Earlier this summer, I found myself sitting on my back porch clutching a book about mindful parenting. You’ve probably heard about this concept before. It’s becoming quite a popular topic. Mindfulness can be described as a person’s ability to embrace the present moment while accepting that very moment as it is, without any judgment.1,4 I know, it’s a lot easier said than done. To be completely honest, I was lost in the future that summer night, very far away from a mindful moment. My brain was swirling with thoughts about childcare, finding a safe car seat, writing a birth plan, and the list goes on. I finally forced my mind to pause and open the book I was gripping, and before I knew it, I was allowing myself to be lead through a mindful exercise.
My thoughts about the future stopped. I listened to the sounds around me, felt the humidity lingering in the air from a hot summer day, and became more in tune with my feelings. And that’s when it happened. I felt my tiny growing baby begin to kick and turn. It seemed like their most powerful movements yet. I braced my hands over my stomach and gave myself permission to be present in that very moment. I even forgot about the book. I just kept focusing on each flutter, flip, kick, and turn until my little one finally decided to take a break. I’ll always be thankful for this beautiful parenting moment, and I give all the credit to mindfulness.
Taking time to be mindful can feel challenging in the home visiting field. You know better than anyone that being a home visitor is one of the most rewarding jobs, but the profession certainly keeps a person busy. I can remember the days of having a booked-up calendar, always hurrying to the next home to ensure I made it on time. As you’ve probably noticed, the families you visit with also have limited free time. Between busy work schedules, chaotic school routines, and juggling the added responsibilities accrued by a pandemic, the days tend to speed by fast for parents. It may seem like the weeks race by for you as well. Luckily, the experts reassure us that mindfulness can help alleviate stress for parents and improve individuals’ mental health.1,4
These experts say that focusing on the present or taking time to be mindful can have lots of benefits for our brains.1,4 Practicing mindfulness can actually grow our problem-solving skills and ability to remain calm. Being mindful can also allow us to embrace our imperfections, forgive ourselves when our to-do list isn’t completed, and focus on self-compassion.2 Though practicing mindfulness can lead to positive outcomes, many people find the act of incorporating mindful exercises into their weekly routine to be a daunting task. This makes sense, considering we live in such a fast-paced world. It also seems that mindfulness is often confused with meditation. Though meditation can be a part of mindfulness, there are still many ways to be mindful without doing meditation.5
A few practices you might try include:
- Before stepping into your office or a home visit, give yourself permission to tune into your thoughts. Take note of the feelings you’re experiencing. As you place your hand over your heart, take a big, inner breath as you embrace your thoughts and emotions before entering your office or the home visit.3
- Give yourself time to explore the outdoors or look at pictures of nature. Focus on the sounds, smells, colors, and textures produced by the earth. For example, as you walk, you might note the color of the leaves and notice that vibrant green is fading and making room for yellow, red, and orange to paint the plants.2
- Think about a person or animal that brings you comfort and makes you feel loved. Imagine being with that individual or pet and embracing the joy you feel from their presence. Allow yourself to feel the wonderful emotions that arise when you think about spending time with this special person or animal.2
As you look at your home visiting calendar for the upcoming weeks, you might try to schedule in time for some of these practices. Until then, give yourself some grace, embrace this fast-paced world, but remember, take a moment for yourself. You deserve it.
1. Duncan, L. G., Coatsworth, J. D., & Greenberg, M. (2009). A model of mindful parenting: Implications for parent–child relationships and prevention research. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 12(3), 255–270. doi: 10.1007/s10567-009-0046-3
2. Gehl, M. (2019, March 15). Mindfulness is a parent superpower. Zero To Three. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/2677-mindfulness-is-a-parent-superpower
3. Gehl, M., & Bohlander, A. H. (2018, March). Rocking and rolling. Being present: Mindfulness in infant and toddler settings. NAEYC. https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/yc/mar2018/rocking-and-rolling
4. Gehl, M., Kinsner, K., & Parlakian, R. (2018, June 6). Mindfulness for parents. Zero To Three. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/2268-mindfulness-for-parents
5. Shanker, S., & Barker, T. (2016). Self-reg: How to help your child (and you) break the stress cycle and successfully engage with life. Penguin Press.