Remember this childhood game?
“Red light. Green Light. Red light! GREEN light!!”
A game built on keen surveillance and forethought towards those agile enough to try and get past you.
In reflecting on the game now, and noticing how it appears in our adult lives: Are we still playing this game? Do we only apply ourselves in life by way of extremes?
Red light. Green light.
Working mom. Stay at home mom.
Partnered up. Single.
Dog lover. Everyone else.
What about the in-between? What happened to yellow light?
I recently presented on Mindfulness & Motherhood, to a small group of mamas who (like any of us) are finding themselves consistently adjusting to the fluctuating experiences of parenting; for those who seemed interested in utilizing breath and mindful practices to ease some of these ups and downs.
We chatted about negative verbal tendencies and physical behaviors made by both mom and child that frustrate and disappoint us, or that cause some discomfort with how things are handled. In normalizing this (even for those of you reading right now): it happens to all of us. The frustration. The disappointment. The discomfort. Just today I found myself dropping my son off at daycare with a fire in my belly about the snail’s pace of the morning, and I had to give myself a few conscious inhales and exhales to focus on getting my daughter onto the bus (rather than stay fuming).
It happens, because as moms we’re notoriously expending so much energy to tend to everyone else. We’re continuously finding ourselves in the mindset of to-do lists that never end. I tried to reiterate to the mamas at the luncheon, “What if these lists don’t go away? Who takes care of you?” Even when one list ends, another one begins, or we’re revisiting those that we tried to shove into drawers or our purses to avoid. Or to get to later. Or to try and forget about all together. In parenting, there is no end.
It also happens, because as women, we still live in a culture that reinforces the subconscious objective of “doing it all,” disguised by “having it all.” Maria Shriver just discussed this with Krista Tippet in her podcast On Being (and I couldn’t agree more):
“… it ends up making women of all economic groups, of all colors, feel like they’re somehow the only one that’s not doing it all, that’s not achieving. And I think, very often the images that women get of these other women who seem to — like they’re running for vice president and all their kids are perfect and everything’s great, or they’re running for this, and their husband adores them; they’re having sex all the time; they don’t struggle with their weight; their children are all 4.0s. And that’s just not true. It’s just not true. And so I think the illusion of balance, having it all — I think that’s all a sales job.”
One of the mom’s mentioned that she just didn’t find that time was available to cultivate mindfulness. She said it was it near impossible to be present with herself if she’s required also to be present for her kids. Which highlighted to me, so profoundly, that it has been instilled in our parenting today that to be wholly available for our child, we must disregard ourselves. Which is frankly the total opposite of mindful connection and being present for anyone. Others responded to her similarly, in that they often feel ashamed for not being able to “do it all.”
We’re still wrapped up in the game. We’re only allowed to be moving either at full speed at a green light’space, or at a full stop in red.
Note the opportunity here, for yellow light. Yellow light is about transition. It’s about slowing down and finding space to breathe. Maybe yellow lights – like on our roads – are about discerning what is most appropriate for you to arrive safely in your life. For some of us, that means we work outside of the home. For some, that means dad is the at-home parent, and Mom is the career breadwinner. For others, that means you choose to sign your kiddos up for dozens of extracurricular activities. And for some, you’ll wait to hear from your child about what their blooming interests are.
Might you consider that the yellow light is a means of your reserve. That deciding to take a break, like a nap when your child naps, or purposefully choosing to meditate, or making a healthy meal for yourself – none of which are “plain” or “mediocre” or shameful! Enjoying a cup of tea or 5 minutes of silence. Keep these tools at the top of those to-do lists. The to-dos aren’t going away soon. But that doesn’t mean things get accomplished better or faster when you ignore your needs. You might enjoy being highly productive for a time. But what’s productive at the risk of burning out? What’s more sustainable? How many intersections are you willing to speed through, with the chance of getting hurt, because you’re trying only to keep up, rather than observe what works in your best interests?
Give pause. Give breath. Give yourself time.
If you are a new or veteran mom and you find yourself struggling to keep up with the pace of life, Carly can help you become centered, more in touch with yourself, and confident enough to carve out the time that you need to thrive.