These days it’s not enough to “just” be a parent. A lot of moms are trying to be “mindful” moms.
To be a mindful parent, you have to be present. This means doing everything in your power to enjoy each moment with your child — even when you’d rather scratch out your eyes than play the same mind-numbing game with your toddler again.
Mindful parenting is more than an irritating catchphrase thrown around by other well-meaning parents on the Internet. Mindful parenting was coined way back in 1997 when Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, but it didn’t become the hot new parenting craze until Dr. Kabat-Zinn re-released his book in 2009. The basics of mindful parenting are really quite simple — live fully in each moment with your child, let life unfold and remain emotionally present. (No pressure.)
These are all great ideas, in theory. Who wouldn’t want to be enraptured by everything their child does? But any parent who has spent a few good years with their offspring knows it’s really a trap. If you’re one of the two trillion parents* (*not an official estimate) who has tried mindful parenting, you’ve probably failed miserably. There are only so many hours you can spend gazing into your child’s eyes and smelling their hair.
Almost every parent would love to spend a peaceful afternoon with their devilish delightful little child, moving slowly through each moment, observing the world anew and teaching valuable lessons along the way. And then that precious child refuses to be satisfied with only one cookie, or Netflix times out, or you bring the blue cup instead of the red cup and everything goes to shit.
What even the most optimistic mindful parenting expert doesn’t account for is that 60 percent of the time* (*a totally made-up estimate that is probably true), kids are the worst. The other 40 percent of the time is when you actually feel like a great parent and those fuzzy feelings are supposed to get you through until your kid goes to college.
Unfortunately, the 10 Commandments of Mindful Parenting don’t exist because that would be too easy. But parenting experts have come up with plenty of mindfulness “guidelines” to get you started. Here’s what happens when you try to put mindful parenting tips into practice in the real world.
1. Stay in the moment
When that moment seems never ending because your ears are about to bleed after being assaulted by the screams of young children, it usually means you’re two hours into a road trip.
2. Manage your stress
Staying calm when your child asks you the same question for the tenth time in a row before you’ve had your morning coffee just earned you a new badge: Parenting Level, Expert.
3. Pay attention to your child’s feelings
I know you feel like you need to touch all the candy in the bowl at the doctor’s office before choosing one, but, please. Stop. It. Now.
4. Honor your child’s autonomy
You are your own independent person, capable of making healthy choices. But everyone still has to wear clothes to school.
5. Maintain emotional balance
Weather a few tantrums and you’ll finally figure out what every parenting guru has neglected to tell you: Kids, and especially toddlers, can smell fear. If you can respond to a meltdown without showing any emotion on your face, consider it a win.
6. Listen without judgment
It’s OK to talk openly about your emotions. I feel frustrated when you scream at the top of your lungs whenever I’m on the phone. How does that make you feel?
7. Accept everything with compassion
It’s the unwritten rule of parenting that kids only get sick on vacations and holidays. Maybe the universe is trying to tell you something — when life hands you lemons, you make vodka lemonade.
8. Just be
Just be in the moment. Just be aware that all these precious moments only happen once. Just be glad it’s nap time in 20 minutes.