Mindfulness for mums works well abroad as well as at home right?! On our recent holiday I reflected that on the one hand being in a French ski resort with 3 young children is not much different from being in Sarf-East London with 3 young children. There’s the usual (if not more acute) sleep deprivation, family friendly (i.e. bland) meals to source and cook, calpol to dole out and sick to mop up. There is also a twist on the usual ‘school run’ with us having to do the ‘ski school run’ instead, which incidentally can be the stuff of nightmares. For those who are uninitiated in the ways of ski school let me fill you in.
Imagine the school run but significantly more stressful. The task each morning is to shake off the feeling that ‘I’m on holiday so I should be able to enjoy a leisurely morning at a slower pace’ and to get the kids who are eligible for ski school out of the door by 9am (8am in reality). They need to be kitted out with helmet, gloves, goggles, sun cream AND ski boots (which are a bugger to get on and are not at all comfortable) having also breakfasted following the obligatory trip to the boulangerie.
The mood can, if one doesn’t try and ‘jolly’ everyone along, sometimes be fairly tetchy by this point and some whinging is be expected. In fact tears are seen by some parents as the norm with some children practically ‘dumped’ on the instructors and then Mum or Dad run (or slip/slide/stumble) as quickly as possible from the scene. Now I know mindfulness is all about being non-judgemental but I do feel deeply uncomfortable when I see sobbing children being left like this but I suppose that’s the empathetic aspect of mindfulness coming to the fore too – imagining what that child is feeling in a strange place wearing strange clothes with strange people around them.
Anyway, you’d think there would be a huge feeling of relief once the challenge of the ‘drop off’ has been overcome and goodbyes have been said reasonably cheerily, however then the dreaded guilt and self-doubt kicks in. Mindfulness however is teaching me to view ‘mummy guilt’ – a seemingly recurring theme in this blog – more like an old friend who I am growing more comfortable about having around and would actually in all likelihood miss if one day it disperses. I question myself:
- Am I doing the right thing leaving my children with these strangers ?
- Are the going to be ok?
- Is this REALLY a good way to spend a holiday?
- Is it worth forfeiting a summer holiday for this as it’s so bloody expensive and prices are as ridiculous as (if not more so than) London prices? This means we end up squeezing ourselves into the smallest apartment possible which often means the hubby and I are on the sofa bed in the living area.
- Are they going to be ok?
- Am I psychologically scarring my little ones in some way?
- ARE THEY GOING TO BE OK?
I’m conscious that at the moment I’m not really selling this skiing thing am I? So let me add some balance to this post.
There is something about being in the mountains, and skiing in particular, which is deeply calming and since reading more on mindfulness I think it is because it’s easier to switch from the ‘doing’ mode into the ‘being’ mode.
In Sane New World Ruby Wax describes the ‘doing mode’ as the mind being in a ‘frenzy of analyzing the past or future’ whereas the ‘being mode’ is ‘just directly sensing something’ and I seem to spend a lot more time in the ‘being mode’ on the mountain which is most welcome. One can’t fail to admire the scenery, listen to the sound of the skis carving through the snow and feel the feet steer the skis through the turns. When at the top of a steep piste looking at the challenge that lies ahead then all other thoughts fade into the background. I even tried to maintain the ‘being mode’ when stuck in a huge lift queue on our recent trip. I observed my impatience, redirected my attention to the beautiful mountains around me and reconnected with my breath.
Most importantly the holiday was about playing in the snow with the children and letting them direct this time however they wished to spend it – whether it’s more skiing, snowball fighting, sledging, snowman building or whatever takes their fancy. At this time we get to reconnect with their ‘inner child’ too and for the whole family to enjoy some quality time together. I understand that playing with our children is not restricted just to the mountains, or in fact holidays in general, and also acknowledge that beach holidays offer a fabulous opportunity to do similar, however at least on the slopes I don’t feel the pressure to have a ‘bikini ready’ body and have lovely layers of clothing to hide my ‘mummy tummy’ :-).
In summary, for us the mountains offer time to use our senses more keenly and adopt a more playful attitude generally – if everyone can find their own version of this (be it on a beach, or a campsite, in a woodland or at the local park) then family life will be the richer for it.