IN HONOR OF MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH THIS MAY, WE WILL BE FEATURING GUEST BLOGGERS, EACH OF WHOM BRING THEIR OWN UNIQUE EXPERTISE AND PERSPECTIVE TO THE DISCUSSION. IT IS MY HOPE TO HELP EDUCATE AND NORMALIZE THE EXPERIENCES OF ALL MOMS.
Guest Blog Post: How to Capture More of Those Magical Parenting Moments
BY Amanda J. Zaidman, LCSW
A few years ago when my children were smaller I remember reading an amazing blog post about how sometimes in the middle of all the chaos and the insanity, you find yourself caught in a special moment of clarity and gratitude where time is suspended and all that remains is the connection between you and your child. So often when I was a new mom, I would either fake it and pretend that it was mostly “rosy”, or I would get caught up in the defeated feelings I had about how much harder it was then I thought it would be. When I read this post, though, I couldn’t believe it. It was as if the author could see into my heart. She knew that parenting wasn’t just black or white. She knew that even though I felt mostly overwhelmed and tired, every now and then (and sometimes only for a second) I was blown away by how much love I had for my children. It was those moments that kept me going.
I now know those times came when I was unconsciously practicing mindfulness in my parenting. Without even trying to, my overtired, unfocused brain would hone in on my children and the magic would happen. It felt like time stood still, and then it would be over just like that as I moved on to the next thing on my list. When our children are young there are so many things occupying our minds. Did I remember an extra diaper? Did I feed the dog? Is that a rash or just a smudge of food on her neck? Should my baby be sitting on her own by now? Why does my friends baby already say “mama”? How am I going to find time to get the ingredients to make dinner tonight? The lists cycling through a new parent’s brain never stop. And on top of that there is the lack of sleep that comes with raising small humans. It is no wonder that it is so hard to just be still and focus.
But if I could go back in time and talk to myself as a new mom, that is what I would try hardest to explain. Yes, all of the tasks and fears and insecurities that overwhelmed me were real, but they weren’t the most important thing. Because it does get easier and by the time you have a second child, or your first gets older, you realize that surviving those infant months is both possible and inevitable. But what you don’t get back are those special moments with your baby when everything clicks into place and the reason you took this leap into parenthood becomes clear.
The secret is mindfulness. I wish I had spent more time learning about mindfulness before my babies were born so that I could call forth those special moments whenever I needed a recharge. Now I know that the secret to the magic is slowing my breathing, clearing my mind, and letting my child be the only thing that exists for me in that moment. When you give yourself permission to take time to use each of your senses to explore your baby and your relationship with her, the experience fills your heart so much it almost hurts. And the amazing thing is that you can give yourself permission to do this anytime you want. Because the grocery list and the home made baby food and shower you need to take can wait. You can give yourself a second to connect with your baby, even if it’s as you watch her lie on her back across the room. You can stop and take in everything that moment has to offer.
The baby years are over in my family and still there are always daily tasks and new challenges keeping my mind occupied. But I have started making an effort to spend a few minutes each day to focus on my children. Without to-do lists. Without my cell phone out. Without multi-tasking. Because the lists will always be there, but those moments slip by fast.
Amanda Zaidman, LCSW is owner of Constructive Parenting, PLLC, in Charlotte, NC. She graduated from Duke University with a degree in psychology and from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill with a Masters in Social Work. Amanda is a parenting expert who works with parents to help them understand and respond to their children's frustrating behaviors so that their relationships with their children can flourish. Amanda is mother to a seven-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter.
Check Out Amanda's Work at: www.constructiveparenting.com
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