Mindfulness and the Slow Movement #PoCoLo

tortoise+and+hare

I recently read a post by a blogger I haven’t come across before (found through the Britmums My Best Post of the Week linky) called Josie, who’s post on managing and coping with motherhood (primarily, I feel aimed towards a complete newbie who hasn’t yet had a chance to get their head round the life-altering change a baby brings) got me thinking about mindfulness and how to live more ‘in the moment’ in general.

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I tend to be quite an anxious person and often find myself worrying about one thing or another. I get stressed out quite easily and having a child exacerbated this no end! Having two children has cranked it up to stress volume overload! I even began developing a ‘stress rash’ – a small area on my left arm which flares up into an angry, itchy, raised rash the day after a particularly stressful, angry or overwhelmingly negative experience. Its a classic example of the mind alone bringing¬† something that’s not really real into full physical existence.

In the last few weeks I’ve had two or three really stressful experiences and my arm has been flashing itchy red like a demented traffic light.

A few years ago I wrote my Masters dissertation on the subject of Information Overload – another experiential stress zone. I now remember that while I was researching this piece of work I stumbled across Carl Honore’s paen to something called the Slow Movement, “In Praise of Slow”. (I’ve just discovered he has a website www.carlhonore.com) He talks of the way in which our culture teaches us that speed is the key to everything – from fast cars to multi-tasking and earning a fast buck. I love the fact that he was inspired to write his book after reading a newspaper article encouraging parents to condense well-loved classic children’s stories into minute-long soundbites in order to get out of the nursery quicker and pick back up on all those must-do adult activities.

At first glance, the One-Minute Bedtime series sounds almost too good to be true. Rattle off six or seven “stories,” and still finish inside ten minutes – what could be better? Then, as I begin to wonder how quickly Amazon can ship me the full set, redemption comes in the shape of a counter-question. Have I gone completely insane?

I think this thought captures what so many of us think and feel on a daily basis. I want to be a good parent, but do I have the time? And then there’s “I want to be a good partner, but do I have the time?”. Life with small children can not only be a stressful experience in itself, but can also make you feel like everything else you do that doesn’t involve them has to be done at breakneck speed in order to make the most of this precious little time. Hence if I find myself with one day off while they’re both in paid childcare I must squeeze in a house-clean, cook two casseroles, fill out a passport application, do two loads of washing, write a blog post, have a cervical smear, etc, etc, ad infinitum – sod relaxation and escapism! And fitting in the needs of a relationship on top of this? Forgive me for the utter selfishness but if I find myself with ten spare minutes I’m going to want to pick up a good book/soak in a bubbly bath/research some fun activities that I like the look of and help me remember who I am and who I want to be.

I feel that sometimes I’m on the edge of a minor breakdown and something has to change. I need to slow down, live more in the moment, let go of this constant need to “keep up with the Joneses” (which is exacerbated no end by the cult of social media one-upmanship) and learn to live on less and value more of what I’ve got.

Linking up to #PoCoLo over at http://vevivos.com

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Woolly Head…

woolly head

Lately I have had a lot of thoughts going through my mind to the point that I decided to write myself a To Do list. Here is the list:

  1. Fill out passport applications for me and EJ (mine being a ten year renewal). (This with the thought in mind that we might actually be able to book a holiday in October, finances allowing).
  2. Buy a new, up to date smartphone which will actually allow me to take Instagram and good quality photographs. (Do this through Vodafone to qualify for 20% staff discount on monthly charges).
  3. Find out whether I’m locked into mobile contract with Virgin and what I would have to do/pay to get out.
  4. After buying new phone apply for staff discount within allocated time period.
  5. Book a party venue for JJ’s birthday (which is only five weeks away :-/)
  6. Book a bouncy castle/entertainer for party.
  7. Buy party necessities
  8. Buy JJ’s birthday presents.
  9. Book an appointment for EJ to have his 12/13 month innoculations.
  10. Ignore entire list and proceed to become increasingly stressed about everything…

These are all the things I should be doing (minus that last one!) whilst I am actually: reading other people’s blog posts; searching for blogging inspiration; attempting to boost my readership by signing up for as many linkies and networks and communities as I can possibly think of; wondering how the hell someone with six children can post consistently funny entries on a regular basis.

Something’s got to give…

Time Management for Mums 101

Before I had children my need to be organised mostly revolved around gettng to pre-arranged meetings or appointments on time. I was pretty good – checking travel times and making sure I would have the time I needed to prepare in advance. Other than that there wasn’t time managementa huge call to be super-organised. Oh how times have changed!

This week EJ turned one and I realised that, although I had sent out a general invitation for a party ‘of sorts’ on a specific date, I hadn’t thought to plan ahead with food, party bags, activities or indeed EJ’s main present. This has led to last minute panic shopping online and succumbing to a few inflated delivery charges.

On a day to day basis I have learnt that the best way to cope with juggling everyone’s needs is to run things like a military operation. Second guessing and thinking ahead are everything and I’m rapidly becoming an expert. For example, I know that the kids hit a hunger/tiredness meltdown between 5 and 6pm, so knowing exactly what they will be eating, how long it will take to cook and minimising the last minute preparation so that I can give them as much of my attention as I can manage are crucial.

This is probably why the bedtime hours of my work days are the most organised of all. I can’t be there during the day to manage their snacking or make sure they have rested or napped at the appropriate times so we often have a meltdown anyway, but at least I have some semblance of a plan to cling to.

This last thought leads me to the conclusion that having children has turned me into a control freak. Or maybe I was always a control freak but I just didn’t have anything to control before! At any rate I look forward to the day when I can let someone wrench some of this uptight control freakery out of my clenched, white-knuckled fists – at which point I will breathe a loooooong sigh of relief and flop!