My five-year-old is doing naked parkour in the living room. I’m actively ignoring the acrobatics because (a) I don’t have time to bring her to the hospital if she hurts herself, and (b) I’m Skyping in to my last class of the semester.
When it’s time for our five-minute break, I ignore the pile of papers I have to grade (Mama needs the money), rush to the bathroom, grab a bottle for the newborn strapped to my chest, cut up some strawberries for the stunt woman, and try to get back to my computer before anyone in class notices my naked child who somehow painted herself blue trying to get their attention.
In the 30 seconds I have left, I come across an article on “mindful mothering” on Facebook. And now I have to take time out of my life to respond to this utter display of privilege. So, let me offer you some advice for those of us who don’t live in a granola advertisement:
1. Stop it.
If you have the blessing of being able to be fully present in every moment, then sit there silently and practice gratitude. If you have a colicky baby who won’t stop screaming like you’re stabbing it, then you should feel free to mentally check out. If the kid’s going to cry anyway, walking away for a few minutes is probably the healthiest thing you could do. Be mindful enough to know that someday it’ll stop, but don’t feel guilty for not cherishing every wail. You go ahead and gather those college brochures and start packing Little Bit’s bags right now.
2. Seriously, stop it.
For real, though. Some moms have postpartum depression, and being fully present in every mothering moment won’t do them any good. Postpartum Mom, don’t you dare feel judged by people on the Internet who don’t know any better. You’re fighting one of the hardest battles there is. Call for back up. And if you can’t call for support, then you be not-mindful, you daydream, you watch TV or check Facebook, or do whatever you need to do (within the bounds of safety) to remind yourself that this will pass and you can do it even when it sucks (you can, I believe in you).
3. Check your privilege.
Don’t try to tell a mom who has to go back to work right away, or who has to work 60 hours a week, to be present every moment because one day her kids are going to grow up and go away. You know who that helps? No one. Well, maybe it helps you feel better about being so hyper-focused on your kids that you’re going to fall apart when they go off to live their own lives, but the rest of us walk a fine line between wanting to cherish them forever and hoarding pennies in case we need to send them to that British boarding school when they draw on the walls one too many times.
4. You do you.
Hey Mom (or other primary care giver), you do you. If you hate your day and want to sit down on the calm step to gather yourself, you do it. If you want to duct tape baby to a tree and run off towards the Appalachian Trail in hopes you get eaten by a bear so you don’t have to deal with this child anymore, don’t actually do that. But you have my permission to think about it all you want.
5. Bad days don’t make you a bad mom.
Let me introduce you to the theory of “good enough” parenting. It’s great. You don’t have to teach Little Suzy calculus before she can walk. Little Timmy wants to take his time learning that violin, that’s cool too. You want to serve them pizza sometimes, do it (not even the gluten free kind! You rebel, you!). Enjoy your kids for the little weirdos they are, until you want to tear your hair out, then allow yourself to not love every moment.
6. It’s okay to have a life.
I am literally a yoga teacher. I’m a big fan of mindfulness. You know what I like better? Balance. Maybe you can’t afford a sitter and can’t actually leave the house (been there). You can still let the kid watch Daniel Tiger for 23 minutes while you read a book, watch Tom Hiddleston dance on YouTube, or pin 784 home improvement projects to your Pinterest wall (I’m never going to get to mine either). It’s okay to be a person and a mom, I promise. It’s probably a good thing to model for your kids, too.
The point is this, friends: most of the pleas for mindful parenting are just perfectionists in disguise, and that’s the last thing parents or their kids need.