Can You Be a Calm Mom When You Feel Stressed Out? (The Story of How I did it!)

Devices, work, the grocery store, the classes, the dishes, the house, the yard-honestly I have no idea where to begin with the never-ending list of daily chores. With all our modern conveniences, why was I so stressed out? Could I ever be a calm mom?

Being mindful with out kids can help them be calm.

Will I Ever Be A Calm Mom For My Kids?

Do you feel stressed out but want to be a calm mom too?

Do you want to be more mindful with you kids but just feel too busy?

After reading Chapter 2 of Free To Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life , by Peter Gray, I felt a lot more knowledgeable on the ways kids learn naturally. After reading the extensive research on societies that let children learn freely, through free play, adult example, and oral tradition, I wondered what in the world I was doing spending so much time on my device these days? That in addition to the daily grind makes me basically an absent parent to my children in terms of parenting with real thoughtfulness. Am I really providing a good example? Can my kids be calm if I am not?

This chapter really challenged me to think deeply about education, or “cultural transmission” as Gray calls it. “Cultural transmission” means that each new generation of human beings acquires and builds on the skills, knowledge and values of previous generations” is content dependent.

This means that what we show our kids is what they learn. We are in the position of great influence because to our kids we are their heroes.

As a parent, such an understanding can be unsettling. No one taught us how to be parents, and our only lessons come from our own childhoods growing up in our own families. Only one source to reference.  For the next generation, being truly mindful of our actions is so important because as parents their are often things we would like to do differently than our own parents.

So what lessons are we teaching our kids?

What example are we showing them in order to be Calm Kids?

Our children model our daily actions as parents. Calm parenting results in calm kids.

Your Kids Watch What You Do Every Day As Their Parent. You Are Their Hero.

Stressed Mom vs Calm Mom

Once I started looking at my own day-to-day schedule, I was shocked at my lack of awareness. I felt like I never had time to sit down and regroup. I felt as though less achievement and commitment would be a breath of fresh air. Slowing down would be bliss. And I wondered how it must feel to actually be quite and still.

I also felt like becoming a bit more low tech. I have to say “lower” tech, because the idea of not being on near my device sounded a little scary. Still, it might be worth it as long as it I was calmer.

As a challenge to myself to really look at what goes on in my day, I stopped what I was doing one afternoon and watched my thoughts. What I found was shocking! I found quick thoughts running thought my head, meal plans for the next day swimming in my head, all while wondering where the garden should be placed this year in our backyard. Yikes!

Not Quite the Calm Mom.

Once I saw my high paced thoughts, I understood why my body was always in motion. It was just doing what it was told to do.

So how could I slow down and be more mindful?

Usually I get things done with a list, so I decided to make a list of things that would calm me down. Maybe even calm my kids! Here’s what it looked like:

Top 10 things To Do to Be A Calm Mom

1. Get rid of the lists-they are always too long and make me angry when I can’t get them done. (OK, so much for that………)

A walk in nature can help calm moms remember that we really do have all the time in the world if we are mindful of how we spend out time.

Disconnecting to Reconnect

All The Time In the World

All That Time In The World is a movie that changed me for the better, at just about the time I got rid of lists. It was great timing to say the least. My husband heard about it from a podcast he was listening to and we got so curious we bought ourselves a copy to watch.

Suzanne Crocker, from Vancouver, Canada was asked to make this documentary as a wasy to “disconnectin order to reconnect” with her family of 5. And how she set out to do this was nothing short of a super hero effort. She embarked with her family into the Yukon Wilderness for 9 months, part of which was in the dead of winter. Check out the trailer for All The Time In The World here.

Suzanne Crocker and her husband bravely took their family on a journey to a cabin in the deep woods without running water and  electricity, one so remote that the only way to get to it was by boat or snowmobile. A place that has bears and temperatures that dip well into the -40’s and -50s. A place where there are no modern conveniences.

Setting out, she thought her kids would want to strangle each other by the end of it all, but she found the exact opposite to be true. Despite all the wood chopping, homemade fires and food, and just plain work, they bonded. They bonded so much that they didn’t want to leave.

However, Crocker’s movie made a huge impact on me too!

Seeing what it means to take time with each other, to have nowhere to go and nothing to do, was eye-opening. Having seen the movie gave me some real life ideas on how I could create some down time for me and my family in our very own suburban bungalow.

Finally, daily choices like putting the devices away, not making plans, cooking meals together, not going shopping, and taking a walk in nature all made sense.

Being mindful of our family means taking time to be with them in a connected way. Nature walks help families bond.

Walking In Nature Can Help Kids To Be Calm. That Helps Mom To Be Calm Too!

I had always imagined I would cook more food at home, take walks in nature, and spend long days of quality time with my kids. I just never saw a real life example of it so I didn’t know how to be a calm mom. Now I did. I knew enough to get started, even without trekking to the Yukon Territory in Canada.

Being mindful of how I spend my time with my family became a driver for me and I did begin to feel like I had All The Time In The World. We took 4 days of park walks over the Christmas holiday, we spent a whole weekend indoors in January, and cooking began to be more fun than going out to eat.

Life began to feel more orderly.

I began to feel like I just might be a  Calm Mom.




2 thoughts on “Can You Be a Calm Mom When You Feel Stressed Out? (The Story of How I did it!)

  1. Thank you for that post! Although a bit behind… here are some of my reflections from Chapter 1 and a bit into Chapter 2

    It was a wonderful day when my son had a friend over to play and said, “Do you want to see my room?” The moms stayed downstairs. The children went on their own and played. From downstairs, we occasionally eavesdropped; listening to make sure that everything was going well. It was. They were devising scenarios and “fighting fires”. To this day, (my son is 4 ½), the play between friends is most dynamic when the adults are out of the picture. It seems that when we moms/dads appear on the scene, play seems to halt, quiet and the children almost, in some cases revert back to parallel play. Picking up on this quickly, I retreat back downstairs. I can hear the sounds of the voices as soon as my physical presence is no longer visible – the play begins again. I love hearing him play and hearing the conversation between friends.

    Reading the first chapter of this book completely brings me back to my childhood. I also recall running around the neighborhood and playing hide and seek until it was completely dark. We had neighborhood sleepovers in the tent and hung out on the jungle gym in the backyard. My best friend lived next door and was always available to play. I want this so much for my children. I want them to have the chance to just go. I want them to explore, go on missions and create their own games, just like the ones described in the book . Now we have the term “play date”. I don’t remember this as a kid – we just went outside and played; but now it has to be arranged and scheduled. I want to fly by the seat of my pants….I want my kids to just go outside and find a group of kids to play with – or knock on the neighbors door again and say “can Suzy come out to play?”. Maybe our neighborhood has that potential as my son and daughter get a bit older…I hope so.

    As a parent, (possibly more with mom’s???) I felt a sense of guilt. If I was home with my children, I needed to be with them and doing something with them. If I am not taking them somewhere or playing with them directly…I am ignoring them and therefore , I am not doing my job. I am a bad mom. Just recently, I have really started to see where my guilt was faulty and leading not only me, but also my children astray. I am coming to really understand the absolute importance of providing time for them to just do their own thing. This also means the importance of them seeing me do my own thing too.

    My daughter , now a little over 2 , has always been quite good at playing by herself. Perhaps it is the nature of the second child, or maybe just her personality. However, my son, (it could be personality also) requires a bit more prodding to go off on his own to play. If he is with a friend or with his sister, absolutely, they are off and playing, but he really needs the push to go and find something to entertain himself. Give him a chance for screen time… no problem. He will be content for a long time. Ask him to play constructively, creatively by himself…. grumble, grumble. “Ahhh, can’t I just watch something? “, he says. “No”, I respond. After a short time, he becomes engaged in an activity that I would call productive play. Once he gets started, he is into it.

    I need to do a better job as a mom to make sure that my son gains the confidence in his ability to create and enjoy productive play, on his own, consistently. This is certainly not easy. In a pinch, a show is definitely the easiest. I do think also that there are times of the day when a break for television is helpful for him. However, I want to make sure that he also has the skills to entertain himself and to find creative and productive ways to do this. It seems that this is also what is causing some concerns today. Kids get bored more quickly these days it seems. All the more reason to make sure that they have the tools to entertain themselves …and that means finding something to do that does not always include a screen!

    I love the message of this first chapter and feel so much that we are headed in a scary direction as a society. Simplify! Create! Imagine! These are mantras, which I need to repeat to myself. We are the models for our children. They do what they see us do. Knowing this information almost innately, but reading the book, it came front and center. As a mother, I need to provide opportunities where my children will be “free to learn” in the company of their peers as opposed to learning in a programmed, structured manner. I fret some days…. I have not signed my children up for this class or this summer session. Did my grandparents attend classes when they were 4? I don’t think that they did. Guess what? They were completely amazing and incredible people. My grandpa would say it like it is. I would love to hear what he would say now about how I am raising my children. My gut response ….. let them be kids. So often now, that is difficult. We want them to do this, participate in that, and excel in these things. They are kids. They are incredible , beautiful, genuine, blessed people in themselves. What are we doing to them?

    I love the wisdom of the hunter-gatherer people and the concept of trusting their children. I would venture to say that as a society today, we are not trusting our children. But in many ways, this is quite understandable. We have so many more dangers to account for these days. Safety of course is huge. Sadly, our homes are filled with toxic chemicals, the media, movies and video games have created a numbness to violence and play with toys and imaginative play have come in competition with videos, television and videogames. The concepts of screen time, poor nutrition and the new concern with childhood obesity are all new issues that we are facing in our mission to raise our children in today’s changing world. This trust that the hunter-gatherer societies had/have for their children provided multiple opportunities for learning lessons through simply living and through trial and error. Now a day, we don’t often have room for trial and error. I suppose the challenge is to recreate this as much as possible.

    For my own children, I am trying to create more opportunities for them to just play. Play that is like the good old school play… but this is tough to recreate. Today, it is scheduled, but best case scenario it is kids, together, given autonomy in an environment that is safe. I pray…. God, please give me the ability to learn to trust in my children as much as possible given the societal limitations that we are facing today as parents!!!

    As an Occupational Therapist, reading chapter 1, I am struck in so many ways as well. Considering the re structuring of the school day and the pressures for test scores …. YIKES! We know how important activity is for children. They need sensory based, movement opportunities throughout the day. When developing a sensory diet for children, we look at devising a daily schedule particularly rich in proprioceptive, vestibular and tactile experiences. Children who are deprived of recess, or have abbreviated recess time, miss out on these important opportunities for movement in their daily routine. Children need these sensory breaks in their day. Interesting though, that now we need to program for these essential portions of the day in an IEP (Individualized Education Plan.) In the past, these sensory breaks were just an expected part of the school day.

    I want to thank Swami Mommie for starting this discussion and thank you to Peter Gray for writing the book. I am looking forward to reading more…..

    J. S.

  2. Thanks so much for your very honest reply. You shared concerns that many parents are dealing with each day. I agree with you in regards to setting a good example for our kids. What we demonstrate they will pick up. Not only are our kids over-scheduled, so are we as parents. And I wonder who has more screen time, our kids or ourselves?

    Simlify. Create. Imagine……that was the mantra you mentioned. Perhaps my mantra “Grounded and Joyful” can be guided by being more simple, creative and imaginative! An approach I would love to model and pass on to the next generation in my family.

    Thanks Jacki!

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