Things Fall Apart: When you’re a single parent, meditation isn’t always possible

When Liadan Hynes' marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves


"What do you want to do this weekend?" I ask my small daughter. "Chill at home Mommy," she replies instantly.

It is the bank holiday weekend. I was away the previous weekend. We both know exactly what we want to do. Hang out together, doing a lot of nothing.

Shed the stress

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As part of a coping strategy when things were really difficult, I went to London for a few days with my parents and daughter and did a meditation course. Transcendental meditation (or the Jerry Seinfeld kind, as I have heard it described).

Instantly, I noticed a difference in stress levels.

Specifically, it felt as if a layer had been placed between me, and the stresses of life back then. A lagging jacket, and I was the immersion tank. All that week, as the course progressed, I could feel the stress leaving my body in waves. I craved green juices – fantasised about the stuff – drank three a day. It was I think a sort of tangible manifestation of how the meditation was kick-starting a move to the good in my system.

Related: Why Lorelai, the happy single mother
from Gilmore Girls, is my poster girl

I kept it up, the meditation. Not with quite as much evangelical dedication as right at the beginning (twice a day, for twenty minutes each time), but with enough regularity to still help when things felt overwhelming.

But there was one thing that I always struggled with. The advice to meditate first thing in the morning, before doing anything else. I get it. Totally well-intentioned. Why experience any of your day without the benefit of the lower stress levels, the elevated sense of well being that meditation creates.

I'm a single parent

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But what if you have a kid? Chances are, the first thing you know about being awake is there is a small child on your person, most likely on your face. And if you are a single parent, then letting someone else get on with the immediate-upon-wake-up commencement of the day that a small child and a school run demands, simply isn’t an option.

Setting the alarm and trying to get it done before they wake?  Trying to relax whilst in some way listening for the sounds of an awakening child is the opposite of meditative; I speak from experience.

Related: Just because I'm a single parent,
doesn't mean I'm alone

And then my very wise yoga teacher Lou Horgan described the differences in meditation for men and women, as she saw it. How that option of rising early and going off alone to begin the day with a meditation practice simply isn’t an option for many women.

But also, how that ignores a different kind of meditation, a female kind. Not a going off and sitting on one’s own, detaching from thoughts, environment whatever (although I’m not knocking that one).

Doing what I want

But a more immersive type, a digging into our immediate surroundings. Pottering, essentially. Tidying out a drawer (because you want to rather than have to), baking, chopping, gardening, reading, meeting a friend, going for a walk.

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Not a shutting off, but more a 'being in the moment', whilst also tuning out from all the other stuff going on around and through us. Something that is not a chore, not work, that you want to do.

A state of is-ness, as Lou put it.

"Chilling at home," said my four-year-old daughter.

Lia Hynes' podcast series, How to Fall Apart is available to stream on multiple platforms now.

Photo: Liana Mikah via Unsplash


Read more: Things Fall Apart: Why Lorelai, the happy single mother from Gilmore Girls, is my poster girl

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