Mindful parenting : Acknowledging our own inner battles

I’ve just come back from a busy but wonderful weekend at a family wedding. It was a hectic few days chasing after a teething toddler with little time for my formal meditation practice. Today I got up early to do a few loving kindness practices and realised how wound up I have become. I started getting teary and felt this acute pain in my chest as I spent time with myself, for myself.

In one practice Tara Brach uses the words ‘at war with yourself’ which really resonated with me. I have been at war with myself recently – beating myself up with harsh words and expectations about the kind of mother I believe I should be. My toddler has been going through a ‘daddy phase’ where he pushes me away to be with daddy even if he has hurt himself. This hurts right down to my core and explains why the self compassion meditation affected me so much.

I sat with the pain today rather than trying to ignore it. I listened to the voice inside my head that wants to bully me telling me I’m not a good enough mother. I chose to spend more time with the pain with my hand on my heart, just letting it be and seeing what else surfaced. There was something much deeper – a sense of unworthiness right down in my core. A feeling that I am for some reason unworthy of true love. That’s when the tears came. That’s when I knew this daddy phase is particularly hard as my son pulling away from me triggers all sorts of pain built up from decades ago that I had buried.

Mindfulness is teaching me so much about myself. Just sitting with the pain, giving it some time, not trying to change the experience in any way helped it to gradually ease. As each tear fell I felt a sense of balance coming back. I know there is more pain to unearth so I intend to continue using self compassion practices to let it all out slowly and gently in my safe place.

When people used to say to me that parenting is a challenge I thought they meant handling the ever changing needs of children and the ‘wars’ that emerge between parent and child. Whilst I acknowledge this to be true, I realise now that a bigger challenge, possibly the biggest challenge I face as a parent is becoming fully aware of the war within myself. The internal battle that I have spent a lifetime fuelling. For if I can learn to make peace with myself (this is a lifetime’s work) I can gradually learn to parent more peacefully, handling the ‘wars’ with greater equanimity as I fully listen to my child’s heart, having also fully listened to my own.