When my son was 10 months old, he already had 8 front teeth and an appetite to
match. Without molars, however, he could literally bite off more than he could chew.
Nevertheless, anything that neared our mouths was exactly what he wanted.
One afternoon, at a bistro with my mom, that anything was a hunk of baguette. Just
two weeks before, this was a safe-ish thing to give him. He sucked more than
gnawed at it and lacked the strength to tear off pieces he couldn’t manage. This day,
however, was different.
As I sat there watching him, he tore off a large piece of baguette that immediately
lodged, unchewed, in the back of his throat, nearly choking him. The first time this
happened (yes, it happened more than once) I freaked, bolted out of my seat,
reached into his mouth, and pulled out the offending piece. But it didn’t occur to me
to take away the rest of the baguette because this would upset him.
This near-choking scenario happened twice more before I realized, this is actually
happening now and you have to deal with it, and BTW: alive, crying baby > not alive,
not crying baby.
This was not the first time my brain had failed to catch up with what was actually
unfolding before me and it wouldn’t be the last, but even as I couldn’t see that
things were changing at the speed of light, I could see that I couldn’t see it. This
I credit to my meditation practice.
That might not sound like much, but it is and here’s why: working with my mind and
what it can and cannot hold is, in and of itself, a form of working with what is, and
that is – or at least should be – the goal of motherhood, if not humanhood. Often (but
not always) seeing yourself as you struggle to catch up with reality serves as a
precursor to finally catching up, to recognizing what’s happening in any given
moment and responding skillfully. Within a few days of the bad bistro baguette
situation, I was much more attuned to this period of rapid-fire change my son was
experiencing, in all of its chaotic joyousness.
Meditation does a lot more for moms than helping them to see what they might
prefer not to. Here are just a few benefits I’ve noticed in the last 15 months:
Patience, patience, patience – Meditation enhances our sensitivity to the tiny little
gap between something happening and our reaction to it. In that space, we can more
thoughtfully consider what is needed in the moment. What is the effect of losing my
temper and yelling? What are the consequences of inaction? What do I do if I don’t
know what to do? With this space, we can choose to respond with gentleness and
compassion, towards our kids, our partners, and ourselves.
Find magic in the mess – With so much to do and such little time to do it,
motherhood can feel like an endless string of tasks from morning to night, with little
islands of joy, sorrow, and frustration in between. With the awareness and presence
cultivated by practicing meditation, the day can become less about the “to do” list
and more about the “to be” list, i.e., playful, encouraging, affectionate, and most of all:
there. And though there might still be tumbleweeds of cat hair in the corners at the
end of the day, somehow the day feels more satisfying when I’ve shown up in this way.
Rediscover your sense of humor – Ever hear a hilarious parenting story after the
fact and wonder if it was quite so funny at the moment? When I peed standing up in
my living room at 3 weeks postpartum because I had no control of any body part
below the waist and had been trapped for nearly an hour under a breastfeeding
infant, it was decidedly not funny. I was worn out physically and emotionally and
just couldn’t contact my sense of humor. As I recovered, though, and with the help of
my meditation practice, I see the hilarity of so many situations with my son that
probably would have just caused frustration or despair otherwise. Stand-offs at the
dinner table, diaper changing that feels more like bronco wrangling, and intentional
farting in the bathtub that occasionally leads to poop fishing are just a few of the
comedic aspects of my daily life that are funny as they occur, not just in the after-
Drink less of “mommy’s special juice” – Speaking of those parenting stories, how
many are told with a glass of wine in hand. Not that there’s anything wrong with
that, but with wine labels like “the babysitter cancelled,” it’s no secret that many
moms look forward to unwinding with wine (or whatever substance of choice)
because of the stress associated with parenting. Learning to stay with your
experience through meditation increases your tolerance for discomfort. And when
you can basically relax with it all, there’s less of a separation between parenting
time and wine o’clock.
Feel less alone – Motherhood is an experience that is at once universal and yet so
isolating. I myself have struggled to find a community of moms that isn’t a kvetch-
fest or the cult of “everything’s fine.” I’m convinced it’s somewhere in the middle of
these two that the truth lies. Though I often feel lonely on this path, meditation has
expanded my sense of compassion for other moms going through this experience,
even increasing my feeling of connection to those directly surrounding me and those
I don’t know, far and wide. Whether it’s the smile I share with another mom pushing
a bucket swing for the 200th time or the look of understanding I give or get from the
frazzled mom in the elevator, it warms my heart and reminds me I’m not alone.
This post originally appeared on Susan Piver’s blog on December 19, 2016.
For more information about the Open Heart Project Mommy Sangha, click here.