New moms and dads, you’ll want to read this: Sumi Loundon Kim offers two simple practices that can turn your energy and attitude around so you can better connect with your little one — and yourself.
Does this sound familiar? You need some quiet time to recharge yourself, but the demands of your infant, baby, or toddler now make the opportunities for that all too rare.
So, you bounce between feeling guilty (I’m taking too much time for myself) or feeling resentful (I’m desperate for a moment to myself but my baby needs me).
Luckily, we can adapt Buddhist practices as ways to create truly restorative me-time.
Throughout the day, our attention gets scattered outward: Crying infant! Beeping cellphone! Boiling pot! Hungry dog! We can lose touch with ourselves, unaware that we’re becoming frayed, tired, or not making choices from our values.
What’s the best way to restore ourselves, should we find five minutes of downtime? Watch YouTube comedy clips? Stuff our faces with chocolate? Yes, we could do things like that, but they just continue to pull our attention outside of ourselves. Instead, we practice a high-potency form of me-time: meditation.
Here are some simple instructions:
1. Find the quietest place in your home or step outside. You can practice this meditation, too, if your baby is asleep on your chest or in your arms.
2. Sit or lie down. Close your eyes. Take a few long, deep breaths to relax a bit. Then let your breathing return to its natural flow.
3. Notice all the different places your attention had been called to earlier. Now call your home, gathering that scattered attention into your breath
4. Continue to collect your attention, following your in- and out-breaths for a minute or two.
5. Next, reconnect with each of your senses, becoming mindful of your body, hearing, touch, taste, smell, and vision, plugging back into each, one by one.
6. Notice how you’re feeling, and your thought patterns. Some strong emotions might come up, particularly if it’s been a rough day: shame that you yelled at your child, or doubt about your abilities as a parent. It is so important to see these feelings – and to know, as others have told me, that you are not alone in having them.
- • If you have time, cradle these feelings lovingly and reflect on what’s going on for you.
- • If you’re short on time, just knowing that these emotions are happening is excellent self-knowledge. Use long, deep breaths, starting in the belly, to calm yourself about how you feel. You might say to yourself, “It’s okay that I’m feeling overwhelmed right now.” This small adjustment can help significantly.
7. End by taking a final deep breath in, and open your eyes as you exhale.
This meditation, more restorative than a nap, calls your attention home and reconnects you to yourself.
We imagine that “me-time” means being able to do whatever we find relaxing, whether it’s reading a novel or calling a good friend. But that relaxing me-time can also happen with our little one[s].
Here’s how to practice this with your child:
1. Choose an activity that you do regularly with your baby: diapering, feeding or nursing, or reading storybooks. Ideally, you’ll engage in this when there’s reduced time-pressures.
2. Set aside devices and turn off sound notifications.
3. Reaffirm your intention to spend this time together in a relaxed, connected, and fully attentive way.
4. Try to drop the feeling of needing to “get through” this in order to go take care of other tasks.
5. Think, “This moment of reading together is me-time. There’s (almost) no place I’d rather be than right here with this beautiful little being.”
6. Make contact with your child by seeing him or her clearly, noticing the sensations of touch, noticing aromas good and foul, hearing the sounds your child makes. Touch in fully.
7. To take this deeper, pay attention to ways you and your child are interconnected. For example, your mood creates a dynamic with your child and vice versa; you are breathing the air of the same space.
As we recognize our mutual interrelationship – our “interbeing” as Thich Nhat Hanh puts it – the view that we are separate selves from our children begins to dissolve. Rather than thinking that me-time means being by ourselves, we redefine our sense of self so that our understanding of self includes our family members. Done mindfully and lovingly, we-time can be more restorative and nourishing than what we usually think of as me-time.