The Parenting Middle Way
I’ll never forget the day in our beautiful Waldorf playgroup, when the leader expressed to us Mothers, the importance of slowing down, being present and not rushing our children from one thing to the next.
Of course, as mothers, this spoke to us- we were all too familiar with the words, “Come on! We’re going to be late!” and the adrenalin filled mornings rushing from laundry to making beds to lunchboxes to getting dressed.
The leader then went on to give some wonderful and helpful advice, things such as: try to wake up earlier than the children, prepare for the school run the evening before and find little pockets in the day where you slow down and just be.
But this wise advice, is not what I remember as well as what happened next that morning:
As we all merrily sang our outside song and walked to the benches to put our shoes on, some slower than others, the leader approached us and with the kindest and most patient tone in her voice asked us if we could please try to, “Hurry as best as you can because the children will all be waiting on the carpet outside to say the blessing and start our picnic, and it is very hard for them to wait.”
She went off, and I smiled at the friend next to me and said, coyly as I struggled to hold my baby AND get my toddler’s shoes on, “OK, we’ll hurry, but we’ll try not to rush!”.
We both laughed hysterically and the motherly kinship I felt with my friend at that moment is one that I cherish to this day.
Since then, I have often reflected on the seemingly dualistic challenges that Mothers face daily. The list below is an example of the advice that parents so often wrestle to reconcile:
|Don’t rush your children.||vs.||Please have your children at school on time for morning circle.|
|Family Dinners are best.||vs.||Feed your children at 5:30/5:45 to ensure an early bedtime.|
|Give your children ample time outdoors each day.||vs.||Keep the home environmentclean, clutter-free and organized so that it is warm, welcoming and uncomplicated.|
|Trust your parenting intuition.||vs.||Be aware of your autobiography, triggers and emotional reactions.|
|Endeavor toremain present with your children at all moments.||vs.||Make sure to find some alone time for self-care, meditation, exercise and inner work.|
|Remain calm, patient and do not take things personally.||vs.||Acknowledge your child’s feelings (even if they are expressing disgust over the healthy meal you spent so much time preparing).|
|It is important for children to have a stable home life and parents present as much as possible.||vs.||It is important for children to see that their parents have interests and work outside of the home and that they are not the centre of the universe.|
As a mother with four young children I could go on and on about the ideals conscientious mothers strive to achieve versus the reality of our everyday lives. There are only so many hours in a day, there are many things to do and so much seems to be in conflict.
How can we do the 3 loads of laundry, clean the kitchen, de-clutter the bedrooms and spend a few hours this morning out in the garden?
How can we have a slow, peaceful and connected morning without little ones if we wake up at 5:15 to meditate yet our three-year-old unexpectedly wakes up at 5:16 and wants breakfast NOW?
How can we come together for a family dinner and get the kids in bed and asleep by 7 if our husband doesn’t arrive home from work until 6:30?
My answer to these questions and so many more is amusingly and somewhat frustratingly dualistic too.
You can strive each and every day to find and
follow the Parenting Middle Way.
Buddhism refers to the philosophical Middle Way as “the path that transcends and reconciles the duality that characterizes most thinking”. It is also known as the Eightfold Path, following the precepts of: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
I refer to the ‘Parenting Middle Way‘ as the path that transcends and reconciles the duality that characterizes modern day parenting. Through trying to apply the same eightfold ideals to our daily parenting we follow the Parenting Middle Way.
Rhythm Planning is a tool we can use to visualize, plan and stay on course.
Sitting down and looking at current time commitments you may discover pockets of time that can be protected and cherished or you may decide to cut back on one activity or another. Bringing to consciousness situations or behaviours you feel are stuck may allow you to to creatively come up with ways you can shift or change these patterns.
It is hard work, to be sure. And it is work that, as parents, needs to be reassessed and undone and redone constantly. Our Daily Rhythm changes with the ages of our children, the seasons, our outside commitments and our changing family values.
We will stray and we will get stuck. But it is within these moments of striving that we will find peace and connection.
Peace in knowing we are doing our best.
Peace in knowing that we are not trying to achieve perfection, but balance.
Connecting and responding to our children’s current needs and our own by reassessing, redesigning and reanimating our Daily Rhythm.
Each and every day, we animate our Daily Rhythm as best we can, and it helps us to stay on the path of the The Parenting Middle Way.
Thank you for writing this. It is SO true. How can we manage it all? We have three children, and I feel like I’m telling them to hurry ALL the time. It doesn’t feel good doing that, but then again, they are SO slow sometimes, and we need to be on time at school. Also the whole going to bed sequence is taking an hour or two. We usually eat dinner at 17.00-17.30. But our oldest is not in bed until 20.00. We do read at bed, and this can take about half an hour, but I don’t mind that. It’s the whole using-thirty-minutes-to-put-on-my-PJ-cause-I-don’t-want-to-go-to-bed take brings out the hurrying mama. Heh! Not all that patient after all.
Anyway, it’s hard following all of the advices all the time. And I think you are so right about this whole Family Middle Way. Most of life has a duality to it, and finding that point of balance can be difficult, but so worth the work of getting there. 🙂
So glad you found some relief and connection in this post. Bedtime does always seem to take longer than expected. I find for myself that once dinner is over I get this feeling in my body like, “It’s almost bedtime. Almost ME time.” And this sets me up in the wrong fram of mind for the next 2 hours of bath/teeth/PJs/books. I have started to try to be more conscientious of that feeling and to gently remind myself to remain present and not to be thinking or investing too much energy into the idea that it’s “Me time” soon. No doubt “me time” is essential and important, but the kids seem to pick up on the fact that I am starting to drift away energetically before it’s time. Food for thought? x m.
Oh that is so so true and for me it’s all about finding the balance for the family as a whole. I’m not going to get everyone up an hour earlier than usual just in case the kids feel like dawdling because we and they need our sleep, I will let the housework go hang for a bit to get them outside because that has a bigger overall impact on how our days go. And in the meantime if anyone finds these mysterious hours in which I’m supposed to exercise and meditate and all the rest, let me know!
LOL. I know Carrie. My husband is the one who finds the time for me to go to yoga a few times a week. I could think of every excuse in the book not to go but he is adamant and practically pushing me out the door. Everytime I get on the mat I am so thankful he made me go again. Thank goodness for those around us who sometimes gives us that extra push for self-care when we’re not always honouring what we need ourselves.
Such a lovely post, and so true. We have 7 children, and I am always searching for the ‘balance’. Just when I think I have it together, the whole thing tips agin 🙂 Ahhh…but such is motherhood. I was curious about The Parenting Middle Way. Is that from a book? You mention the Eight Fold Path… I would like to learn more. Do you have any suggestions?
[…] you liked this post you can read more about the push and pull of mothering in my post The Parenting Middleway as well as For a Slow Summer Together, Say […]