As I navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of motherhood, I am often looking for a place of both contentment and stability. I often wonder, how can I push myself to be a better mom while at the same time letting go and enjoying peace with the way things are? In my experience, the practice of yoga has been both freeing and grounding.
While children bring endless love and joy, they also present us with some life’s toughest challenges. They test our patience, require boundless energy and severely limit our personal space (wait, what’s that again?). They are often to blame for our groggy heads, tired arms and empty wallets, but we love them more than life itself — they are our babies after all. To say this parenting jam is easy would be the biggest lie ever told. It feels like a never-ending test, one we are not always on the winning side of, no matter how hard we try. In fact, if you’re not interested in failing and failing often, you’re surely in the wrong game. It’s just par for the course in these digs.
I understand the pressure quite well. As soon as my daughter was born, I wanted to be present for her. It was like I had my arms filled with mounds of junk and dropped it all at once, just let it all fall in a flash to be her mother. Everything else was trivial. I had never wanted to do something so well, so seamlessly, before in my life. No doubt this is true for many parents because the stakes are high. We know there is more value in our time, our efforts and our words than there has ever been. We are suddenly in demand, needed on a minute-by-minute basis. So, we try and we stress and we have to remind ourselves to stop and smell the daisies.
We put in so much as parents. We lay it all on the line, give our bodies, our minds and our hearts all to someone else. We must find a place to release and we must do so often. We must also make space for ourselves somewhere in the messiness of parenting — but how?
In my yoga classes, one of my favorite concepts to share with my students is called sukkha-stira. Sukkha refers to effort and stira, ease. As I instruct students to find sukkha-stira, what I’m referring to is a kind of balance. There is labor, but also a place of contentment and release within the pose. Finding this place, both on and off the mat, is what took my yoga practice to a new level and what called me to teach. Know that parenting is not all about our efforts — that sometimes it is merely about the joy, the simplicity, the ease.
You have to remember that you can’t be everything to everyone all of the time and there are things that you simply can’t control. Do what you can and let go of the rest. Life will go on if you have a bad day or things so awry. What’s far more influential than our failures is our ability to bounce back. You are allowed to let it all fall apart sometimes. I promise, nothing will break and if it does, there’s always duct tape.
We all have self-doubt, especially when it comes to parenting. We can’t always see just how valuable we are to our kids. If we knew how much they loved us, just wanted to be close to us (okay, on top of us), we’d just be smiling from ear-to-ear all of the time. But, it gets foggy sometimes and hard to recognize through the tears and the screaming and the crying tantrums when minutes feel like hours. Know that you are exactly the parent your child needs you to be already. No doubt, they already believe this to be true.
It’s okay because according to yogic philosophy, you are completely perfect in your imperfections. When you do wrong, lose your temper or are quick with your actions or your words, apologize and then rid yourself of the guilt. Children need to hear that their parents are not perfect and they should hear it often. They will be more likely to apologize themselves later in life if they realize mistakes are a normal and healthy part of life. So admit your faults, but don’t worry too much about them. There will be lots, lots, lots more where they came from and besides, they make you who you are.
Sometimes we get hung up on always having the answers, but most times our kids need something else — our simple presence. When you don’t have all of the answers, know that it’s okay to just listen and listen well. Being present, not worrying about what to say or do, but just being there is often enough.
When we become tense our breath becomes rapid and shallow. When all else fails, remember to breathe. The power of slow, deep breathing is a healing and beautiful act. Sometimes the first step to finding that contentment is to simply follow the breath.
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