Mommy Mantras: Affirmations and Insights to Keep You from Losing Your Mind
By Bethany E. Casarjian, Ph.D., Diane H. Dillon, Ph.D.
When my friend's son was born she thought he had an unusually large head, but she wasn't sure, him being her first baby. So she asked the pediatrician what she thought. The doctor looked at the baby and then back to my friend before she reassuringly said, "I'm sure there are bigger heads. I've never seen one, but I'm sure they're out there." That's a good analogy' to how I perceive mothering. You could probably find more stressful venture, but it's unlikely. At least it's unlikely that you'll find an occupation that is as constantly demanding and stressful as mothering.
There are lots of books and articles that document how stressful mothering is. I was reading a publication that detailed all of the physical and emotional detriments brought upon by mothering. It made me feel as though to be really decent to myself I should really get rid of my kids immediately. And there are many magazines and self-help manuals that present practical steps to reduce your stress load, including getting child care or housecleaning help (if you can afford it. which is another bag of snakes), making time for yourself, exercising, simplifying your schedule, and capping your kid's activities. All of these are great ideas, but they don't exactly reflect the spirit of this book. We know you have stress. And we know that there are really good reasons for why you have stress. And for as long as you are a mother, stressful conditions and events will continue to present themselves on a never-ending basis. Mantras won't eliminate the stress from coming down the river, but with practice they will help you dive underneath the waves instead of hitting them head-on.
Within me there is a peacefulness
that cannot be disturbed
When my aunt, a seasoned meditation instructor and author on forgiveness, describes the utility of meditation, she likens it to being on the bottom of the ocean during a hurricane. The surface of the water is being torn by fierce winds and crushing waves, but at the bottom of the ocean, the storm is virtually undetectable. One of the side effects of meditating is that it cultivates an imperturbable space within you. Regardless of what's going on around you, it is possible to connect to a place that is centered and crisis-free. This place is not contingent upon your circumstances. Tapping into this reserve of calm and peacefulness does not require your life to actually be calm and peaceful. It doesn't really matter. The mantra functions in a similar way as meditation. It transforms the way you experience what is happening around you, and as a result changes your emotions and reactions.
Truth be told, I lifted this mantra from my aunt when I was about sixteen. The moment I heard within me there is a peacefulness that cannot be disturbed, I got it. What really appealed to me was the extremity of the statement. No matter what was happening in my life, I had the opportunity to emotionally inoculate myself from it. The locus of power shifted from being external to internal. Unlike with some of the other mantras, this one doesn't require much explanation. At any given moment, you have the ability to feel tranquil. Period. You may have to say the mantra several times. You may have to reassure yourself that while it might feel alien or bizarre to lay aside the anxiety, fear, and frustration that we often associate with stressful situations, it's fine to do this.
I think of within me is a peacefulness that cannot be disturbed as a mega-mantra. By that I mean that if you can really internalize its logic and power, you have the ability to radically alter the way you manage stress in your life. My other job, besides being a mom, is as a psychologist who works with incarcerated youth. I go into prisons and other institutions where adolescents are serving sentences and facilitate groups comprising about eight kids. I can honestly say that working with highly at-risk youth is a breeze compared to juggling day care, dinner, pickups, drop-offs, playdates, grocery shopping, and homework for the three I leave behind. It's like a glass pyramid that I pile up each day before I leave for work, and sometimes it feels as though there is someone standing outside who periodically slips in through the dog door to gleefully smash the thing in before I even get breakfast on the table.
When I was pregnant with my third child, I got locked in a prison because the inmate head count didn't add up. This happens periodically and is usually resolved within a half hour or so. Hut this went on and on for hours. The time I was supposed to be home to relieve the babysitter came and left. I was hungry and getting very agitated. I kept thinking how infuriating it was that I couldn't leave. I mean, really, what difference could my leaving possibly make in terms of them finding the person they may or may not be missing in the first place. As I began fuming about the state of the criminal justice system at large, I started feeling that not-so-comfortable feeling that passes over very pregnant women. For me it's part woozy, with slight vertigo and a touch of nausea. Not wanting to cause a scene, I started trying to breathe more deeply to calm myself down. Then I started repeating the mantra within me there is a peacefulness that cannot be disturbed. I'm sure I looked nutty, but I kept going until I really believed it. And I went a little longer until I felt it. And then I sat there. Each time the anxiety and stress returned, I repeated the mantra again. And as with most unpleasant events, it ended and I went home, where no one really even noticed I was that late.