I’ll never forget the day in our beautiful Waldorf playgroup, when the leader expressed to us Mothers, the importance of slowing down, being present and not rushing our children from one thing to the next.
Of course, as mothers, this spoke to us- we were all too familiar with the words, “Come on! We’re going to be late!” and the adrenalin filled mornings rushing from laundry to making beds to lunchboxes to getting dressed.
The leader then went on to give some wonderful and helpful advice, things such as: try to wake up earlier than the children, prepare for the school run the evening before and find little pockets in the day where you slow down and just be.
But this wise advice, is not what I remember as well as what happened next that morning:
As we all merrily sang our outside song and walked to the benches to put our shoes on, some slower than others, the leader approached us and with the kindest and most patient tone in her voice asked us if we could please try to, “Hurry as best as you can because the children will all be waiting on the carpet outside to say the blessing and start our picnic, and it is very hard for them to wait.”
She went off, and I smiled at the friend next to me and said, coyly as I struggled to hold my baby AND get my toddler’s shoes on, “OK, we’ll hurry, but we’ll try not to rush!”.
We both laughed hysterically and the motherly kinship I felt with my friend at that moment is one that I cherish to this day.
Since then, I have often reflected on the seemingly dualistic challenges that Mothers face daily. The list below is an example of the advice that parents so often wrestle to reconcile:
|Don’t rush your children.||vs.||Please have your children at school on time for morning circle.|
|Family Dinners are best.||vs.||Feed your children at 5:30/5:45 to ensure an early bedtime.|
|Give your children ample time outdoors each day.||vs.||Keep the home environment clean, clutter-free and organized so that it is warm, welcoming and uncomplicated.|
|Trust your parenting intuition.||vs.||Be aware of your autobiography, triggers and emotional reactions.|
|Endeavor to remain present with your children at all moments.||vs.||Make sure to find some alone time for self-care, meditation, exercise and inner work.|
|Remain calm, patient and do not take things personally.||vs.||Acknowledge your child’s feelings (even if they are expressing disgust over the healthy meal you spent so much time preparing).|
|It is important for children to have a stable home life and parents present as much as possible.||It is important for children to see that their parents have interests and work outside of the home and that they are not the centre of the universe.|
As a mother with four young children I could go on and on about the ideals conscientious mothers strive to achieve versus the reality of our everyday lives. There are only so many hours in a day, there are many things to do and so much seems to be in conflict.
How can we do the 3 loads of laundry, clean the kitchen, de-clutter the bedrooms and spend a few hours this morning out in the garden?
How can we have a slow, peaceful and connected morning without little ones if we wake up at 5:15 to meditate yet our three-year-old unexpectedly wakes up at 5:16 and wants breakfast NOW?
How can we come together for a family dinner and get the kids in bed and asleep by 7 if our husband doesn’t arrive home from work until 6:30?
My answer to these questions and so many more is amusingly and somewhat frustratingly dualistic too.
You can strive each and every day to find and follow
the Parenting Middle Way.
Buddhism refers to the philosophical Middle Way as “the path that transcends and reconciles the duality that characterizes most thinking”. It is also known as the Eightfold Path, following the precepts of: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
I refer to the ‘Parenting Middle Way‘ as the path that transcends and reconciles the duality that characterizes modern day parenting. Through trying to apply the same eightfold ideals to our daily parenting we follow the Parenting Middle Way.
Rhythm Planning is a tool we can use to visualize, plan and stay on course.
Sitting down and looking at current time commitments you may discover pockets of time that can be protected and cherished or you may decide to cut back on one activity or another. Bringing to consciousness situations or behaviours you feel are stuck may allow you to to creatively come up with ways you can shift or change these patterns.
It is hard work, to be sure. And it is work that, as parents, needs to be reassessed and undone and redone constantly. Our Daily Rhythm changes with the ages of our children, the seasons, our outside commitments and our changing family values.
We will stray and we will get stuck. But it is within these moments of striving that we will find peace and connection.
Peace in knowing we are doing our best.
Peace in knowing that we are not trying to achieve perfection, but balance.
Connecting and responding to our children’s current needs and our own by reassessing, redesigning and reanimating our Daily Rhythm.
Each and every day, we animate our Daily Rhythm as best we can, and it helps us to stay on the path of the The Parenting Middle Way.