Parenting and Zen, like the opposite poles of a magnet. While you try to bring the two together, they spring back stronger. No amount of books, online material or groups can bring your Zen to you. They can guide you, of course. It’s easy to say ‘do ABC and you would be on the path to find your parenting Zen’, but no one except you can make your Zen mode happen.
I love to quote my wise aunt who enlightened me about children. She said ‘if you think 3 month old babies are a pain, wait till they turn one’. She said this with the straightest face there is; because she meant it. Things improve, but relatively. I think what mainly improves is your capacity to tolerate, survive and excel in parenting.
The last few months have been extremely trying for me as a mother. Raising two kids under three with near zero help has been like trying to do one of those underwater dive things; you invariably resurface sooner than imagined to grab some air.
Between giving up several times over and starting again, I can say that I have seen my Mom Zen. Not attained it, but seen it. Like the ‘beacon of light’ at the end of the tunnel, I have seen how awesome I can be and life can be when that Zen mode is turned on. So, I think it’s only fair I share my ‘thoughts’ with you.
Firstly, I started looking for my Zen mode thanks to the book ‘Yell Less, Love More’. I picked it up at a time when I was at an all-time parenting low. I picked it up at a time when I really needed an anchor to keep me going and boy, has it helped! I am not a self-help books kind of person, but this book can really put things in perspective for you. Whether or not you take up and complete the 30 day challenge, reading each chapter through the month helped me immensely. I am no Orange Rhino yet, but I have seen that side and would love to become that mom one day.
So, here’s how I keep my Zen beacon glowing (most of it is about talking to yourself):
1. Look away. Distraction is the key. When something momentarily (mostly what your child is doing) bothers you, just distract yourself for a few minutes. Count to five if you have to, because suddenly the anger will fizzle and you would be able to apply logic and sense to the situation. This comes from someone who flips the lid at the drop of a hat. Yep, THAT transformational!
2. Ask yourself if it’s really that bad. ‘Lishaan don’t play in the water!’ I almost yelled third day in a row. Then I thought to myself ‘If he isn’t going to fall ill and if it manages to keep off my hair for about fifteen minutes, what harm does it do?’. So, I said instead ‘Lishaan, you get 15 minutes to play. Then we go inside.’ Fifteen minutes later, he bought five more minutes’ time and then promptly came inside. Yay! No free drama for the neighbours 😛
3. Is it them or is it you? This is my favourite takeaway from the ‘Yell Less, Love More’ book. 80% of the time, I was getting worked up with the kids because of something I had to do. I had an email to send, a message to reply or a row to knit. It really wasn’t them. When you give yourself a second to see who actually is the problem, there won’t be any stress.
4. Don’t say anything. Most of the time, Lishaan knew that he had gotten my attention when I repeatedly said ‘ Lishaann, no! Don’t do that!’. So I decided to get his attention instead. If your child is up to something you don’t want them to be doing and they KNOW they have your attention, don’t say a thing. Better still, walk away. My son immediately drops what he is doing and comes behind me asking me what has happened and why I wasn’t looking at him. Job done 😉
5. Be easy on yourself. Don’t work yourself up. No one is awarding you with a medal of Honor for brilliant parenting. EXCEPT, those little ones who are constantly watching you. What you do and don’t do reflects directly on them. For me, food, laundry, cleaning and work can wait if it means that the kids are getting what they want – a mother who is available and receptive to their needs and feelings.
6. Set aside cuddle time. With two kids, I can see jealously creeping in almost every waking hour. They both know I love them equally, but each one wants more of Amma than the other. So, I set aside time to cuddle up each one of them separately. We so group hugs and bed rolls, but 10 minutes with Lishaan when Isha is asleep and 10 minutes with Isha when Lishaan is napping does a great amount of good. Gosh, all the love hormones comes overflowing when we do these cuddle sessions can be such a stress buster!
7. Make good use of your ‘Me time’. As moms, our time is the first thing we compromise on. I realized that no ‘Me time’ meant a VERY cranky Amma. So, I got the husband to take the kids out/stay home with them while I got some real ‘Me time’. Try to get out. Dress up and move your butt, literally. Take up a class, go meet a friend, go get a coffee by yourself, go to the parlor. Do something that doesn’t have to do with your kids or your house. No grocery shopping! That’s so not me time!
8. Finally, express. Unless you say what you are going through, no one is going to know. Even if my husband doesn’t have the best solution available, I tell him what is bogging me down (to the grossest details) and it just feels so much better. Keeping things inside for long can have a huge volcano like effect on your emotions. Instead, constantly emptying your emo-bin helps you face the next day and the day after with better enthusiasm and energy.
I must admit that I do yell a lot less these days. So much so that even the husband and family see a stark difference in attitude. Brownie points for the number of times mid-toddler-tantrum I have told me husband ‘It’s okay Mama. Don’t react. He is just finding xxx difficult’ and my husband would give me this ‘Is that you talking?’ look ?
So, what do you think? Do these tips sound doable? Do you have suggestions that help you keep calm and carry on? Let me know, pretty please ?
Oh, and this list is bound to change as I discover better/easier/simpler ways to keep calm. So, keep checking!