Choosing your reactions just takes a little mindfulness.
Not long ago, parenthood was driving me up the wall. Whining would wear away at my sanity and the unrelenting mess was a source of constant ire. More often than not, I would find myself yelling at my kids, and subsequently feel like I was completely failing as a parent. I didn’t seem capable of getting a grip on my emotions. No matter how many times I resolved to not yell, it still happened almost daily.
Beyond the problem of being angry and reaching my wit’s end, I couldn’t predict when these outbursts were going to happen. I never meant to yell. I never saw it coming. I would think I was handling a situation well then suddenly the anger would bubble to the surface with unexpected gusto.
When I confided in a friend about my yelling and the level of wear I felt in my day-to-day parenting, she assured me that she had been there—that she was still there, but with one noticeable difference. She had managed to curb the yelling with meditation.
She invited me to join her in a meditation challenge she was undertaking the next month, working up from five-minute- to 30-minute sessions of guided meditation over 30 days. The thought of meditating for 30 minutes seemed completely out of the question for me, but I figured I could at least start. Five minutes? That I could try.
To be honest, I didn’t expect it to change much in my parenting. I was looking more for the escape of doing something for myself, and the feeling of connectivity I would gain from doing it alongside a friend. The first few times, it was nearly impossible to quiet my mind, so I figured it was a bust—not to mention my kids interrupted me five out of seven times. But as I reached the end of my first week, I noticed something pretty extraordinary: I was yelling a lot less.
I didn’t completely stop. It wasn’t an absolute miracle, but it was an improvement—one which, quite frankly, I wasn’t expecting. I became more present throughout the day, and more aware of the warning signs that I was reaching my mental limit so I could remove myself to cool down instead of blowing up at my kids without any advance notice.
Even though my mindfulness practice was far from perfect (and still is), the results made it worthwhile. Nowadays, I try to set aside time when I know I won’t be interrupted by my kids, but if I can’t, I don’t sweat it. I’ve learned that even the times when I don’t get through my meditation without someone tugging on my sleeve asking me what I’m doing, or why, that working through the distraction is worth it. Even on my less-than-stellar parenting days, I feel confident I’d be doing far worse if it wasn’t for finding those quiet moments to practice being present.
I’ve even started getting my kids on board, trying simple meditation exercises with them. [Editor’s Note: Headspace actually has several different meditations for kids, including Focus, Calm, and the ever elusive Sleep.] Meditation as a whole has been a practice of letting go of my expectations and notions about what it should be, and accepting my practice for what it is: messy, imperfect, and exactly what I need.
The author of this post is an editorial contributor to Headspace. These are their views, experiences and results and theirs alone. This contributor was paid for their writing.