It seems epidemic these days: an undercurrent of anxiety thrums at the heart of parenting. Do you perpetually feel like you’re a just a little behind the 8-ball, missing some crucial opportunity that’s going to put your child behind? Yikes, we didn’t play Mozart through speakers on our pregnant belly, we didn’t use the latest pre-reading iPad app, we didn’t get in on that whiz-bang college-prep (or high-school prep, or for that matter, pre-school prep) program!
If this rings a bell, I feel nothing but compassion for you. We’ve all been conditioned to jump (or get jumpy) when the endless smorgasbord of choices glistens before us, beckoning with a glut of possibilities for that perfect something that will fill in the gaps of our insufficiency.
Let’s Figure This Out Together!
I was honored to be the guest expert Monday, Sept. 24th on a special live episode of “Being Mom” — with host Sarah Ripard and celebrityauthor/mom Mallika Chopra — as part of the fabulously inspiring California Women’s Conference.
In front of a sizable crowd and three cameras, Sarah, Mallika and I brainstormed this “Supermom problem” — and the audience came away with powerful tools to use right away, to tame the stresses of parenthood today. Mallika led us all in a lovely yet so-simple meditation and shared some centering insights from her father Deepak. In the spirit of these tools for inviting the sacred into mothering, I was inspired to give away free downloads of my audio coaching session “Calm Authority for Mothers” because it was so totally apropos to the moment!
Here’s are what I see as The Big Three behind this atmosphere of parental pressures and angst:
Too much information — Word on the street is, the world now produces more information in 48 hours than it did throughout human history up till 2003. But while technology has careened forward and changed our world dramatically, human beings haven’t much changed — in how we’re built or how we function — in thousands of years! So this bombardment is a kind of trauma, just too much for the nervous system to process.
Too many choices — We owe our mothers and grandmothers such a debt of gratitude for all the opportunities that resulted from the women’s movement. But this is a sword that has cut both ways — certainly slashing away barriers and opening many new avenues to us women who came after; but the other cut is that then when we have all these freedoms it can lead to a sort of “choice paralysis.” What if we choose wrong??!
Too little confidence — One of the most common problems I see in my coaching practice is parents not feeling the inner confidence to hold the authority their child needs them to. Messages in our culture (particularly the media), and echoes from own childhood histories conspire to throw us back on our heels and make us feel like we’re not quite up to the task of doing a good job parenting our children. (This is where calm authority comes in so handy!)
The GREAT NEWS is that this trifecta of fear can be turned around fairly simply! If you switch just TWO letters in the word, “scared” becomes “sacred”…and it’s just about a few small shifts. Everyone who attended came away with a handy, powerful toolkit for mastering The Big Three.
The tools I proposed all featured QUESTIONS (as I quoted Thich Nhat Hanh: “The vitality is in the question”) —
1. The question (before saying / doing anything): Will this foster growth mode, or protection mode? (Of course I first explained that basic concept–the mainspring of my book — that at every moment we are either in growth mode or protection mode, right down to our cells. When conditions are safe and secure, we can grow to our fullest potential; when conditions are threatening, even vaguely so, we instead devote much of our energies toward protection. This has huge implications for babies, toddlers and children — whose neural circuitry is just wiring up and whose brains are growing so rapidly…or should be. Our key stress hormone cortisol is highly neurotoxic, meaning it kills brain cells.)
2. Presence practice, esp. meditation — This was perfect, coming right after the beautiful illustration of Mallika’s meditation. Helps parents answer YES to this question: Do I as a parent have mastery over something as fundamental and basic as the flow of my own thoughts? Children wordlessly pick up on our level of self-possession, so when the answer is yes, this engenders a respect for you that is deep, abiding and which rarely wavers. Discipline becomes far less of a looming issue!
3. A mirror, with the question written on it, Am I worthy of my child’s unquestioning imitation? Our children model themselves on us, right down to the neurobiological download of their social brains wiring up to emulate ours. The bottom line is, Work on yourself and your child will thrive. We all three chatted about how this is NOT about perfection (it was great to hear Deepak Chopra’s daughter forthrightly state that she doesn’t meditate every day!), but about striving. There is scientific evidence to show that striving — through beginning to cultivate that presence, that mindful mastery of the flow of our thoughts, of our own inner lives — changes the brain!
Together we all began the shift… from scared to sacred.
In other words, from Supermom to sane & centered mom!
** Indeed, what an AMAZING gathering of cool folks, such as Michael Beckwith, John Gray, Gloria Allred, Stedman Graham, Tippi Hedren, Marcia Cross, Melissa Manchester, Fran Drescher, Mark Victor Hanson, Helen Reddy, Shannon Tweed, Kathy Eldon, Ana Garcia, Dorothy Lucey, David Misch, Suzy Prudden, Joann Worley, Bill Walsh…and the list goes on! **