October 30, 2008

Surrender, Prioritize, and Commit

As mom to a toddling almost-10-month old, I sometimes wish that I could have learned some of motherhood's lessons before I actually had a child. I would have been able to take MUCH better care of myself!

So often I felt like I had too much to do to go to sleep early or sleep in, to work out, write, meditate, or practice yoga. When I let those things slip, I blamed the balancing act of a demanding job and professional travel schedule and various projects and relationships in my personal life. I often felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants...

Fast forward to Kai's arrival. I knew he would need his mom, and I knew he would nurse every 1-3 hours for a while. Anyone who has actually nursed a newborn knows that the big surprise lives in the reality that when your babe nurses intheir first months, it's often for 45 minutes at a stretch. So when Kai nursed hourly at times during the day, that meant I had 15 minute windows to take care of myself and "get things done." New parents often choose between a shower or eating lunch when such windows of time arise, and MUST live with other things falling away, at least for a time.

Mamas and papas adjust quickest and easiest when they do two things:
  1. Surrender to the moment and to their baby's needs without trying to resist or change them, knowing that a time will come for doing other things; and
  2. Identify the one or two things that really, really matter to their sense of self, or feel unbelievably nurturing, and negotiate a way to do them.
To the first point - Babies are the world's best meditation teachers. Years of 10-day silent meditation retreats can't even hold a candle to what Kai has shown me about accepting reality as it is at any given moment. When he's hungry, I feed him. When he's tired, I help him sleep. When he needs cuddles, I give them. And really, even in those moments when I'd rather be doing something else, I don't even consider making the choice not to respond. That choice is off the table.

Now to the second point. What feeds you? The answer may be intensely personal, or it may be somewhat universal. Here are some of the things parents in my classes do for themselves:
  • Extra sleep - when you're working really hard, an extra hour of sleep makes a tremendous impact. Parents often achieve this by trading off an hour in the morning, and an hour in the evening with each another - one parent gets to go to sleep early, one gets to sleep in. If you don't have kids, pick a night each week to head to be early and a morning to sleep late, and don't compromise on that time! And single parents can have a relative or friend come over from time to time to make this possible.
  • Write - one mama I know realized that when her babe woke in the wee hours of the morning, then nursed back to sleep, she herself could actually stay awake for a bit and spend the time writing. This time made all the difference for her.
  • Solitude or Time with friends - Introverts can use an hour or two to themselves for a recharge, while extroverts might need some time with good pals to decompress.
  • Get a weekly massage
  • Head to a yoga class once a week or do a few poses every day
  • Go the gym or out for a run several times a week
  • Meditate for a few minutes every day
For me, the difference between pre-baby and post-baby is truly a matter of commitment and prioritizing when it comes to this kind of self-care. Motherhood gave me no option but to choose what matters most to me. And the all-out focus on someone else most of the time made commiting to my choices imperative.

I rarely compromise on the hour or two each morning of sleeping in that Bob makes possible. Lately, I stay up a little later in order to write these blog entries, because the time for reflection and sharing is really sustaining me. Each evening I work out in our living room with my husband as my trainer, and when I nurse Kai to sleep at night, I often use at least some of the time to quietly meditate.

When we feed our spirits, and that's what we're really talking about here, we recharge that infinite and ever-expanding supply of love that we have and make it much, much more available for the people (tiny or big) in our lives.

I'd love to know how you find the time to nurture yourself, and what you do! Send me an e-mail at lauren dot bellon at gmail dot com, or leave a comment!


Everyday Yogini said...

I found your blog through naturally nina -

I, too, am a Yogini and Mommy, living with the best Zen master around, my daughter. :) I look forward to reading more of your musings...

Anonymous said...

I am definitely entrenched in that pre-mommmy world when I am so taken with the business of leading a childless life, that I cannot even imagine adding a baby into the mix. Your post is helping me understand that some things will naturally fall away while other elements of life will still burn with bright necessity. I am definitely filing this gem of writing away for the day when I too am up nursing all night, but I will also use this wisdom each day since it is always so hard to make time for the things that truly nurture.