How Motherhood Drove Me to Meditate

Last Day of Vacation!
If you are new to this blog, welcome! I am on a brief vacation and have collected several guest posts to share while I am taking a break. They are all from different parts of the world. Yes world. People are yelling less and loving more from Montana, United States to Ireland to Mexico to Australia and more. Pretty powerful if you ask me. We are ALL in this together. Have a fantastic week and if you ever feel alone, know that somewhere in the world, literally, there is an Orange Rhino awake working hard too. All my best for a great week…I’ll be back online around July 8th! 

This guest post by Carla of Massachusetts, United States really spoke to me for one reason and one reason alone. It is kind of an embarrassing one but hey, it’s the truth. I can’t take deep breaths. Nope. I have tried and tried. My OB tried to help me through four deliveries when the epidural only worked 50%. My husband tries weekly to help me. I try to help me learn to take deep breaths. It just doesn’t come natural to me. In fact, I hate it when someone tells me to take a deep breath. That said, I read this post and thought “you know what? I REALLY need to try. I really need to try HARDER to take deep breaths because there could be really upside.” Thank you Carla for inspiring me! After I read this I tried taking a deep breath…with my kids doing it with me. It was a great start and calmed me down a bit in the moment.

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Several times each week, I sit down on a small maroon cushion in my daughters’ playroom and pay attention to my breathing for about twenty minutes. Every time my mind wanders, I try to come back to my breathing. Yep, I’m meditating.

Let’s be clear. I am not the meditating type. I talk fast and eat fast and few things give me as much of a thrill in life as checking tasks off my to-do list. I can’t be trusted with a TV or a pint of ice cream, and I’m not a fan of drum circles or patchouli.

I didn’t start meditating because I was searching for enlightenment or inner peace; my ambitions were more banal than that. I just wanted to stop yelling at my kids. I was never a yeller before I became a mother, but somehow the combination of fatigue and frustration resulted in me raising my voice far my often that I wanted to.

I felt terrible every time it happened—it’s just not how I wanted to treat my girls (ages 3 & 4.5). I would immediately apologize and we’d have a nice snuggle, but there are only so many times you can say you’re sorry without changing your behavior before your words become meaningless.

That was the last thing I wanted—literally—because if they wouldn’t listen to my words, then I would probably end up yelling even more.

I had to find a way to make a change. I talked to my therapist about it, and she had some great thoughts about why I was yelling (I grew up with two yelling parents, for example). That’s useful to know, but it didn’t actually help me stop. I read all sorts of books and blog posts (including many here on The Orange Rhino!) with really great tips and tricks for how to yell less, but my problem was that by the time I remembered to take a deep breath or count to ten or give myself a time-out in the bathroom, the deed was already done.

What I found, time and again, was that I had plenty of ideas about what I should be doing instead of yelling, but in the heat of moment, I wasn’t doing any of it. Instead I was snapping at my daughters and then feeling horrible about it and then getting annoyed at the girls again because I was in a bad mood. It was a terrible cycle, and I needed to find a way out of it. I needed to find a way to create space—space in my brain, in my frustration, in my response to my daughters when they were making me completely insane even if they were just behaving in ways that are perfectly normal for toddlers and preschoolers.

As I continued reading and researching, it became clear to me that meditation was the answer. This was not the answer I wanted. I wanted some fast and easy trick that I could do and move on. Meditation is like exercise; you have to get your butt off the couch and do it on a regular basis if you want to see the benefits. I definitely didn’t want something else like that on my plate.

The good news is that when I do meditate (and I won’t lie to you – I don’t get to it every day), especially for a few days in a row, I definitely notice the benefits. I’m calmer and more patient with my girls, and significantly less likely to yell. In fact, when I have been meditating, I hardly yell at all.

Every time I sit on my meditation cushion and pay attention to my breathing, I’m learning to tolerate boredom and frustration (and trust me, there are few things as frustrating than sitting still for half an hour at a time when the rest of your family is still snoozing in bed and you’ve got a to-do list a mile long racing through your brain), which means I’m less likely to get frustrated with my daughters once they wake up. I’m learning to pay attention to the little things, which means I’m more likely to notice when my girls are just starting to get hungry or tired so I can take care of things before we end up in a three-way meltdown.

And so, most mornings I get up early, stumble downstairs with sleep in my eyes, and do my best to stay awake so I don’t fall over. I focus on my breathing, and then about 3 seconds later, my mind wanders. I find myself thinking about taking out the garbage or an ex-boyfriend from high school or a blog post I should be writing. I go back to my breathing, and four seconds later I’m wondering if my favorite color is bright blue or turquoise. And then I breathe again. It’s boring, it’s frustrating, and I feel ridiculous sitting there as the cat keeps nudging me to pay attention to her.

In the end, it’s all worth it, though, because I’m yelling less.

If you’d like to learn how to get started with mindfulness meditation, check out this great article on ZenHabits or spend some time on Mindful.org.

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Carla Naumburg, PhD, is a mother, writer, and clinical social worker. She writes the Mindful Parenting blog for PsychCentral.com and is a contributing editor at Kveller.com. You can follow her writing on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “How Motherhood Drove Me to Meditate

  1. i have been meditating for about 15 years now, before and after kids… this post is spot on! we do need to create space in our brains to deal with all those little frustrations that life hands us.
    http://bickbits.com

  2. I am a flute player, majored in music therapy 13 years ago. Finding time to play has been a struggle the past few years but because I have to breathe to play I have always found playing to be my personal meditation. It relaxes me, I get to express myself, I’m IN the moment. Reading this was the first time I connected the deep breathing required to play to the relaxation I experience- I always thought it was just the “self-expression” part. Thanks for the reminder!!!

  3. When do you find the time to do this? I am a single mom and by the end of the day – I need more than meditation. :/

  4. Wow! This was really amazing! Even in the middle of reading this one of my children came in to tattle over an angry fight he and his sitter were having. I went in and had everyone focus on their breathing and trying to be calm. It worked wonders just in those few minutes. Now, I know that meditation and focused breathing is something you need to practice daily (like exercise), but this was an immediate satisfaction – makes me want to come back for more moment. Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. Thank you for writing this. I really struggle with yelling but, like you, I just find I can’t catch myself before it happens. Guilt and remorse after the fact aren’t enough. Thank you for sharing how you calm yourself outside of those really tough times. I’m definitely going to give meditation a go.

  6. I could have written this! I too struggle with meditation because it seems boring, and isn’t my to-do list more important? Actually, no. Thanks for the great tips and reminders!!!

  7. Wow, good for you! I was just thinking about how different my reactions to stress are as a wife and mother of three as compared to a single person. Night and day. I don’t meditate, per se, but I do practice mindfulness and have done a lot of visualizations (imagining a calm reaction instead of an over-the-top one). Making sure everyone (myself included) is fed, rested and hydrated has also been extremely helpful.

    Hatzlacha, and may you have much continued success!

  8. I started meditation and mindfulness recently because of many of the same things you mentioned above. I am a yeller and the noise my kids create, along with the noise I create both internally and externally have driven me to search for ways to “quiet the noise”. Two months ago I would never have imagined myself getting into either mindfulness or meditation but I did and it’s changing my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a yeller, but I’ve become much more aware of it by being “in the moment”. It’s when I’m not “in the moment”, often times thinking about something else, I find myself at the lowest level of tolerance and the height of my yelling. Here are my recent discoveries ANEVOA. com

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