How to be a mindful mother

Michelle Lim-Chua with her children.

HOW would you go about being a mindful mum? In theory, it sounds like a great idea, but often when parenting, theory goes right out the window as soon as baby comes through the door.

Many mothers end up feeling overwhelmed, bombarded by information from family, friends and the Internet, and often end up just managing to stay afloat, not really confident of what they are doing.

Michelle Lim-Chua wanted to be mindful from the start. That meant being present and purposeful from the time she was pregnant.

The freelance writer and co-facilitator for Tours for Tots (KL) even wrote a book about it, aptly titled Mindful Mom.

The book outlines her own journey through pregnancy and motherhood, raising her two sons, aged one and three.

According to Lim-Chua her father planted in her the idea of writing a book from the time she was a young girl. “Of course, as a copywriter in advertising and a contributor for a parenting website, publishing a book may have seemed like the natural next step; my decision to write a book was more about meeting my dad’s expectation that I become an author!” she shares.

Nonetheless, a lot of thought and preparation went into the book, just like her journey in motherhood.

Mindful parenting is about slowing down enough so as to focus on what you’re experiencing in the moment and actively keeping the bigger picture in mind, explains Lim-Chua.

“Mindfulness as an overall theme has many definitions. I don’t personally mean it in the sense of meditation, as is often associated with the word, but rather an awareness or focused attention.

On a more personal level, mindfulness to me, means keeping God’s purposes as the centre of our parenting,” adds the 32-year-old.

She believes that parenting today is very complicated, making it easy for most parents to get distracted and lose sight of what is important.

“We forget why we love being parents, and get sidetracked from our priorities. I also sense a competitive atmosphere amongst young parents today; it actually reminds me a lot of being in a career-driven work environment. What I found myself failing to do, was place attention on the things that were most important to us as a family. Time and time again, I found myself trying to be a more mindful parent because it’s just all too easy to lose focus.”

During both pregnancies, Lim-Chua made sure she spent some quiet time each day just laying her hand on her belly to pray with her unborn child. It was a way for her to connect with God and God’s love for her baby, she says. She also used to look at things as if it were the last time she would see something; this is something she still does today. Although, she admits having the right books and resources helped her make all the decisions she thought were right.

How hard is it to raise your child the old-fashioned way?

Lim-Chua has created a haven at home, where her sons can have “a free-range childhood playing outside, help with chores, have lots of conversation and occasionally get bored (and then figure out how to get un-bored!)”.

“They are screen-free kids, so we don’t have a television in the living room and are intentional about putting our own phones away as much as possible. I’ve found it’s actually easier to fuel a child’s impulse to learn in a home-grown environment where he can just develop at his own pace.

My being ‘old-fashioned’ has become something even my parents have made fun of, but everyone had to just get onboard with our ‘way’ and by the time the second baby came along, it wasn’t even a big deal anymore,” she says.

Being mindful with the second baby was easier. It helped that her second son was an easier baby than his older brother. What was tough was handling a baby’s basic needs and trying to playfully engage with a toddler at the same time.

It helps to have a supportive family. Although Lim-Chua does a lot of research, prayer and advice-seeking on her own, every social experiment and parenting-type strategy is usually discussed at length with her husband before she launches into it. She finds that once she and her husband are committed to carrying out a plan, it’s much easier to get the rest of the family to work with them.

“I am a very optimistic person, so whenever I struggle through a tough situation, I am pretty disciplined about reminding myself why I must keep going. I make mistakes every single day, but God has brought me a long way from where I used to be, and one just doesn’t give up when such a price has been paid.

“What keeps me going is my commitment to raising these two miracles for a purpose which is much greater than having a beautiful life,” she says.

She admits that whatever your parenting style is, it is important that you are not doing things because of what others will think about you. It’s important to let go of that overeager desire to please others and just do what you are convicted is right for your family.

“For me, it also helps to remember that there’s so much about parenting that I still have to learn. I may even learn that what I’ve been doing this whole time has been wrong!”