You may be a single parent by choice, divorced, widowed, never married or thinking about what parenting would be like without a partner.
Whatever your situation may be, my compelling reason to write about single parenting and mindfulness is that I truly believe the road to becoming an empowered single parent has always been inside, it?s just waiting to be realised. And even if your not a single parent, the synergy of parenting and mindfulness is still just as useful.
I am in my third year of being a single mum. My son is now 4.5 and my daughter is now 2.5. I?m also way closer to 40 than I care to think of, but the journey I have taken has been a rollercoaster of emotions because I delved in head first to personal development and mindfulness exploration because I never wanted my children to get my crappy self-worth and baggage which they would have, had I not set out to make a difference to my mindset and my behaviours.
I am totally down with single parenting being the personal development journey of a lifetime and its as much about us as it is about our kids as they are the beacon to our reactivity and those things we don?t like looking at within us and if we have the courage to look at them, we can make profound shifts to change them and create a different version of ourselves.
Many of the single parents I speak too or email with, which are many throughout the day, are often overwhelmed, stressed out, guilt-ridden, and full of angst. Mindfulness single parenting allows?you to parent in the moment in a non-judgmental way on purpose with grace, wisdom, and compassion for yourself and your children. Guilt melts away into un-conditional acceptance that you are doing the best you can. Becoming reactive when your child misbehaves is replaced with seeing clearly what is really going on underneath the surface of your child?s acting out. You become more attuned with what your child is truly feeling.?You also become more attuned to your own belief systems of whatever is there staring at you and that can create dramatic shifts.?
By parenting consciously and looking at your child?s point of view, you let go of your own agenda. You begin to see that sometimes your children?s behaviour could be a manifestation of feeling different. Instead of labelling yourself as ?less than? because you are a single parent, you surrender to the loss without trying to fix or enable your child?s discomfort so that you can run away from the pain. You face the truth with your child head on with self-love and empathy. You cultivate an acceptance of what you and your child are experiencing right now in the present moment.
Mindfulness gives you a break from faulty beliefs, thoughts, and anxieties giving rise instead to a profound self-awareness of the truth. For example, you realise everything doesn?t have to be ?perfect?. The house doesn?t have to be in perfect order. You begin to see that you may not always be single if finding a partner again is ultimately what you want. You stop being a victim of your circumstances and begin to see things for the way they really are.
Mindfulness always allows you the opportunity to start over again. This is the concept of ?beginners mind? and can be useful when you feel you have betrayed your children in some way. You can apologise and let them know you acknowledge their point of view. You get to experience a Buddha moment by apologising to them purposefully teaching them lessons along the way that we are only humans doing the best we can.
Another concept known in mindfulness is impermanence and nothing stays the same. We anesthetise the pain of single parenting sometimes with serial dating, addictions, or other compulsive behaviour in a desperate attempt to fill the void. Instead, we can let go of our fears whether it is about financial insecurity or feeling we will be alone forever and realise our situation can change at any time. Even when you are uncertain about what the future holds and are living in the unknown, there are endless possibilities awaiting you, especially when you least expect it.
Another gift from mindfulness is having gratitude for what we already have. There is no need any more to avoid the pain with ?stuff? or overcompensating our children with more material things than they need. Instead we accept our family for what it is and for what we already have with profound appreciation knowing we have exactly what we need in this very moment.
Finally, mindfulness reminds us to not only show compassion for our children but to all human beings. We have the opportunity to teach our kids deep respect for the people they know, but even those they don?t know in a non-judgmental way encouraging them to be more tolerant of themselves and others. It allows them to be happy and grateful with what they have, which brings in the feelings of blessedness that the universe responds to in kind with more of the good stuff. It?s a powerful lesson which many adults, still haven?t got. And hat a way to equip a child for life. My family, my son and my daughter and I practice the attitude of gratitude every morning in the car, shouting out what we are grateful for and why.
Because I want to make sure that this blog has some takeaway value you can practice, here?s my top mindfulness tips for you to practice over time.
1. Be optimistic and non judgmental of your situation; it creates good karma for future happiness. Like attracts like.
2. React to your children mindfully, rather than unconsciously. This brings more awareness and insight to your parenting skills.
3. Let go of your own agenda and accept your children for who they are.
4. Let go of the end result but instead enjoy the process of single parenting.
5. Teach your children to be tolerant of others and tolerant of their single parent family.
I practice all of this because it?s a personal commitment to myself never to allow myself to have such a low self – worth and lack of awareness that I allow to be treated badly again and the flow on effect is so my kids never get to that point in the first place. I am the creator of ShareAbode which is a platform that connects single parents with one another for co-living so they can reduce rent and expenses and gain friendship and support, this creates an easier and more enjoyable journey for them and their kids. Once these things can be established, I would say the next step is to work on some personal self-growth and mindfulness is a great way to start.
Wilhelmina Ford is the founder of ShareAbode.