Often as moms we end up getting a lot of unsolicited advice. This advice, although well intended, might conflict with our own instincts and intuition. I believe that as mothers, trusting our intuit has become an increasingly difficult thing to do. There is a lot of pressure today to be the “perfect” mom. We have this unrealistic image in our heads of this woman who always knows exactly what to say, what do to, who perfectly organizes and manages every detail of her family's life. In trying to live up to this idealized image in our heads, we often begin to lose who we truly are.
The reality, however, is that not only should we let go of the goal of perfectionism, but according to renowned author and professor, Jon Kabat-Zinn, “perfect is simply not relevant." He states that “what is important is that we be authentic, and that we honor our children and ourselves as best we can. Being present, paying attention, being true to yourself.” I believe that, if we let it, motherhood can become a spiritual journey. It is a practice that teaches and inspires us to look inward, and grow as individuals. Parenting mindfully means parenting consciously and with awareness of what the present moment requires. Mindful parenting helps us to be present and attuned to our child's inner world. In order to do this we need to become calm, balanced, and consistent with ourselves. One of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is their full attention and validation.
Two wonderful books that I highly recommend on this subject are Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Buddhism for Mothers: A calm approach to caring for yourself and your children by Sarah Napthali.
Both books do a superb job of showing us how to really enjoy and embrace ourselves in the process of parenting, and how to see our children for who they really are. In Everyday Blessings, Kabat-Zinn tells us to try to imagine the world from your child's point of view, purposefully letting go of your own. He asks us to do this for a few minutes everyday to remind ourselves who this child is and what he or she faces in the world. It is really such a simple exercise, but extremely powerful at the same time. It instantly evokes empathy and understanding which takes us out of our own heads, and brings us right back to the present moment. It helps us to see the difference between our expectations of our children, and who they really are.
In Buddhism for Mothers, Sarah Napthali teaches us how to be aware of any tension building up in our bodies, and how to consciously release it. An exercise that can take just a moment to do, but completely centers and energizes us. It is from this place that we can begin to trust our instincts and intuition. It is from this place that all you need to parent lovingly and successfully comes to you.
Jill Campbell, Psy.D. is a mother and a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in early child development.
Jill has worked with parents of infants and toddlers in private practice, and has also conducted workshops on a variety of child development topics for a group pediatric practice in Encino. She has been a guest speaker on different issues for preschools and moms clubs in the Los Angeles area, and currently leads mommy and me classes throughout the San Fernando Valley, including our very own Mothers' Gathering, which offers invaluable information, support & friendships for moms.
Dr. Campbell received her B.S. from Boston University in 1988, her M.A. from New York University in 1991, and her Psy.D. from Ryokan College in 1995. She completed her post-doctoral training at Cedars Sinai Early Childhood Center in Los Angeles and has received over 60 continuing ed credits in mindful meditation and spiritual psychology.