Parenting with equanimity. Is it possible?
It’s easy to enjoy parenting when you’re riding the highs, but enduring the lows with equal enthusiasm might be one of the biggest challenges I face in my daily life as a parent.
There’s no shortage of parenting highs: Getting the giggles with our kids; watching them reach certain milestones; sharing their joy as they discover new things; seeing the sweetness of childhood friendships, to name a few. The extreme love our children give us in the currency of hugs, cuddles and kisses is incomparable. But there are also the lows: The public tantrums, the pushing of any and every boundary; the discovery of defiance; the stomach flu; the playground accidents, and much, much more.
Although I try to be equally as calm when my son runs to me after school with a giant bear hug than when he pouts and throws his snack back at me with an, “I Don’t. Want. That!” the reality is, I love a good hug. Hugs feel good. A bagel to the face? Not so much. And let’s be honest, if anyone else in my life threw food in my face with even a remote hint of the attitude I sometimes get from my kids, they would be persona non grata in my life. Period.
But, as I remind myself daily—and often numerous times a day—I am the adult. One of my responsibilities as a parent is to help my kids learn how to manage their emotions. Kids are continually hitting emotional milestones, especially in the early years, and we need to let them. They are often dealing with big emotions, they don’t always know how to communicate, and it is in these moments that they can learn how to express tiredness, hunger or how to let go of a difficult day in an emotionally healthy way. So I know that the way I model my emotional reactions teaches them a lot.
But damn it’s hard some days. I take a lot of deep breaths, read a lot of Andrea Nair’s posts, and try to pause my hard-wired instinctual knee-jerk reactions. I’m an emotional person. And while equanimity doesn’t mean suppressing emotions, it means acknowledging them, not getting stuck in them, and feeling these feelings without taking them out on other people. When I did my first yoga teacher training many years ago, our teachers used an analogy of the mind as a calm lake. Each challenge or emotional event is like a pebble or rock being thrown in the lake. These events cause ripples (let’s face it, some are more like waves than ripples), but the ripples will flow through the water, eventually slow down and the lake will resume its calmness again.
When the kids push my buttons, or break things during a temper tantrum, or fight with each other, or throw out attitude, I’m trying to look at these moments as ripples. I’m trying to let the ripples subside, and allow myself to become calm again, then deal with the situation. So, if you see me on the playground taking deep breaths, don’t worry, I’m just trying to gain some equanimity and keep my (often wave-filled) inner lake calm.
Do you have any tricks for parenting with equanimity?
Sometimes in a day of parenting you just need to strike a yoga pose. Here are five poses every mom should know. And if you're looking to slow down a little, perhaps you want to try your hand at meditation. My post on how to meditate is a great place to start.
As I traverse the path of motherhood, I am constantly reminded of the ways in which yoga has saved my sanity. There have been days when yogic breathing has pulled me back from the brink, and nights when I have relied upon the power of relaxation to get me through the bedtime shenanigans. For every posture I’ve practiced I could tell a thousand stories. Instead of boring you with tales of which poses helped me through which milestones, I’ve compiled a list of five yoga poses every mother of young children should have in her arsenal, and why.
This pose is to keep you strong, grounded and balanced. It will train you to remain powerful—yet seemingly open and at ease— when your kids are pushing the boundaries, when your calendar has no white space left, and when your house looks like a tornado hit it. Strike this pose to remind yourself that you are a warrior. You’ve got this.
This pose is to keep you flexible and open to the twists and curveballs that the parenthood throws at you. The seated twist helps you maintain a supple spine, as well as flexibility in the neck, chest and back. It also gives you the ability to rotate your neck and spine safely to break up any sibling fights that occur in the back seat of the car.
This pose is about flexibility, patience, and the breath. The single-legged forward bend trains you to be comfortable with what your body can do today and to use your breath to ease into the pose. Just as trying to force a child to hurry up and do [insert pretty much any task here] will inevitably have a negative result, trying to force yourself into this pose will only end in pain. So when you’re waiting on the children to get dressed, brush their teeth and get out the door in the morning, channel the patience and breath of the forward bend, and it might just save your sanity.
This pose is for refuelling your energy reserves and refreshing some much-needed mom resources. Think of child’s pose as the reset button on your computer, or as a little time-out for yourself. Not only does it relax your body, your mind, and help calm your central nervous system, but the physical position prevents you from seeing any of the chaos around you. So, when nuttiness ensues, tell the kids you’re just going to assume the child’s pose. Odds are, they might even join you for a few moments of peace.
This is the most important pose for any mom. It is the pose you practice to find complete stillness in your body. It might take your mind a while to stop moving, but by mastering savasana you will learn to take solace in the act of doing nothing except being and breathing. It’s a great pose to come into at the end of a busy day or, in more extreme moments, when your child is throwing a temper tantrum. Savasana is ideally practiced when you can take advantage of some quiet time alone, but—as I’ve learned from personal experience—it is entirely possible to become a master at striking savasana while your kids crawl all over you.
If you want to know more about savasana, here's the true meaning behind why it's called corpse pose. And if you're looking to take a yoga class at a local studio but have no idea where to start, I've got some tips on how to find the right yoga class.