The principles of mindfulness and self-compassion have completely transformed my life and the way I parent. The power of my own experience coupled with my clinical knowledge of psychology has motivated me to share the significance of these practices with other women.
I reflect back on the early months with my first born child and I can see now how critical I was of myself. Like many new mothers, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I read every sleep and parenting book I could get my hands on. Many people around me were following a particular sleep book so I felt that this is what I should do also. I became completely obsessed with this book and stuck to the routine like I was supposed to. However, my baby had a completely different timeline. He never slept for more than 30 minutes a day and continued to wake around the clock of a night. I doubted myself as a mother. I continuously beat myself up. What was I doing wrong? Why did this work for everyone else but not me?
I felt like I was failing myself but even worse, I felt like I was failing my baby.
I was not trusting my own mothering instincts, I thought everyone else knew better than me.
There were always certain triggers or soft spots that made me feel like I was failing as a mother. After the birth of my second child two years later, I knew I needed to stop being so critical and judgemental of myself. This was around the time I started implementing mindfulness and self-compassion into my daily life. The way that I view my parenting now, is completely different to what it was then, now 3 and half years ago.
I am now kind to myself when I make mistakes, when the kids won’t eat their dinner, when I have been awake with them all night, when we haven’t spent enough time outside, when I am dealing with a tantrum in the middle of a busy supermarket, when the house isn’t tidy, when the boys have watched too much television and of course the list could go on and on.
One practice that I incorporate into my parenting on a weekly basis is Dr Kristin Neff’s 5 minute self-compassion break. Dr Neff defines self-compassion as "extending compassion to one's self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure or general suffering". According to Dr Neff, self-compassion is made up of three components; kindness (vs self judgement), common humanity (vs isolation) and mindfulness (vs over-identification). Her 5 minute self-compassion break can be done any time of day or night. It is a great practice to implement during those moments when you are having a really difficult time and are criticising yourself because of this.
During difficult times, acknowledge to yourself the stress and emotional discomfort that you feel in your body. Now say to yourself –
1. This is a moment of suffering. This is really difficult for me right now.
2. Suffering is a part of life. I am not the only one going through this right now. We all have difficult moments.
Now, with your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle comfort that this gesture brings to you. This simple gesture, releases the feel good hormones of oxytocin, which as a result lowers the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
With your hand still on your heart, say to yourself:
3. May I be kind to myself. May I give myself the compassion I need right now. May I treat myself as I would a friend in this situation.
Bringing love and compassion to yourself during the difficult times, is going to make those hard moments so much more bearable. We often feel alone in our challenges, but in reality there is people all around us having difficult moments as well. The next time you are having a difficult time, try this 5 minute self-compassion break and see how it works for you.
Dr Kristin Neff has very valuable information and resources that can be found on her website: http://self-compassion.org/