Unless you’re like that “MEternity” lunatic who got the idea that having babies is a time to “find yourself,” you’ve probably figured out by now that motherhood is no place for Zen. You’ve likely made peace with the fact that you aren’t embarking on that soul-searching trip or mastering the art of meditation while changing diapers and picking up Legos. But I promise you, there are ways we can come close.
First, let’s take a moment to recognize some telltale signs that you need some grounding:
1. Your daydreams about riding bikes in Bali are thwarted by a toddler ramming your shin bones with a zebra scooter.
2. You have a strong desire to go someplace where you can marvel at something. But the only thing you got to marvel at today is the adult-sized poop that came out of your 3-year-old.
3. You have intense cravings to eat your way through Italy, but after hours of Giada at Home playing in the background, you haven’t made a thing all day and still can’t button your pants.
4. Every time you hear that one special toy play that song on repeat — you know the one — you have visions of pummeling it with a package of dried pasta.
5. Your self-maintenance plan has failed so epically that you could braid a yoga mat out of your chin hairs (but yay for local and handwoven).
This is all probably a bit of a shock. What in the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is happening?! You read the books! You should have it down by now, right? You’d gently rock your little ones to a soft slumber, sing peacefully, and then lie down next to them and meditate your way to enlightenment. You’d do yoga at home during their nap time.
You’d feel peaceful.
Nobody told you about the shitshow, the straight-up rage that rears its head on occasion, and that it’s impossible to meditate with a never-ending to-do list running through your brain and a baby monitor next to your ear.
Welcome to the dark side.
But there’s hope! Here’s how you can “Eat, Pray, Love” when you’re doing all you can to eat, poop, and sleep.
Do not resist tantrums.
As your toddler throws a fit because she wanted the Minions Band-Aid and not the Donald Duck one, try not to fight the tantrum. Instead, accept it and let it flow through you instead. While frustrating — and no matter how tempting — try your best to refrain from putting your head through the wall.
Be accepting of reality.
So you put your head through the wall. That’s okay. Here’s an opportunity to practice being kind to yourself and bring your awareness to simple moments. Gently extract your head from out of the sheetrock wall. Slow, slow, slow. That’s it. Watch the broken pieces of the wall cascade to the floor like a magical powder, an early evening snowfall. Achieving stillness from within comes from the act of acceptance, so why not start here?
Connect with others.
The phone is ringing. It’s not Oprah. It’s your 85-year-old grandmother calling during nap time and she can’t hear a thing, so you’ll have to yell. What’ll it be? Answer the phone and wake your children as you explain to Granny through whisper-screams that you had a grilled cheese for lunch, or let the machine get it and deal with the elephant-sized karma rock sitting on your chest until you can call her back? You’re losing either way. But soul-searching is not about winning, so take a moment to remember the fact that none of this is a competition and that lots of others on this path are going equally insane. We’re all in this together. (And Granny loves you either way.)
Do not indulge.
It’s 3 p.m. and you haven’t eaten yet. Now’s an excellent time to remember how some of those on a spiritual path will fast for days, even months, so this is nothing, really. Buddha famously said, “Life is suffering.” He did not say, “Life is sitting around with your friends during a montage that goes on for way too long eating 47 plates of pasta.”
Use water therapy.
Bath time! You can’t fill the tub too much because Little Miss Floppy Fish loves to ensure every drop makes it out of the tub, but fill it just enough to wash with, like that little Italian lady said in the movie, “Every-ting that is-a important-a, gets-a cleaned.” Even so, your toddler can’t control herself and tosses a tidal wave of bath water all over your floor while teaching your infant to follow suit. You’re outnumbered, but don’t panic. Imagine the bath water as waves in an ocean and use this visual to help quiet your mind. A quiet mind will come in handy later when you need to make fast in-the-moment decisions, such as deciding what’s more important: getting your toddler to the bathroom before an accident or stopping your infant from chewing on a flip-flop. (Hint: Dirt is good for the gut!)
Don’t worry about the future.
You don’t have time to have your palm read today, but be confident in some of your truths: You will live a long time, you will have many expenses, you will change many diapers today, and someone will poop on your rug. But you know what they say: “Love resides in a home where family is so comfortable that they defecate in inappropriate places.”
Give yourself praise for small accomplishments.
Aw, is someone having a hard time devoting attention to meditation while being feasted on by mosquitoes? Well, boohoo. Have you ever tried to store the number to the preschool in your phone with an infant on your hip who is bucking like a bronco and a mid-tantrum toddler affixed to your leg? No? Then get back in your hole, Gilbert. I succeeded, and this calls for a celebration.
Count your blessings.
It’s the end of the day, and you have wonderful, incredible little beings who love you fiercely and are fast asleep in their beds. Your adventure looked nothing like a whirlwind of “finding yourself.” But remember, you’ve found other things. You’ve found strength. You’ve found courage. You’ve found love, patience, hope, faith, and truth. You are in charge of your own destiny, and you answer to no one.
So enjoy the rest of your time tonight being Zen as — wait, was that the baby monitor?