When I first learned about mindfulness, I imagined myself with a shaved head, handing out flowers in an airport. Seeing as how I have a serious aversion to drum circles and incense, I immediately wrote the whole thing off.
Boy, was I wrong.
So, before I jump into the details of mindful parenting, it seems important to clarify just precisely what mindfulness is, what it isn’t, and why it’s important. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m still learning about all of this myself, so please feel free to share your thoughts or questions.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a leader in the contemporary mindfulness movement, mindfulness means “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” There are a number of different aspects to this definition worth exploring briefly. (I highly recommend Kabat-Zinn’s book, Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment–and Your Life for those interested in additional reading.) Rather than just acknowledging what you are doing (whether that’s eating dinner, playing with the kids, or folding the laundry) and then letting your mind wander, mindfulness is about consciously choosing to focus your attention to whatever you are doing, while you are doing it. Your thoughts will drift, you will inevitably find yourself ruminating about something that happened earlier in the day or worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet. The point of mindfulness practice is to notice when your thoughts wander, be ok with that, and then come back to the children or the dishes or whatever you happen to be doing.
Before I became a parent, I thought I had life figured out. You set a goal (for school, work, or whatever), and if you stay focused and work hard, you will achieve it. This approach to my professional and academic pursuits got me through my bachelor’s degree, as well as my master’s and doctorate in clinical social work. My type-A, slightly (or perhaps more-than-slightly) anal-retentive style helped me stay organized and successful in challenging jobs on an inpatient psychiatric unit and in college counseling. I was working with individuals and families dealing with a range of mental health issues and frequent crises, but with the help of my on-line schedule and trusty to-do list, I got it all done. Like I said, I thought I had it all figured out.
From the moment I discovered I was pregnant, I approached parenting like every other job I have had. Whenever questions arose about birth plans or breast-feeding, sleep-training or pacifiers, I immediately researched all of my options, turning to friends, family, websites, and parenting books for advice. I was sure that I could overcome the challenges of parenting if I just worked hard enough.
Parenting often takes a lot more stamina and skill than first-time parents realize. That’s why some parenting self-help book classics remain popular, even decades after they were first published.
Although the study of and practice of mindfulness are becoming increasingly popular in both scientific research and pop culture, there are relatively few resources online exploring the mindfulness of parenting in a consistent, accessible way.
Mindful Parenting, with Carla Naumburg, PhD, LICSW, will fill that gap. Carla is a clinical social worker, writer, and most importantly, a mother to two young daughters. You can learn more about her here.
The blog will explore mindfulness in the context of parenting, including Carla’s own personal stories, ideas for daily practices, and ways to teach mindfulness to children. The blog will also review relevant research and books. The blog may address broader issues from time to time, but always with a focus on mindfulness and parenting.
Please give Carla a warm Psych Central welcome!