“Parenting IS the Practice” – María Deza. Yoga & meditation teacher.
This was the most valuable piece of parenting advice I’ve ever given.
We were on a trip to Mexico visiting family and I was struggling. Our first born daughter was 6 months old and I was still not coping very well. I was still very overweight, still in my maternity clothes, breastfeeding around the clock and totally and utterly exhausted. Motherhood had broken me and I had no idea who I was anymore. This was thrown into even more stark relief when I returned to Mexico.
When I’d left Mexico 3 years previously I’d been part of a supportive yoga and Vipassana group led by my good friend María Deza. I had a strong yoga practice 3 or 4 times a week, meditated every day and regularly attended meditation retreats. I identified myself as a meditator & yogi and continued this when I came to live in Bristol.
During pregnancy I still meditated every day and made it on to the yoga mat regularly despite my ever increasing girth. Then Sophia arrived, and everything I thought about anything, was blown out of the water. Nevertheless, I naively signed up for post natal yoga for mummy & baby. That turned out to be an expensive way to sit & watch other mums do yoga, holding my baby who refused to lie down on the yoga mat. Also, the stress of trying to get myself and baby to a class at a particular time nearly killed me.
Back in Mexico, I insisted on going to my previous yoga classes, but it wasn’t the same. I was exhausted, my body felt as though I’d been run over and my gigantic boobs got in the way and were aching for release by the end of the class. I was heartbroken; if I didn’t have the practice then what did I have? María could see my struggle and one day gave me a Thai massage on my feet. She treated me with such kindness and compassion and gave me that piece of advice: Parenting IS the Practice. In that moment, I stopped the struggle, I put down the idea that I had, of who I had been and who I thought I should: the relief was immense. I realised that instead of thinking that yoga and meditation was the only path, I could make parenting the path instead for this stage of my life. Instead of trying to fit something else into my overwhelming daily life with a young baby, I could subtract things instead. Strip my life down to the bare bones in order to have the physical, mental and emotional space to cope.
This didn’t happen overnight, it’s been an ongoing daily practice for over 8 years now. It’s tough, wearing, exhausting and lonely at times. I can’t say I’ve mastered it and that I’m some sort of serene earth mother who floats through life. I am THAT mum who shouts the F word in the car park at swimming lessons upon discovering that my daughter has forgotten her swimming bag (this incident was gleefully reported back to my horrified mum by my youngest daughter). I am THAT mum who loses her shit in Tesco and screams “I just bought you the bloody jam doughnuts!” to her kids, much to the amusement of the counter staff. So, no, my life isn’t quite how I envisaged it when I was pregnant with our first…
And yet, when I’m aware enough and quiet enough in myself; I can drop down into myself, into my awareness and be with my daughters. This may only last for seconds or minutes but it’s the practice of returning to this awareness, this dropping in that has become strengthened over time and countless moments and allows me to be present and not lose my cool each and every time. So, when my youngest daughter has a melt down that her feet aren’t growing fast enough (?!) instead of brushing it aside or getting annoyed at the full on assault of my senses (screaming & crying at the volume that is guaranteed to make me lose it -how do kids get that pitch just right?!) I can identify my initial knee jerk reaction, stop it (because my joining in the shouting rarely helps) and instead drop into myself and just be with my daughter, cuddle her, reassure her, hold her and listen. Because at the end of the day, it’s ultimately never about the feet.
I’ve been prompted to write this after conversations with friends who have become new mothers. I can recognise myself in the aftermath of pregnancy, birth and early motherhood. There is the expectation that life should continue as normal after having a baby, as though the baby should just fit into the space it’s been allocated in your life that revolves around you. At least, that’s what I thought. So, it was a rude shock when our daughter entered our lives and insisted that our lives change completely to accommodate her. I can still vividly recall my sense of outrage at this.
I understand that what I’m talking about won’t suit everybody. I know there are so many different ways of dealing with parenthood and all are equally valid, in order to survive, you have to find out what works for you and your family. I’m just sharing my experience just in case it does resonate with someone , in the same way it became my life raft when I was a new mum. I use this simple phrase, “Parenting IS the Practice” almost as my mantra, to help me through the most difficult times and to help assuage the guilt I sometimes feel when I think I ought to be doing more, adding in yoga practice, meditation as a sitting practice, morning pages, daily rituals, the list can go on & on. I use it as a springboard to dive even deeper into the most ridiculously hard, exhausting, frustrating, beautiful, life affirming and soul filling experiences of my life so far.