All the qualities we admire in great parents—patience, humor, big-picture perspective, warmth and openness—are qualities mothers desperately need turned on themselves in order for our families to thrive. Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield says compassion that does not include the self is incomplete, but often in the chaotic day-to-day of mothering kids, refreshing ourselves or caring for our souls gets forgotten.
In my practice I often see moms who come to talk about their anger, irritation, or lack of joie de vivre. What a surprise when we take stock of her life and realize, "Ah! It is actually all too much for one person to carry!" The feelings of hopelessness and anger are normal human responses to a relentless experience of responding to impossible demands.
So what to do about it? One client said, "Great. I can't quit my job. I can't not care for my kids. What good does knowing that it's an impossible task do me?"
The answer is this: forgiveness, humor, joy and present-moment awareness flow when we stop fighting ourselves with thoughts like "I should be doing more! What's wrong with me? Why am I so crabby? Why do other moms seem so together?" and start surrendering to life and befriending ourselves in the struggle.
If your self-talk moves from the harshness above to, "Ok, little Mama, you've had a long day—you still have to feed everyone and get through dinner. What can you do to make it more fun for you? Let go of everything else and just breathe and be here."
I believe that once we stop undermining and fighting ourselves, we are capable of the tiny, exquisite changes that make life joyful. No one can tell you what these will be, they spring naturally from your unique self when you are in an open, creative space. One woman's pleasures are not going to work for another. But finding this connection to ease and fun will open up your heart.
I have found a lot of grace in practicing kindly and warmly asking my partner for more help, and in incorporating the idea of "catching my kids being good" and praising them through physical affection. I also try to write in my journal every day. These are some of the ways I mother myself. And I am becoming a better mother as I include myself in my family as someone who needs nurturing!
Here's to all the Mamas finding the Kind Mama voice for themselves, forgiving themselves for not being perfect, and reaching for everyday sweetness that makes life good.
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