The pressure on parents is actually insane. I’m serious.
Overwhelmed? Yeah, You and Everyone Else
If you have kids and are completely stretched beyond your limit often, as in every-other-minute-often, you’re not abnormal. It’s a lot. And as if it wasn’t hard enough to take care of ourselves in a healthy, consistent, responsible, mentally stable kinda-way, now we have all of that, PLUS additional micro-humans to care for constantly. Micro-humans who cannot be trusted with a fork, let alone trusted to understand that we need things too- like a break occasionally, or a trip to the bathroom without needy little fingers and/or a curious eyeball peeking underneath the space between the closed door and the floor. But that’s not all. Oh-em-gee, THE JUDGEMENT that is tied to being a parent today is just paralyzing. If you formula-feed your baby, you’re lazy, clearly don’t possess maternal qualities, and probably should’ve bought a parakeet instead. If you breastfeed in public, you’re scarring every young male that sees you for life and is destining each one to a lifetime of debilitating porn addiction. If you vaccinate your kids, you’re letting Big Pharma inject cancer and autism into your precious babies for their corporate financial gain. Giving your child’s losing team a trophy will certainly make him entitled and he will be smoking a Juul by the time he is twelve. Don’t let your kids’ schools teach about global warming, but if you do, make sure your children know it’s caused by the parents who use disposable diapers and plastic straws. You get the point. It’s honestly maddening. So that’s why I hate to add one more “to-do” of never-ending, confusing parenting “do’s and don’ts” into the universe. But I have to, I really do.
Practice Makes Perfectly Imperfect
Here goes: if you’re a parent, especially a mom, and even more especially a stay-at-home-mom, and you’re not practicing yoga, you’re doing it wrong. Very, very wrong.
What better way to find softness while living in a relentless state of being overwhelmed and under-slept than to spend an hour hanging out with your soul? An hour of concentrated peaceful self-love that includes a nap at the end?! Sign me up.
There’s just no better bang for your buck as far as sanity replenishment goes. I’ve been teaching yoga for a few years now, and regardless of what format I am guiding, I always begin the first few minutes of class in total silence. Even for me the instructor, those first moments, after a day that was surely bat-shit crazy, feel like a warm hug. Before I discovered my practice, as a stay-at-home-mom, my kids would run me ragged from before sunrise to after sunset and during all hours of the night. I kept active and worked out, but did psycho workouts like cardio kickboxing and spin classes. My body was in shape but my mind was absolutely, hopelessly, horrifically frazzled. I was checking off all the boxes, or so I thought, but something was missing. It wasn’t until I immersed myself in yoga that I realized that what I was yearning for was connection. Connection to my breath, my soul, and my body in a way that was dynamic, ever-evolving, and liberating as hell.
Get Lost in Space
How can we be available to our children if we are not available to our children? The only way to find the space needed to function, especially while being continuously pummeled by the intensity of parenthood, is to have space in general. It begins with the breath. It’s so simple. Not easy, but simple. Our minds become so entangled with the knots that life tie that things become foggy, our judgment becomes skewed, and we’re not doing anyone any justice, especially our children. It truly starts with just noticing that you are alive, that you are actually here in the present moment even if your brain may be tricking you into thinking otherwise, and the easiest way to do that is to notice your inhales and exhales. In time, that awareness can be linked to movement, which is a whole new level of magical, and in even more time, you may even be able to achieve the most advanced tier of yoga yet, which is really, really hard but really, really effective. No, it’s not a one handed-handstand with full lotus legs. It’s where you literally just sit quietly with your eyes closed and confront the depths of yourself. It’s called meditation, and that’s actually the goal. All of that movement and life-changing breaking-of-habits and sweating and growing and learning to just attain the ability to stand yourself for long enough to just… sit. It’s wild.
Self-Care at its Finest
Parents, and stay-at-home parents, in particular, don’t have much choice but to givegivegivegivegivegivegive, it’s the nature of the job. Sure, there are special moments with your children, moments that make your heart feel like it very well might explode right out of your chest, but those moments are fleeting and tantrums and poop-filled diapers tend to demand a higher percentage of your attention. It can be so consuming. What yoga teaches is self-care, but in a different way. Sure, a consistent yoga practice will make you strong, leaner, and more flexible, but its real value comes in learning how to observe. As parents, our plans are consistently thwarted and frustration likely ensues. Say your toddler scribbles all over your new dining room table with a Sharpie, or you find out your teenager ditches school and goes to the mall instead. Now, imagine you have the capability, first, to not react, but to observe. Take a breath. Even for just a moment or two. Think of all the extra damage that could be avoided by taking just a second instead of flying off the handle immediately. Think of how much more effective we could be as parents if we constantly honed the tool of awareness and perspective. THAT is self-care, knowing that your reactions have ramifications, and putting the work in to make sure you are setting you and your family up for success later. And, that’s what you learn on your mat and why I’m urging parents everywhere to give it a go. Maybe selfishly because I know that more mindfulness will result in a better world, a world with less judgment about how much Cookie Crisp my son eats, but also I see it. I see the disheveled mom who runs into class two minutes late using her preschooler’s sippy cup as a water bottle because probably nothing else was clean, and I see how her soul soaks up the opportunity to just “be”. I know for myself that when all the things that I am most grateful for start to feel like the things I am least grateful for, my soul is getting dehydrated and I need a quenching round-house kick to the third eye via yoga, especially with an instructor who gets it- there are a lot who don’t, but that’s a topic for another time.
Yoga for the People. Especially You.
So, whether or not you co-sleep, use pacifiers, or keep your kids in their rear-facing car seats until they’re eleventeen, it doesn’t matter. This is my plea, go to yoga. Take a class. Try a video at home. Step that beautiful, unique body onto your mat and begin the lifelong journey of getting to know yourself. Because while stretching is encouraged, the goal is to bend, not break.