Mindfulness For Moms: Shifting From Doing To Being

Fleur is a mindfulness and meditation teacher, Insight Timer publisher and the Founder of Harvesting Happiness.
How ordinary everyday moments of mindfulness for moms allow them to be more present and engaged with the people and things that really matter.
Fleur is a mindfulness and meditation teacher, Insight Timer publisher and the Founder of Harvesting Happiness.

Mindfulness and meditation teacher Fleur Chambers reflects on how ordinary everyday moments of mindfulness for moms allow mothers to be more present and engaged with the people and things that matter the most. Learn not just about the role of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, but also discover guided meditations for daily mindful moments.

Mindfulness For Moms: Helping You Feel More Engaged In The Moment

I’m curious, when you are caught in the mid-week grind, do you find yourself looking forward to (or even fantasizing about) a change of routine or scenery? Maybe your mind wanders to the hope of a stress-free weekend, a night out with your friends or even to a holiday.

However, when the moment finally arrives, have you noticed that sometimes it isn’t as good as you imaged or hoped? Maybe you feel distracted or pre-occupied, your mind busy with plans for the week ahead — unable to relax and enjoy the moment.

This experience of expectation not meeting reality is common for mothers all across the globe. Interestingly, it has less to do with the activity itself and more to do with our brains and the strength of our muscles. No, I am not referring to physical muscles you strengthen at the gym. Here, I am referring to our muscles of ‘doing’ and ‘being’ that get exercised and strengthened in everyday life.

Moms Are Often Caught Up In The Red Zone Of ‘Doing’

As humans, we operate in two main ways. We are either ‘doing’ or ‘being’.  Doing is often referred to as the red zone and can engage our sympathetic nervous system, our fight or flight response. Being, in contrast, is known as the green zone, the state that engages our parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and digest response.

The inability to enter a state of being makes us feel less connected and engaged in seemingly happy moments.

The inability to enter a state of being makes us feel less connected and engaged in seemingly happy moments.

As mothers, it is natural for us to have strong doing muscles as we spend so much time each day managing the logistics of family life. Whilst the tasks and responsibilities mothers perform may differ across cultures, socio-demographics and within families, it’s safe to say that most mothers shop, prepare food, clean, tidy up, drive, drop off, pick up, wash, dry, play, create and supervise as part of their daily routine. (Not to mention the psychological support we offer our families, the paid work we do and the contribution we make to our communities).  

Whilst this state of doing is normal and necessary for a functioning family, it becomes unhealthy when we mothers do not balance all this doing with moments of being. For our wellbeing and the wellbeing of our families, we need to make “balancing the scales between doing and being” a priority.

The ‘Dangers’ Of The Red Zone

The most effective way to balance the scales is by having a few mindful moments each day. In these moments you shift from the doing state to the being state.

You are probably thinking, “Yes, this is a lovely idea, but I just don’t have time”. This is where I respond with warmth and affection, “Well my fellow mother, you must make time because your  health and the wellbeing of your family depend on it.”

The cost of not balancing the scales between doing and being is real. In short, we trigger our sympathetic nervous system, our fight or flight response. Let’s take a look at some of the common experiences of parenting from the red zone and see if they sound familiar to you:

  • When we parent from the red zone we are often distracted. Our kids may be asking us questions or wanting our attention and our thoughts are miles away, either replaying the past of planning or worrying about the future. When our heads are full of thoughts and our kids are wanting our attention, we can become stressed, overwhelmed, irritable or impatient.
  • When in the red zone, our emotions may feel bigger and more difficult to manage. In five short minutes, we can move from feeling deep gratitude for all that we have to mild irritation at the wet towel on the floor. Our sense of fear for our children’s physical and emotional safety may increase. We see threats everywhere in our environment.
  • When in the red zone our perspective narrows. We can feel overwhelmed and like we aren’t coping. Our bodies become tense and tired. Life becomes one giant To Do list rather than a collection of moments to be shared and enjoyed.
  • When we are parenting from the red zone, we are a distracted, less patient, open, loving and grateful version of ourselves. This then leads to feelings of guilt, remorse, and frustration. And from here, self-doubt creeps in, our inner critic becomes louder and we may even find ourselves questioning if we are a good mother.

Did any of these signs of the red zone feel familiar to you?

How To Shift Into A State Of Being And Break Free From The Trance Of The Red Zone

The good news is that it doesn’t take much to tip the scales back into balance. It doesn’t take much for us to regain our sense of openness, connection, patience, love, and compassion. We don’t need to buy a 10-pack yoga pass, a scented candle or arrange an expensive weekend away. Mindful moments are less about total calm and more about simply noticing and accepting (as best you can) what is going on right now with a warm-hearted curiosity. You may like to notice your breath, your physical body, your senses, thoughts, emotions or your physical surrounds. I also like to include my children in these mindful moments, noticing feelings of connection, love, joy, and humor.

When we have a mindful moment we wake up from what famous meditation teacher Dr. Tara Brach refers to as ‘a trance’. The trance of busyness, of always being one step ahead or one step behind.

Lingering In Moments Of Mindfulness For Greater Calm

I want to share three ways to cultivate mindful moments where you pause, and simply meet whatever is happening with a sense of openness, curiosity, and acceptance:

  1. Give your full attention to the act of eating or drinking. Notice colors, shapes, textures, and flavors. Notice feelings of pleasure, enjoyment, satisfaction, and gratitude. (This requires putting down your phone and resisting the urge to wipe down the bench or unpack the dishwasher whilst eating or drinking).
  2. Notice the changing seasons. Notice the temperature of the air as it touches your skin, the color of the leaves, the small details of flow in bloom. Pay attention to sunlight, shade, and shadows. Notice a breeze, the sound of birds or the clouds in the sky. Be open to any sense of connection, awe or wonder that emerges for you.
  3. Give your children your full and warm-hearted attention. Put down what you are doing. Move in closer. Get to their level and engage your senses. Notice their facial expressions, the small details of their face and body, their body language. Listen to their voice, notice their emotions, touch their skin, stroke their hair, hug them. Connect in this moment. Move from thinking to sensing, rest in this sensate and engaging world, and notice how good this feels in your body, mind and he.

Fleur’s tip for increased mindfulness for moms: When you notice yourself feeling distracted or a little overwhelmed, make it a priority to connect with your kids. Stop what you are doing. Take a few deep mindful breaths. Get down to their level and offer your whole self over to the interaction.

These moments of mindfulness for moms are moments where you give up the fight of wishing things to be different and just have a break from all the doing, planning and worrying.

Now, here is the real secret and the part that so many people miss. For these mindful moments to transform your life, you need to linger in these moments from anywhere between 30 seconds to 2 minutes. It’s not enough, for example, to notice the sunset briefly and then keep on walking. You need to pause, take a deep breath in, feel into your body and the experience.

You may notice experiences of awe, wonder, appreciation, gratitude or connection. You may sense your body relaxing, your mind becoming quiet or your perspective broadening. When we linger in these mindful moments, we encourage them to land in our bodies, minds, and hearts. When they land, they are changing from what neuroscientists call a passing state to a more enduring trait.

Also read about the damaging effects of lacking self-love and confidence in children and how parents can overcome idealistic norms.

Grow The Good Within You

Famous neuroscientist Dr. Rick Hanson (also a publisher on Insight Timer) has spent most of his career teaching and researching this powerful idea. His work highlights the power of letting ordinary moments of presence land as a way to strengthen neural pathways in our brains for greater calm and connection. In his work on hardwiring happiness, he refers to this as growing the good within you.

One ‘Being’ Muscle At A Time

This means that when we get to that moment we have been looking forward to — the weekend with the family, the date night or catch up with our friend — our muscles of ‘being’ are pumped and ready to go. We have strengthened our neural pathways of presence. We got all the tools we need to sit back, take a deep breath and enjoy the moment for all that it is. We know how to let it land in our bodies, minds, and hearts. Because as a busy mother, you deserve to enjoy yourself.

So next time you have a cup of tea, resist the urge to wipe down the bench or scroll through social media at the same time. Instead, allow yourself a mindful moment. Notice how good it feels to pause, take a breath, feel the warmth of the cup in your hand, the scent of the tea, it’s temperature and taste as it meets your lips.

And offer yourself a smile, for your commitment to balancing the scales between doing and being. A smile for your commitment to strengthening your neural pathways of presence so you can enjoy the people and the things that light you up with a relaxed body, a clear head, and an open heart.

For more mindful moments — not just for moms, but all people that quickly feel distracted or overwhelmed — explore Fleur’s free guided meditations on Insight Timer. These handpicked meditations are a perfect start to practice mindfulness for moms:

  1. Gratitude for Mothers Fleur Chambers 14:54
  2. Befriending your Thoughts Fleur Chambers 11:45
  3. Morning Meditation Fleur Chambers 14:48
  4. Cultivating Calm And Perspective Fleur Chambers 15:29
  5. End Of The Day Meditation | Adult Sleep Fleur Chambers 21:54

Discover all content by mindfulness and meditation teacher Fleur Chambers for free on Insight Timer and practice mindfulness for moms, dads, and non-parents  Fleur’s 10-day Insight course “Modern Mindfulness For Mothers” teaches how to gain access to a state of mind, body, and heart that will enable mothers to parent in more calm, confident and joyful ways.

Meditation. Free.