In the second of a new series looking at maternity leave, second-time mother Andrea Galligan shares her experience of trying to develop conscious parenting techniques... despite her initial misgivings.
Becoming a mother for the first time is fraught with challenges, physical, emotional and intellectual. There’s no time to sit and decipher the messages emanating from society, your family or peer group, while experiencing radical change.
At the time of the arrival of my first child, I turned to what I knew best and that was project management. If I was in control of my baby’s schedule then everything would be okay.
"After the birth of my first-born, afraid to stop and consider what I was feeling, I focused on an endless new parent tasklist."
If I was in control of my emotions then I could handle the uncertainty. Afraid to stop and consider what I was feeling, I focused on an endless new parent tasklist.
To make matters worse, instead of building in rejuvenation time, I filled my social calendar with only baby-related content and all the books I consumed seemed to exclude what to expect psychologically as a new parent.
A tipping point was inevitable, given my sleep deprivation and physical exhaustion. Going to yet another baby yoga class was not going to solve my problems.
Looking back I see a messy mix of desperation and naivety.
Experimenting with mindfulness
Second-time around maternity leave wasn’t something I needed to fill. It turned out, it could be quite the opposite.
"I hosted small get-togethers at home... always with the aim of slipping off upstairs for a power nap while the baby was in the care of doting aunties."
A time to ditch the spreadsheets and checklists and give into the concept of idleness and daydreaming — let’s face it, not something you can do in the office!
Instead of spending my precious energy hauling a baby around friends, family and baby groups, I hosted small get-togethers at home... always with the aim of slipping off upstairs for a power nap while the baby was in the care of doting aunties. This gave my tired and fractious mind a chance to reboot.
As the weeks trundled on I began experimenting with simple meditation. Being at home and looking after a small baby is labour intensive, but what’s really special are the pockets of quiet time that are available throughout the day.
"Despite my initial misgivings, I decided to give conscious parenting a go."
I had tried meditation through yoga, but had never given it real consideration before now. Vishen Lakhiani’s six-phase meditation resonated with me, opening the way for me to experiment with thinkitation, a practice conceived by Tom Bilyeu. Feeling relaxed but energised, I used meditative states to problem-solve creatively, attempting with some success to leave baby-related topics to a need-to-know basis.
Opening new chapters
This new focus on creativity, through breathing and meditating throughout the day, meant I became more open to new ways of parenting. This led to me stumbling upon the teachings of Dr Shefali Tsabary and attempting to be a conscious parent which, despite my initial misgivings, I decided to give a go.
I’m glad I did, as was my family. A house where children decided on bedtime, what to play next and how often to go outside started to help me feel comfortable with relaxing the previously rigid rules. And it wasn’t as chaotic as it sounds!
Hacks for experimenting with meditation and conscious parenting
1. Power of listening: I struggled with reading novels after the arrival of my baby, even a few hundred words would tire me out. That’s when I discovered the power of audiobooks. Avoiding blue screen light in the middle of the night while listening to Eckhart Tolle’s ‘invitation into the present moment’, reached a part of my sleep-deprived mind that reading would not have permitted.
2. Meditation to go: Meditation was something I felt I had some grasp of but, with the availability of yoga retreats greatly limited, I needed an overhaul. Kyle Cease’s raw content on his 100 days of self-connection opened my eyes to the power of inner work and the possibilities to adapt meditation to one's own purposes.
Meditation was no longer something I needed to clear time to undertake, it was something I tapped into on-the-go.
3. Conscious parenting: The ultimate trap for parents is attempting to fix ourselves through our children.
A fan of Dr. Shefali (she’s been interviewed by Oprah seven times), I was inspired to address my controlling tendencies that had been useful in the office environment, adopting a child-led programme with lots of outdoor free play.
Next week Andrea covers the topics of food as medicine and experimenting with alcohol-freedom.
Andrea Galligan is a content creator and communications professional. She lives with her husband and two children in Dublin 3. She promotes the benefits of healthy outdoor play on her Instagram account @numu_dublin