I am a little over 3 years into my parenting journey and still can not believe that someone calls me mommy. I knew I always wanted kids, but I never imagined being the emergency contact, the person who holds the insurance card, the female role model for my daughter (and now newborn son). I always thought that my own mommy would be around to guide me on this journey and that she would be my emergency contact. But that was not meant to be.
I lost my mom to cancer the same year I had my daughter. The fact that someone calls me the very name that was reserved for someone else so special in my life is a mental and emotional predicament that I am only now beginning to fully comprehend, especially because I thought my journey into motherhood would come more easily to me. My mindful childhood, present parents and life in wellness couldn’t solve the hardships of my entrance to motherhood.
We all hear and think a lot about our journey towards a more mindful existence. I personally found my first two years of motherhood to be an exercise in distraction, and not just because of the emotional trauma I had been through, but also because becoming a parent made me feel like a helpless child. Motherhood is overwhelming at times, and when life is overwhelming, we tend towards distraction that keeps us from dealing with the biggest task in front of us.
In an effort to hold myself more accountable to being present with my daughter, I decided to look up the dictionary definition of the word mindful to guide my own journey towards a deliberate and meaningful relationship with my children (and my spouse too). The dictionary’s definition is: focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, especially as part of a therapeutic or meditative technique.
As parents we strive to be as “in the moment”—as present—as humanly possible. How could we be so short-sighted as to let our minds wander when the most incredible gift of our lives is sitting right in front of us? Can I really be selfish enough to ignore the emotional needs of my child when my brain is consumed with other tasks? Am I doing this all wrong?
For me, losing my mom was an all-consuming emotional experience. I feel that my daughter saved my life, and provided me with a daily purpose that kept me accountable. But the experience of mothering was very hard, and it wasn’t until I found an artistic outlet that I was able to start moving forward, and begin a more mindful maternal experience. Poetry has always been a mode of expression that I could turn to in times of trouble, and I am so blessed that it was there for me. yet again. when I needed it most as a new mom.
Late last year after a particularly difficult emotional period, my daughter began speaking and would often utter some of the cutest, most poetic lines I have ever heard in my life (many of which reminded me of my mom’s sassy, straight-forward delivery). I began to write poetry every night from both mine and my daughter’s perspective—tackling subjects ranging from first words to breastfeeding to potty training—and before I knew it, I had 100 hand-written poems in my little green notebook. I collected all of the poetry, drew 50 illustrations and ultimately published my new book, someone calls me mommy this summer. I wrote someone calls me mommy as a way to cope with the loss of my mother, but also to capture the precious, ironic, comical and fleeting moments of motherhood. Here is a sample poem; the one about losing my mom:
My hope is that my writing can serve as a conversation starter for new mommies who also realize that they themselves are just big children who have grown older. And I want to inspire parents, who often find their own vulnerabilities too challenging to navigate, to connect with their children, capture life’s precious moments and create a fulfilling artistic habit. If you can find the space in your day to utilize this approach you can more easily cope with the myriad challenges that come with parenting.
The Connect, Capture and Create model is one I have used my entire life, but I never thought it would serve me so well as a new mother. This approach has enabled me to find a crucial emotional outlet that is right at my fingertips. Here’s how I approach the cross-section between parenthood and creativity:
All of us have the privilege of connecting to our children in some way, shape or form. It all starts with being present (aka being mindful). Be present in the best way available to you, whether that is at breakfast, during storytime, while getting dressed, or during unstructured time. Don’t constantly worry about capturing a moment out of fear you might lose it; get rid of that pressure or the need to qualify your precious moments by memorializing them with a photograph. Ultimately, If you’re not present you’ll never truly experience the optimal moment. When the urge comes to pick up your phone, choose instead to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and look into your child’s eyes. That will ground you and enable you to sit more fully in the experience.
We all have the urge to capture moments of motherhood through photographing and posting. There is nothing wrong with that per se, but ideally it is a secondary, not a primary instinct. Children are our greatest mirrors as they reflect all that we are: our positive and negative attributes, our confidences and vulnerabilities. They are, in so many ways, us. But they deserve their autonomy and the chance to discover who they are, independent of our influences and desires. So when a moment comes, ripe for capture, perhaps grab a pencil and paper and jot it down. Or close your eyes and simply take a mental picture. And sometimes, sure, grab the phone and snap a pic. Create the space in your brain to filter through the moments worthy of forever-capturing, and the moments that are simply “art for art’s sake.” The unbelievable gift of parenthood is that those precious moments come rapidly and constantly, so take the pressure off, and just enjoy.
So you have connected, and stayed mindful and present with your child. You have now also captured, whether it be in your mind, on paper, or via photography. Now what? What’s great about creativity is that there are no rules. Do whatever you want! I felt inspired to connect to my own motherhood journey by writing poetry and illustrating, whereas you may want to collect and paint rocks, organize a photo album, draw a picture. I think the key is to do what feels good and natural to you, which, if you allow yourself the space needed to enjoy the moment, might evolve over time. I could never find the time or interest in scrapbooking, but I seem to have 25 hours in a day when I write poetry. What creative outlet gives you more time in your day, not less? That outlet, in turn, can help you cope with whatever you might be grappling with internally. Artistic expression, in all its forms, is our human superpower that allows for catharsis. Use it, and let your children witness that and develop the same healthy habit.
Rupa Mehta is a teacher, entrepreneur, author, fitness expert and wellness pioneer. She is the creator of the Nalini Method and founder of the nonprofit, NaliniKIDS, both based on Rupa’s wellness philosophy that true health is achieved by being both emotionally and physically fit. Rupa has appeared in many national publications such as The New York Times, Forbes, Vogue, and more. She has published over 40 books as part of a robust SEL curriculum spanning PK-12 grade levels, reaching tens of thousands of students nationwide. Coined the “mommy transformer” by Urban Baby, Rupa’s newest book someone calls me mommy is now teaching us how to transform our perspective on the parent-child relationship.