Why Working Parents Need Meditation
“‘Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.’ And he says, ‘Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’
So, I got that going for me.
Which is nice.”
Meditation is so hot right now. People are falling all over themselves to tell you the health benefits. There are schools dedicated to meditation. There are apps for meditation. It’s everywhere.
Though, in the noble and never ending battle of prioritizing things in your daily life as a working parent, squeezing out an extra 10 minutes of your day for something that sounds as hippy dippy as meditation is a tall order, so it had better be worth it. I get it. I’m not looking for total enlightenment, man. I’m just trying to get through the damn week without having a nervous breakdown.
Which is exactly why I started meditating and why you should too. Notice this post is not subtitled why you should meditate. It’s why you need to meditate. Of course, this wisdom would ring true for any stressed adult – parent or otherwise, working outside of the home or otherwise, but as a working father myself, I can attest: the bottom line is meditation makes you a better parent.
1 – Meditation is the only time you ever truly get to yourself.
It’s what sold me on meditation initially.
The problem is stress. Stress, simply put, is the emotional response to wanting things to be different than they are. It used to be that a tiger was chasing us and we wanted a tiger not to be chasing us. Unless you have a WAY more interesting life than mine, then you’re not stressed from being chased by wild animals.
You’re stressed because you’re at work late when you want to be home. You’re stressed because your kids are telling you a story and you want to be watching the game. You’re stressed because you’re watching a game and thinking about what you need to do at work. Even when it’s your time to relax, you’re wondering if you’re relaxing ENOUGH.
Everyone has a hand out and you are never fully present wherever you are. You’re never there.
Enter a practice where you don’t have to do anything. The whole POINT is not to do anything. Not be anywhere. My life isn’t getting any less crazy any time soon, so just getting to know myself when so much of my day is driven by the wants of others is the most positive change I’ve made to my mental well being since becoming a father other than my coffee rule. Forget the health benefits. Forget all the mumbo jumbo on connection to the universe.
If a daily meditation practice did ONLY that, it’d still be worth it but luckily the benefits don’t end there.
2 – Meditation gives you that glorious moment of pause.
You come home from work after frantically responding to one emergency after another. You leave before you strictly should be leaving given that the world is ending and you’re the only one who can save it, Jack Bauer style, but you leave anyway. You fight all the other stressed parents to get home, feed your kids, feed the dog, sneak in a few emails and then start to get the kids ready for a bath.
You lean back against the doorframe in the bathroom as your oldest rages an epic battle against his pants and your youngest is chasing the dog with her toothbrush. Really, it occurs to you that you should stop her from chasing the dog with her toothbrush, but you know what? He gets to sleep all damn day and you have to work, so he can take one for the team while you rest your eyes for 4 seconds. Then, your toddler, all done terrorizing the dog, comes over and decides to close the bathroom door on your goddamn HEAD.
Meditation gives you a moment of pause in those times.
Maybe not even often, but at least sometimes I’m able to respond in a calm manner and not as a fire-breathing dragon like I want to. I get a moment to look at the 20 something pound ball of chubby cuteness who’s just trying things out in the world and happened to think, “Hey, what happens if I close this door on this dude’s head right now?”
Of course, you have to say something because she needs to know that closing doors on people’s heads is not proper behavior (unless they owe you money). And since you can identify how you’re feeling and manage a moment of pause before responding, you can tell her in a calm manner what she did wrong.
Meditation doesn’t turn you into a drone, but it does help you take a step back and at least be marginally more in control. I’ll take it.
#parenting is the only activity where you have to be able to say things like “please don’t close that door on my head,” in a calm voice.
— CJ Janiszewski (@WaxEmphatic) March 7, 2016
I kept up a meditation practice for the above two reasons for the better part of a year before I found the real reason I’ll keep doing it forever.
3 – Meditation helps you show up for your life.
I recognize how crazy that could sound to someone who isn’t on board the meditation train.
So, let me ask you this – when is the last time you listened to your children laughing? Not heard it. Not you were aware of it. I’m talking about really listening to the quality of the sound without your mind being half focused on the project you have due at work or the fight you had with your spouse or the email you’ve been meaning to send to a friend.
The thing I always misjudged about meditation was that I thought it was about those few minutes of solitude when you’re sitting quietly. What I realized is that while you’re meditating what you are really doing is PRACTICING for life. You’re teaching your brain to take a step back from your emotions and racing thoughts and all the other nonsense so you can simply EXPERIENCE your own life. More and more I’ve become able to allow myself to be in the moment I’m in. It takes a hell of a lot of practice, but day by day, I get more of those moments. As a parent, that is critical. Precious moments fly by every second.
I will never feel that I’m giving all that I want to my career or my team. I’ll never feel I’m giving all I want to my kids or my wife. I’ll certainly never feel like I’m giving all I can to my writing, but at least with the life practice I get via meditation I know I am better at fully engaging wherever I am.
It’s like a super power.
Sold? Maybe not yet, but, let me get you one step closer.
The app I use is called Headspace. It’s incredibly easy to start using. Just download their app and you can get some trial sessions for free. All it costs you is 10 minutes a day. If you like it, you can pay to access more involved stuff, but if all you get from it are some tips to sit still and be with yourself for 10 minutes a day, I’d call that a huge victory.
Again, I’m not looking for total consciousness. I’m just trying to live my life. I’m just trying to be a better dad.