Dear Single Mom,
After 14 hours of labour, 3 years of toddler tantrums and 26-hour workdays, you thought you could handle anything.
Until Covid-19 happened.
That’s when the soiled diaper hit the fan. Everything suddenly became - more. Now the precious toddler is home – all day, demanding at least 80 per cent of your time and energy. The other 20 per cent is reserved for the work from home order from your boss and there is housework that will need at least 50 per cent (yes, this is Mom Math).
You can’t remember the last time you just took a deep breath, called a friend to cry or did anything that you enjoy.
I understand how you feel and am happy to tell you that you’re not alone.
It’s single mothers like you that inspired us to develop a three-part live video series called The Brunswick MOM Show. It’s an ongoing discussion about tools that will help you:
· Survive the COVID-19 madness as a single mother
· Enjoy being around your kids all day
· Acknowledge your dreams and start loving yourself (again)
We invited three single moms who are using these tools to create massive changes in their lives and families. They were Trishan Haughton, Advanced teacher of therapeutic yoga, Rochelle Mitchell, PR and Social Media Specialist and Simone McFarlane, Business Development Manager at Brunswick Jamaica.
So let’s talk Mindfulness, Openness and Momentum.
What is Mindfulness and Why Should You Care?
Mindfulness, according to Trishan, is the state of being consciously present in a given moment, observing without judgement.
“Many mothers run around on auto-pilot,” says Trishan. “We tend to ignore even the most painful signs of distress or discomfort, pushing it to the back and adjusting quickly so we can get back to parenting. This is neither healthy nor conducive to happiness.
“The reason COVID-19 is so stressful for a lot of single moms is that it has forced us to pause and become aware of our environment, our kids and our feelings... In this consciousness, we start to realize that we were missing important things in the flurry of parenting – things like how well our kids are doing in school or if we even like the persons they are becoming,” she notes.
The ability to be mindful is extremely restorative and can be helpful for all mothers. Why?
Because parenting more mindfully means loving more meaningfully.
We tend to think that the way we show love to our children is the same way in which they process or accept it but this is not always so. Children, like adults, process love mainly through one or two of five love languages - words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch.
Trishan shares that being mindful here means paying keen attention to their conversations, expressions and reactions and using that information to nurture their hearts and to also know what habits and reactions of ours may actually be hurting their hearts despite our best intentions. In identifying how best they give and receive love we can curate our family life (schedules, family rituals, discipline choices etc) in a way that feeds the whole family; we can create indelible memories and experiences that solidify in our children both a positive self concept and a favourable perception of your relationship overall.
Because acceptance reduces ‘mom guilt’.
Let’s be honest. Being the perfect mom, super best friend, productive employee, dependable daughter, civil ex-lover and six-pack having gym buff is exhausting not to mention impossible. Yet, we attempt to wear all these hats without complaint because we’ve been taught that that’s what great moms are supposed to do. Eventually, we crack under the pressure and this may look like dealing an unnecessarily harsh punishment to the kids, having no space for a personal life or having “unexplained” bodily aches and pains.
Mothers and especially single moms need copious amounts of acceptance in order to mitigate against mom guilt, states Trishan. We have to accept the unique challenges of our situation which will invariably look different from other moms with a different family set up. Through mindfulness we can come to an honest place about our strengths and our challenges and those inherent in our situation. Once we begin to do this we can find solutions for the challenges, lean in to our strengths and create more harmonious lives. Not only will we have less to feel guilty about but our capacity for radical self-compassion will have grown.
Because you need you...and so does everyone else.
Mindfulness in itself is an act of self love. It means slowing down enough to see and be present to what’s actually important or what truly feels good. This is a great gift to your self and to your family. By tuning in to you, you become more aware of your desires, triggers, emotional states and you recognize the things that make you come alive or feel deeply nurtured. This realization often organically gives rise to you wanting to do things that make you feel better. Where things can get tricky is in having these realizations and not feeling as though we have the resources or time or whatever else to get what we need but you deserve to feel good so start with what you have.
Deliberately carve out some non-negotiable ‘me time’ to do small but impactful “me things”; take time to feel your feelings, allowing the space to cry, laugh, be silent, scream or count it out. Be sure to discuss it with the kids so that they can begin to understand that mommy is at least part human, needs a little space sometimes and needs love in this way. Explain that it helps you love them better too because this is absolutely true.
As Trishan states, “the greatest gift you can give to your child is your own emotional regulation.”
5 tips to practice mindfulness daily
Record your feelings and thoughts daily (you can even voice record on your phone)! Keep your mind fresh and get clarity on your own thoughts and feelings.
· Meditation and Conscious breathing
Focus your mind, direct your thoughts and expand your breath in a way that really expands your bandwidth for the day ahead. (Check out the video for an easy breathing exercise Trishan shared with us.)
Set alone time
Make space to treat yourself to the things that help you be better. Make this time non-negotiable. Consensus helps so, discuss it with the kids.
· Move your body
A walk, yoga, gym, 10 minute YouTube stretch… whatever suits you! Move your body daily to shoo away stagnant and stale energy.
· Go outside
Nature is the best therapist! If you can’t physically make it outside, look through a window and spend some time appreciating what you see. No window view? Find nature sounds on YouTube that appeal to you.
The term is used to describe a moment of being aware of your emotions and giving yourself permission to feel them, face them and release them.
If mindfulness allows us to acknowledge and face our feelings, then openness is what forces us to air those feelings publicly – to a friend, a trusted advisor or a complete stranger depending on how brave we are.
According to Rochelle Mitchell, many adults today have trouble opening up. This is evident when persons have trouble sharing and being vulnerable with one another, causing all kinds of tension, strife and rifts in relationships.
In trying to be the supermom we think society expects, we refrain from telling others how we truly feel about something or suppress our emotions so hard that our kids have never seen us cry or scream in frustration before.
Single mothers have the responsibility to create ‘open’ homes in which kids feel it safe to discuss their feelings freely.
“We (mothers) should show our kids that it is OK to have and express emotions; especially our boys. Too often and early does society dictate to them that men with emotions are soft. They grow with this lie and hold in their emotions to the detriment of themselves, their families and eventually, society itself,” Rochelle said.
Here’s how to practice openness in your home:
· Don’t ignore your emotions. They are real and it’s OK to feel all your feelings.
· Don’t hold on to negativity
· Always find something to be grateful for
· Try to be less anxious. It’s crippling. Instead, talk to someone you trust. There are others in a similar situation who are ready and willing to help
· Manage your time and expectations
· If you have a community, pull on it but let them know your boundaries
What did you want to be in you grew up? Is that what you’re doing now? If not, do still want to be X?
As single mothers, it is so easy to get bogged down with the gazillion things we have to do including building our children’s dreams. Many times at the expense of our own. But Simone McFarlane says don’t. Don’t give up on those dreams. As a matter of fact, now is the time to start dreaming even bigger.
“It’s OK to want more and to dream big. That’s what momentum is - the force that keeps an object moving or keeps an event developing after it has started. Once you find that force, you’re unstoppable”.
Simone cited 5 easy ways that single mothers can gain and hold on to momentum:
· Be mindful of what you consume
This includes healthy foods, good books or movies or someone who makes you laugh. You know what feels right for your mind and body, so concentrate on consuming more of those.
· Love yourself – hard
The way you talk to and about yourself has a lasting impact on your children. Loving yourself means paying attention to every part of your being.
· Move your body
Do yoga, go walking or hiking, clear the living room and do an at-home workout. Whatever you choose, ensure you’re enjoying it and make it a habit. Exercise releases endorphins (feel good hormones) and makes us feel alive and energetic.
· Set mind-blowing goals
Stop being basic and accepting mediocrity. Set audacious goals and pray about them, believing that you deserve and do attract good things to your life.
· Remember that setbacks are setups
No one is perfect. We all fail. Since you’re going to fail maybe one, two or fifteen times before you learn the lesson, be patient with yourself and give yourself permission to fail. Momentum allows us to pause with the feeling that comes with failure and then move on to learn why we failed and how to prevent it.
By practicing mindfulness, openness and momentum, single mothers can learn to be present through the joys and chaos of parenting, without judging or placing unrealistic labels on themselves. They can easier share their feelings and work on improving mental health as well as harness the drive they need to keep pushing forward, even in times of adversity.
We would like to thank Brunswick Jamaica for believing in our 6000+ strong community and sponsoring The MOM show. We truly appreciate you giving us the space to talk about issues that affect many of us and find solutions that will empower us to be better human raisers.
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