I’ve been a mother for 23 years. In that period my husband and I have raised two children to the point to adulthood (if not complete independence). We navigated pee-wee soccer, teen acne, and way too many Prom nights. We survived the transition when they left for college. We endured the roller coaster ride toward degrees. We are now waist deep in the ”kids are back at home adventure.
I knew when I became a parent that it was going to be for the rest of my life. 23 years ago (which feels like 5 years ago) I could not have foreseen the variety of challenges inherent in having two grown children leave for college and, just as I successfully adjusted to their absence, four years blinked by and they are back under my roof. Today I watch my two young professionals coming and going from the house, eating enormous quantities of food, and going to bed at hours that would render me a zombie. When your children are babies you feel the excitement and the trepidation of not knowing what’s ahead of you. Having conquered the unknown, I had adopted a perception of myself as an effective parent. Now, with two twenty-somethings in the house full time, I am once again facing down the ravine of unknown territory. As I embark on the journey of redefining the role a of motherhood in this new phase, I find myself once again leaning heavily on the lessons of my yoga practice to find the calm within the storm that is parenting.
Childs pose is always an option: It used to be that time outs were a useful tool for the children, giving them time to calm down, and choose a better course of action. Now they are an appropriate tool for me. On the mat taking child’s pose is an opportunity to pull back from the intensity of the practice and check in. Off the mat, a mental child’s pose steps you back, and allows for a few deep breaths. My husband and I had taken a long weekend away to reconnect and recharge, leaving our house in the hands of our children who needed to remain on their work schedules. Although I love to travel, I always have a sense of joy in returning home to my own kitchen, my own bed and everything familiar. Walking through the door of our home on a Tuesday afternoon, I fully expected the comfort of the familiar. I was greeted with something I’d never seen before. The kitchen sink was piled with dirty dishes. The smell of rotting food pervaded. The family room had piles of laundry. For some reason I couldn’t possibly fathom, a soaking wet towel was lying on the wood floor of the kitchen. It was time for child’s pose.
Maintain a beginners mind: No matter how long you’ve been practicing, your body is different every time you step onto the mat, and what you need is different. Approaching each yoga pose as though it is your first allows you to stay open to new possibilities without predetermined ideas of what works and what your limits are. My child’s pose allowed me to call my son at his office and, and resist the temptation to launch an assault. I asked what had happened in the house. He explained that there had been a power outage leaving them without electricity for 3 days. They couldn’t run the dishwasher. The ice in the freezer had started to melt, so each morning they put a towel in front of it before leaving for work. They were showering at friends’ houses at night and then changing into work clothes in the Family room because it had the most windows and natural light at dawn.
Release your attachment to the outcome: Each time you try a yoga pose you get stronger. Mentally and physically, you create change by putting out effort without your ego demanding a specific outcome. It makes no difference if you stick the pose perfectly or struggle and fall. The benefits are always there. Could they have emptied the ice from the freezer to avoid the flood? Maybe used a bigger towel (or several)? Would I have washed the dishes by hand in the same situation? Was it feasible to neatly fold the clothes they walked out of before putting clean clothes on? It’s all possible. On the other hand, their effort created a benefit. My vision of an outcome was not their vision. My kids have very distinct personalities all their own, and (hard to believe) not everything about them is a reflection, or indictment, of me. The dishes got washed. The clothes found the laundry room. The wooden floor dried out. Two young adults didn’t end up feeling like they came up short.
Relax with what is: Simultaneously the most difficult, and the most useful, single lesson a yoga practice can offer.