Mindful Mothering

by francine Hardaway on November 16, 2014

Mindfulness. It’s easy to be mindful when you’re sitting on a yoga mat focusing on the breath, But how do you bring this to every day life? I can meditate up a storm in the right circumstances, but it has always been extremely difficult for me to take it off the mat.

One morning last week, my former foster daughter dropped off her two babies (6 months and 18 months) with me so I could watch them while she looked for a job. For some reason I decided I would attack this task, for which I had volunteered, with mindfulness instead of trying to off it to my housekeeper. That, of course, had been my original plan: “bring them on Thursday when Olivia’s here.”

This daughter spends every single day with  two toddlers and her older boy who is six. Her family is barely on the edge of the middle class, and she has been largely unable to contribute economically for the past two years because she’s been pregnant or having babies. That has been an economic challenge, to say the least, Now she’s finished adding to her family, and she is very anxious to get her independence back through a job of her own.

On the other hand, I have worked all my life at professions that meant I could afford child care. And now I have  to admit that I’ve matured into the kind of grandma who writes checks and loves a visit on Sunday, but not the kind you dump your kids on for babysitting. All my children know this. When my own kids were growing up, I found them the best day care I could, and outsourced their care while I worked as a professor. Their favorite saying of mine from their childhood? “Don’t hang on me.”

However, because of our 20-year history of foster parenting and now friendship, Amanda’s independence is very important to me.  I decided to treat my babysitting gig as a mindfulness meditation and perform the task myself.

Here’s what that meant.

Instead of trying to put the kids into receptacles around the house (walkers, trikes, jumpers) and gifting them with my continuous partial attention, I loaded them up into the double stroller Amanda calls “the limo” and walked to my neighborhood park.( I actually left the housekeeper home to clean the house.) On the way, I didn’t listen to a book on Audible, as I do when taking this walk alone, but talked Hudson and Jax. I  noticed the curb cuts, the traffic, and everything else that could harm them. Only when I am with a child do I  become  aware of my surroundings.

In London last summer, I took my grandson Dashie to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” I remember operating on that occasion with the same hyper-attention to detail that I saw taking Hudson and Jax to the park.

When we got there, I have to admit I was a little scared of watching a toddler and hanging with a baby, so I was happy when another family arrived — three women who might have been mother, daughter, and sister, and two children about the ages of my charges. The other women were much better prepared: they had a big bag of toys.

So I sat down in the sand and watched the children play. I didn’t Facebook, I didn’t read email, I didn’t text. I put the toddler on the slide and I played in the sand. I was mindful, and I was joyful. At the end of the morning, I loaded everybody back in the limo and marched them back to the house, where their mom announced that she had indeed gotten a job.

She left, and I was forced to contemplate how much of my life I have spent without being present. In fact, just being fully present for three hours was like a transformative experience for me.  Amanda, on the other hand, is present to her children, and they know it.

Go ahead and laugh. I know I’ve been in the past and the future, rather than in the present, for a great deal of my life and now I’m patting myself on the back for being present for three hours. But it’s the truth, Ruth; we spend too much of our lives absent from our own experiences.






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