mindful parenting--Jon Kabat-Zinn's book - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 18 Old 07-08-2002, 01:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Has anyone else read "Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting" by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn? It's a beautifully written book that talks about being fully present for our children, honoring the present moment, and cultivating awareness.

As I have been reading the book, I'm becoming deeply disappointed in myself as a parent and as a person. I'm sooo not present in each moment. I'm constantly thinking about the millions of little things that need to get done--laundry, bills, schoolwork, dishes, cleaning, etc. It hit me that I rarely just sit and enjoy my son's presence. If we're playing, I'm often folding laundry or trying to fix a meal or something at the same time. I know everyone does this to some extent, and I've always had very high expectations for myself. But I feel like it's gotten to the point that I feel constantly "on-the-job" and I even do the clock-watching thing, like I'll think "okay, only four more hours until he goes to bed." I feel horrible that I have that thought, but there it is. I feel numb, like a robot most of the time.

I'm wondering if you mamas could share ways that you have cultivated mindfulness as a parent. I guess I also just need to know that I'm not alone in these feelings.

Thanks!
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#2 of 18 Old 07-08-2002, 09:15 AM
 
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I haven't read or even heard of that book. But, I can relate to the feelings you are having. When Ben was an infant, I found it so easy to be in the moment with him. I could sit and gaze for hours, just holding him. But, as he has grown, my interests have grown as well. I too, find myself thinking of so many other things. I started my own business and while it has been wonderful for me, I know it has taken me away somewhat. I am also trying to organize our home. I am a flylady, so I the focus is on developing routines. I find myself thinking "okay, it's 2pm time to play and focus on Ben." Not good. Luckily, I haven't been very successful at keeping these routines.

One thing that I try to do is have a day a week that I total focus on Ben. I try to do something special, an outing, art projects, lots of extra reading. But, even on those days my mind starts to wander. It's hard to really focus on play train or legos all of the time. My mind wants to do more. So, I try to tell myself to relax. Sometimes I am the most in the moment when I am watching him play.

For many reasons, I think it is important for him to learn to play by himself. First of all, he is an only child and will remain that. Also, we are going into the foreign service and will be traveling to new countries every few years. And most importantly, I think there is a level of play that children can reach when adults aren't present. They can become totally immersed in a fantasy world for hours on end, where I can pretend for a short while, reality always come back. It's something we lose as we grow up, too bad. I like to help him set up the fantasy, and then step back and let his imagination take over. Then, I like to watch him play.

Don't be so hard on yourself. Feeling deeply disapointed in yourself is tough. . At least you are aware and that is the first step. I think those feelings are part of being a good parent. I know that from reading your post today, I will be more aware myself and make that effort to be in the moment with him. Today will be Mommy Monday. Thanks for reminding me.
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#3 of 18 Old 07-08-2002, 09:22 AM
 
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No, you're not alone at all!

I also read the book and found it a wonderful read, but left the book feeling the same way you did. I felt like I needed to "start over" with ds. It makes it even worse when I see my husband spend time with ds, and he can totally be "in the moment", enjoying everything about him. After reflecting on it for a while, I really think there are some gender issues going on here. As women, we *generally* think as multi-taskers...the house, the baby, the bills, the laundry, dinner! Arrghh! It is so much harder for us to slow down, and really be present.

The other issue is that SAHM's are on 24/7, while DH only sees DS for a few hours a day. It's MUCH easier to enjoy the moment when you only have a few with the child! I think we're also afraid to admit that sometimes, especially with a little one, staying at home *can* be boring at moments. Whenever I find myself "bored", that's when I try and remind myself to be present. to enjoy the quiet (or the noise!) of the babe. to be with him. and most importantly to breathe. Meditation (or whatever form of it I can do with a baby) and yoga have helped me tremendously to be present, even if its only for a few minutes before I run and do the laundry or whatever it is that needs to be done!

We're so prone to guilt...seriously, stop reading if you're feeling guilty as a result. It's not worth it! A good friend of mine, who's an amazing parent, told me this wonderful parenting advice: she says she wakes up every day, and her goal is to be a "good enough" parent.
wonderful!

Sorry if I rambled, or didn't really address what you posted! I'm distracted!

PS....just noticed you're a virgomama...me too! THAT is probably most of our "problem"!
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#4 of 18 Old 07-08-2002, 12:03 PM
 
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I really enjoyed that book as well and found it expanded on the idea of attachment parenting. I don't think there is anything wrong with thinking only four more hours til he goes to bed. You're only human! We all need a little time to ourselves. There certainly isn't enough time in a day to do everything one at a time and I think you can be mindful and in the moment when folding laundry while interacting with your child. For me it's just realizing that life is made up of moments and it's really neat when I become aware of the moment. It's something to strive for, noticing the feel of the clothes in my hands, how nice they smell, how good it makes me feel to be accomplishing the task and not grousing that there will be yet another load tomorrow. It's feeling the warm, fuzzy feeling of chatting with my dd or whatever, enjoying her "help". There's a certain satisfaction in seeing all those neat piles of folded clean clothes and knowing that is one way I am caring for myself and dd. And maybe it's raining or the sun is shining in a nice beam across my lap. To me it's like stepping outside myself and being an observer in a way and just noticing everything about what it means to be living my life just then. Now that's not to say that I never get aggravated that the tasks are seemingly endless, and goodness knows I'm very distractable and don't always pay close attention to dd (she's very good at reminding me of that fact, though!), but it's really cool when I do remember to pay attention and be in the moment. I agree that you shouldn't be too hard on yourself, you sound like a great mama! I say just think of it as food for thought and try it on for size.

SMC to Sophia, age 15, and Eleanor, age 9, and mother hen to too many nursing students to count!

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#5 of 18 Old 07-08-2002, 12:13 PM
 
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I love that book and open it up randomly for inspiration.

I didnt get any guilt feelings about myself as a parent reading it. I think everyday is a new day and you strive to be present and do the best. Right now we are struggling to be present because a friend was killed in an accident this weekend and dd can feel we are distracted. Life presents these things and you have to still strive to stay present to the people who need you, namely your children.
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#6 of 18 Old 07-08-2002, 12:15 PM
 
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Thanks for the head's up! Can't wait to read it. I love Kabat-Zinn.
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#7 of 18 Old 07-08-2002, 12:49 PM
 
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I think you have to be mindful of the fact that keeping bedtime in mind means you are thinking of your own needs as well as those of your child. It IS a full time job, and there's nothing wrong with wanting to clock out for an hour of down time before bed!! We are human, and in our 'weaker' moments I think we all dream of the baby going to sleep and leaving us with a few free hours. Even as I have thoughts like that, I know that I will wake up in a few hours to nurse him and love his little body cuddled against mine.
Don't be disappointed in yourself. The fact that you take the time to read such a book and want to incorporate such loving ideals tells me that you are an ever-chaging, ever-evolving mother striving to give your child the best you can give. That's something to be proud of.
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#8 of 18 Old 07-08-2002, 03:54 PM
 
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I read the book and I loved it. I got it from the library and wished I would have purchased it instead.

I have an 11 mo old as well as a 17 year old, so the parts about parenting teenagers and young adults were really helpful to me, too.

It's on my birthday and Christmas lists so that I can have a copy to refer to on occassion.

I really liked the pledge at the back (kind of an affirmation thing, if I remember right) about parenting.
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#9 of 18 Old 07-08-2002, 04:21 PM
 
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I think for those of us that feel guilty that we arent always present in our parenting it is important to remember that mindfulness is SEEING,
It is not trying to be perfect at all times.
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#10 of 18 Old 07-08-2002, 04:55 PM
 
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I am now very interested in reading this book. I hope it doesn't make me feel too guilty. I am prone to having very idealistic views of my role as a mom. But, I definetly am interested after reading your posts.

I too am seeking in the moment experiences and try to find this place while doing some of the mundane tasks around the house. I try to notice the texture of the clothes I am folding, the shine of the mirror I am polishing. I really dislike housecleaning and do well if I can find a intrinsic value for things. I find I am most in the moment with Ben when he is nursing. He is 3 and I know that while he seems to nurse a lot, this time will pass before I know it. I treasure each time, if only for a second.

About dh, I asked him about this before my first reply. He also feels he is usually in the moment when he is with our son. He felt it was because he gets so little time with him that he really focuses on what they are doing together, most of the time. He also understood how it could be different for a SAHM who is at least physically present at "work" all the time. His job, he is able to leave at the office, where my job is always around me.

I will be looking for this book. Thanks for this thread, it has me thinking.
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#11 of 18 Old 07-08-2002, 05:04 PM
 
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Hi virgomama,
I really enjoyed everyday blessings too - but i was left wondering "how do i do this??" - mindfulness sounded great but i needed some really concrete tips on how to get going. He wrote another book called "wherever you go there you are" that i really liked and also "it's easier than you think" by Sylvia Boorstein. Good luck!
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#12 of 18 Old 07-08-2002, 10:33 PM
 
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I haven't read the book (yet), but may I offer another perspective? I feel that I do an excellent job of being in the moment with ds. Now he is still an infant (9 mos), so I don't think I've reached the bored stage yet -- in fact, I find just caring for him to be so challenging and time consuming that right now I can't imagine being bored! (lonely, yes, but not bored) I spend my day playing with him, napping with him, eating with him, etc., and at the end of the day, my house is a DISASTER -- breakfast dishes unwashed, dirty clothes on bathroom floor -- you get the picture.

Since I am a virgo-mama too, THIS is where I get my guilt! I feel completely inadequate as a housewife, and I do feel that it's only fair for me to do SOME of the chores so my WONDERFUL dh doesn't have to spend his evening picking up after us.

So there you go: I am fully present with my precious babe, but I feel like a domestic failure. Which is why I say it's all about balance.

Especially for we perfectionists, and boy does it sound like there's a lot of us!

To end on a positive note, thank you, virgomama for starting this thread . . . I will think of you all tomorrow and will be happy with myself for enjoying my little one. And I'll try not to feel guilty when dh trips over the toys as he walks in the door at the end of the day!
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#13 of 18 Old 07-10-2002, 10:56 PM
 
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Okay, OT, but I just wanted to say, I love the name Eleanor, if I have a girl, that will be her name!

SMC to Sophia, age 15, and Eleanor, age 9, and mother hen to too many nursing students to count!

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#14 of 18 Old 07-11-2002, 02:45 AM
 
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It sounds like a good read ...

DH and I have discussed this, about how the children bond so intensely with their grandparents, and it is because they are retired, virtually carefree, and live their lives "in the moment." And watching them with our kids is a lesson in in-the-momentness. And as parents we can't do that naturally, just because we're still tied to other responsibilities and things that have to be dealt with on the material level.

I mean, sure, we can do it occasionally and for small chunks of time, but not with the intensity that my parents manage, for hours, days ... you get the point.

Thanks for posting this book info, now I have to go find it ...

- Amy
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#15 of 18 Old 07-13-2002, 11:52 PM
 
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It is a wonderful book, but I can see how it could be guilt inducing. I think being fully present also means understanding that you do have other responsibilities (whether they are working outside your home, being a SAHM and everything that goes with it, or some combination thereof). Mothers make the world go 'round! And part of being present for your family is divining for yourself what you really need to do and what you can let go of. So many things take care of themselves when you leave them alone. What needs to get done, you just gotta do. Sometimes I try to remind myself that everything that I do to take care of my family is part of the way that I express my love for them (okay, so it does not always work when it comes to cleaning up bathroom accidents or the 433rd juice spill of the week, but I am trying). I am definitely somewhat of a typeA personality, but lately I have been getting real pleasure out of spending time with my kids. I mean not doing laundry with them nearby, but really being with them. Maybe it was the birth of dd3 (child no 4) that forced me to slow down. WHo knows. But it is very delicious.
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#16 of 18 Old 07-14-2002, 08:16 PM
 
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I really love that book, too -- the Kabat-Zinns are going to be at Kripalu Center in Lenox, Massachusetts some time this summer, along with some other folks whose specialty is mindful parenting. Wish I could go, but having an infant at home won't allow a full week away.

Anyway, I wanted to point out something I've been learning about mindfulness over the past several years. I, too, get to feeling guilty -- and not just about parenting (I've only been at that for five months), but about meditation and witness consciousness in general. I'm always thinking I'm doing things wrong. But the fascinating thing about mindfulness is that in fact, it doesn't require doing anything one way or the other -- it's just being a witness to what is. If you're feeling guilty, then being mindful is just stopping and saying to yourself, "I am feeling guilty right now -- breathe in, breathe out....." It doesn't require changing anything at all. Of course once we become truly mindful of something WITHOUT JUDGMENT (that's the key), we sometimes want to change it, which is fine -- but "being in the moment" doesn't necessarily mean acting like a completely grounded, relaxed mom who is totally focused on her child. It just means noticing. This seems simple, but I've been working this concept for years and I still forget....
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#17 of 18 Old 07-16-2002, 01:33 PM
 
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Thanks for telling me about this book, I just got it and absolutely love it so far. Mindfulness is something i have been working on anyways, and I was hungry for a book that addressed this specifically in regard to parenting.
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#18 of 18 Old 07-18-2002, 01:33 AM
 
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I also loved this book--both for learning about mindfulness and also for the concept of sovereignty it illustrates so well. Remembering that each person craves sovereignty helps me honor my ds as a full human being.

In the struggle to remain mindful with my child while juggling multiple tasks, I often find it helps to include ds in my household chores. When he joins me in sorting or folding laundry, unloading the dishwasher, getting out dishes for a meal or snack, etc., those tasks become slower and more sacred. I love to watch his total concentration trying to line up the corners of a washcloth or napkin. He is eager to master the things grown-ups do, and this way I am neither bored nor pulled in two directions. He has recently decided that loading the washer is kind of boring, and I feel sad when he turns down my invitation--nothing brings joy to a laundry moment like a toddler trying to move his body just like the washing machine!

I want to find more dinner recipes he can help with, because that's a time of day when I am always putting him off--plus missing out on the joy of cooking mindfully. When he and I cook together he brings me back to the moment and we both benefit. I offer him things to feel and smell and taste, and notice how he uses his body to stir and pour and rinse. A child can be a great focuser of our "mindful eye."

As grown-ups, I think we should not feel guilty if we find it easier to be mindful doing grown-up things than playing with legos. If you want to increase the time you spend mindfully with your child, try finding ways to include him/her in the things that you can more easily be mindful about. When you can be fully present for floor time/toy time/music time, go for it--but when you get bored, be compassionate with yourself. Notice, and breathe, and try to return to the moment. If you keep being pulled away, maybe it's time to invite dc to join in one of the activities that's pulling you.

Cool thread!

-Sue

SAHM to ds 11/99
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