YOU’RE in the kitchen cooking dinner while simultaneously trying to help with maths homework, soothe a crying toddler and answer the ringing phone.
How can there possibly be peace in that?
Sally Collings, author of Parenting With Soul, says there can be. It’s about finding the sacred in the everyday and truly engaging in the moment.
She said it was possible to find ways of living with soul in the midst of the messy, noisy, crazy life that is parenting.
She describes her book as not really a parenting book in the strictest sense.
“It’s about re-discovering your own inner life as a parent. It’s about lighting the flame that’s been extinguished by wet nappies and finding your purpose again when you lose it at the bottom of the laundry basket,” she said.
“I was a voracious reader when I was pregnant with my daughter. I wanted to read everything,” she said.
“If I wanted to read how to change a nappy there was a book on it, if I wanted to read about how to stop your child crying there was a book about it. There were plenty of books that touched on the physical aspects but nothing that touched on the spiritual or emotional side.”
Like many first-time mums, Sally found it a difficult adjustment.
“I lost that connection with myself. I kept thinking ‘who am I now’,” she explained.
Sally searched for ways to inject some peace and spirituality into her parenting life.
But she didn’t have time to relax and meditate for an hour in the morning, or take long soothing baths, or do yoga for half a day. She was mum, she needed something real.
After discovering what worked for herself, her book is packed full of practical tips that don’t involve squeezing more into your day. It is about making the most of the small moments in life.
The first thing Sally recommends may sound like a shock to any busy mum.
“The first step is to just stop. Everything is so focused on multi-tasking but it can be really destructive and corroding to our spirits,” she said.
“Use everyday things that you do – even if it’s just the washing up. Just really focus on what you are doing. One thing at a time.”
But she is the first to admit that this is not always easy.
She said on the days she really worked at being present and in the moment, she felt calmer and this was reflected in the behaviour of her kids.
“It’s important for parents to feel a sense of peace but to have the kids calmer is a bonus. It’s still an ongoing process, but that is life.”
Like Sally, when Maroochydore mum of two Nicola Towns had her first child three years ago she felt lost and overwhelmed.
She had just moved from Brisbane and had given up her office job to focus on being a full-time mum.
But the reality was not quite what she expected.
“I felt really lost and I missed my job more than I thought. It was really hard going from business meetings to just dirty nappies and play dates. The hardest thing was, when I was at a work function for my husband, someone asked me what I did,” she said.
“I told her I was a mum. The way she looked at me was like ‘oh, you’re just a mum’.”
Feeling like she had lost her identity, Nicola became quite down. It was during an episode of Oprah featuring the author Eckhart Tolle, in which he talked about mindfulness and being present, that a subtle shift took place.
“It was really interesting. He talked about worrying about the future and obsessing over the past only makes us unhappy and the only way to find peace is by living in the moment.”
Nicola started attending meditation classes and, while she doesn’t always have time to meditate in silence for 10 minutes a day, she does try her hardest to stay in the present.
“It’s about focusing on one thing at a time. As a woman and especially as a mum we are conditioned to multi-task, which really is hard to avoid when you’ve got a toddler and a baby and need to cook dinner, but just being in the moment can bring so much peace,” she said.”