratitude - where for a minute or two the rule is to express quietly or out loud why I am grateful to every single thing that I happen to touch during that time. A cup for holding my tea. A dried date for the explosion of sweetness on my tongue. A broken pencil for accompanying my daughter’s intense drawing session. A banana peel on its way to the garbage for the healthy nourishment. Etc. etc. In just a matter of seconds this practice even on the busiest day becomes nearly dance-like and is a beautiful way to enter the states of flow and ease.
Connect With The Body’s Rhythms
I often find that the quickest route to feeling disconnected from myself and overwhelmed by the demands of parenting is forgetting the natural rhythm of my own body. There are days when our bodies call for more rest and slowing down, and continuing to push through will usually only lead to more exhaustion and maybe even dis-ease. This is particularly relevant on days just before and during our menstrual cycles. While having a full day to rest might not be an option for most parents, finding even a few minutes for our own little ritual to honour the bodies right where they are at can work absolute magic. Whether it’s leaving those dishes unwashed and slowing down with a big cup of herbal tea or nipping out into the balcony after everyone is tucked in to soak up the moonlight, tuning into our bodies' rhythms helps us connect and be more patient with ourselves. And even a little bit of ease found within quickly becomes ease without.
Bring On The Pleasure
An amazing practice related to tuning into our bodies' rhythms is allowing ourselves to experience more pleasure. By all means plan those long massage sessions at the spa if you feel so inspired, but more pleasure doesn’t mean having to make big plans. It can be slathering on some home-made cacao butter and coconut oil moisturiser for a 2 minute self-massage (I also add in vanilla and rose essential oils into it and call it chocolate rose cream!). Or moving the body in any way that feels good - even if it’s just one happy song that makes your hips shake. Pretending to be a cat and stretching in ways that feel good. Walking barefoot if that’s your kind of thing. Taste of your favourite chocolate. Smelling their hair as they are about to sleep (I can’t be the only mom who does that!). We are all constantly immersed in a sea of the most delightful sights, sensations and experiences - becoming aware of that allows our bodies to soak it all up and release tensions we carry around.
Wink At The Mirror On The Wall
Yup, it’s that simple. Every time you pass by the mirror, make it a point to find something nice to say about the face you see. A compliment, an encouragement, a smile. Fall in love with what you see but also experiment and play with this reflection. Some might think it’s cheesy or vain, but I think it’s a fun way to feel good, so why not? I’ll share with you my little secret. As a stay-at-home mom I spent most of my days in fairly … schlumpy clothes - comfort first, right? But I have a small morning ritual of always putting on some mascara. What does mascara have to do with feeling more ease as a parent, you might ask? Not much maybe, but that quick wave with the mascara wand makes me feel a tiny bit more like the goddess I often forget I am. That split second of admiring my eyelashes in the mirror is also what stops me from lunging in to search for grey hairs, new lines or other evidence of tiredness. Wink and that train of thought is gone!
Are there any lists out there these days that do not include meditation as one of the points? Probably not. It is only in the last 10 months that I have taken my meditation practice more seriously. There are still days when I skip it, but those days serve as a perfect reminder why it is so much better to me and everyone around me that I don’t. Fifteen minutes (and I always set a timer to help the time-keeping part of my brain relax) of connecting with myself somehow magically enhances how I connect with others during the rest of the day. Giving ourselves time to observe our mind without any goal other than awareness carries the possibility of remaining aware even during those “wrong spoon” moments later in the day. Here is a lovely, wise and entertaining lecture by Mingyur Rinpoche in case you still need to be convinced how easy and conducive to finding ease meditation is.
Most people who take time to journal, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes to start or conclude their day, go on about how amazing and therapeutic it is. I won’t do that. But it is. Reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron convinced me that journaling as a daily practice creates wonders. It allows us to observe all those repetitive thoughts, actions that we keep postponing for too long, situations that no longer serve us. However, journaling doesn’t have to be reserved for dealing with hardships only. I often use writing time to play with affirmations, or to list thoughts that feel really good in that moment. Another one of my favorite journaling practices is self-soothing. I take a negative aspect or situation swirling around in my mind and write about it in a way I would soothe my best friend going through it, except that I write in first person. “I am doing the best I can” - “I am where I am” - “This is working out for the best”. Mastery of self-soothing means we become less critical of ourselves as parents as well as towards our partners or children.
Nurture The You Beyond The Parent
It might sound strange but one of the fastest routes to feeling at ease and content as a parent is making time and space to nurture all those yearnings outside of our parenting role. So find even the smallest ways to play with, create or express what wants to come out. It’s not your job to judge the quality of the outcome - just do it for the pure fun of the process. Do your thing - you know what your thing is! Mine at the moment are making paper collages and going out into nature with a witchy friend to have magical conversations over many cups of tea.
Make Space For Deep Connections
Becoming a parent profoundly changes us and our relationships with others. But sometimes holding onto happy memories can get in the way of creating new ones right where we are. So instead of longing for what was, the trick is to focus on everything we enjoy about the new way we relate (something that I often need to remind myself of). The other evening instead of watching TV my husband and I played one of the Q&A games for couples. It ended up being such a giggly night, and I found myself thinking about how he still smiles exactly the same way as he did on the day we met seven years ago. Whether it is a date at home with the partner, a long heart-felt call with a close family member or meeting up in a café with an old friend, nurturing these connections help us maintain the feeling of our village - that we belong, are supported and not alone in this journey of parenting.
Make The Time To Forget About Time
One of the reasons why we often find ourselves tense around kids is their complete “oblivion” to time. The less time we have before the next agenda point on our to-do list the more likely it is that this will be the precise moment they decide to turn into a snail. Yep, literally, on her stomach slowly slithering through the kitchen floor. And while we may not be able to cancel our adult lives completely, making time to join kids in their world, to slow down to their rhythm transforms how we relate to them, their experiences and feelings. So let’s take a moment to just quietly observe, to be curious about the 174th helicopter of the day passing by (I swear, there is always one just above our house!), or stoop down to check out that ant family.
Fast Forward The Difficult Times
Of course, there are times when tapping into ease is just… not easy. Big upset feelings, nights of fever, worries and fears about the future. My ritual in these moments is that whenever I catch a fearful thought related to the present situation, I immediately reach for an imaginary future scenario. It’s a detailed vision of all of us around a big table having a family meal together - my daughter is in her mid-twenties and is laughing her head off, she is glowing with wellbeing and contentment. Somehow replacing my fearful thought with this image always brings a moment of ease and hope that we will get through.
Revel In The Easy Moments
And then there are all those parenting moments that are SO absolutely easy, delightful, delicious, hilarious - everything that warms our hearts and makes our souls sing with happiness. Knee-height hugs, random kisses, tiny hands to hold, hilarious made-up songs, pillow talk, beaming with pride about their achievements and ours as parents. Milk them for all their worth! Revel in these moments, soak them up, enjoy them, pat yourself on the shoulder, high-five about them. This is the obvious evidence - there are so many moments of ease and flow in being a parent.
A friend of mine once quoted to me some guru about how having children is one of the most advanced spiritual routes towards enlightenment. The guru was probably right, and I am not saying its always easy being a parent. Simply, that to experience more ease, we have to become keener observers of its many forms. To make the decision to create it. To remember to tune into its clues. That, and in my case, to always get the WHITE spoon with the pumpkin soup!
Thank you so much, Asta!