Today is the last day of my partner’s paternity leave. He has had 4 weeks off (with some bonus bank holidays thrown in) so I’m aware that we’re lucky to have had more time together than many families.
Over the past few weeks, he has been my amazing housekeeper, nurse, chief baby entertainer, nappy changer, gardener and dog walker. He has also tested my pelvic floor muscles considerably by bringing lots of well-timed humour to moments which could have otherwise felt quite challenging...
So, as I sit here thinking about him going back to work, my stomach muscles tighten, my eyes well up slightly, and I realise that I will miss him terribly; there have been so many magical moments we’ve experienced together over the past few weeks.
I’ve joked with him that I’m going to write to his work to inform them that he’s content with staying at home with me and the baby FOREVER. And when I actually think about him leaving the house tomorrow, I form a slightly comedy cartoon image in my head of me dragging myself along the floor, holding the bottom of both his legs so he can’t get to the front door.
But of course, none of that will happen - he will go to work tomorrow, and however sleep deprived I am, it will be OK.
Whether or not it is a partner going back to work after paternity leave, or it is something else entirely, we all have moments in our life where whatever is around the corner can feel daunting or overwhelming and we wonder whether or not we will be able to cope.
Here are some reflections I’ve had about where mindfulness practice - deliberately paying attention to the present, non-judgmentally - has helped calm that sense of foreboding...
1. We can sometimes ‘catastrophise’ when it comes to thinking about the future, telling ourselves that a future experience is going to be an absolute disaster before it has even happened. We can also exaggerate situations when it comes to the past, falling back on clichés that aren’t really true either.
An example might be thinking that we “couldn’t have done the past few weeks without someone”. I haven’t told my partner that, because I don’t know for sure whether it is true. I’d probably have got through them; they just probably would have been very different, less enjoyable and more challenging.
2. If we constantly fast-forward in our heads, we can ruin the time we actually have now. So, in this particular scenario, I’ve been trying to enjoy the good moments me and my partner spend together, and notice when that stops being the case because my mind is fast forwarding to when it will be over.
3. Although the image of me clinging to the bottom of my partner’s legs as he tries to leave the house is imaginary, it does capture what we tend to do with pleasant experiences. We desperately try to hold onto them and don’t want to let them go. We want them to last FOREVER. This is perfectly normal (who wouldn’t want something nice to last forever?!). But no moment does last forever. That applies to good moments as well as bad ones. If we can enjoy this moment without prejudging the next one as being worse, it brings a different quality to our experience.
4. We can notice when we feel anxious or sad about the future, and remember that it is OK to feel that way, to let people know how we are feeling, and to ask for extra support. I’ve lined up the Calvary already and got good friends coming over the next few days so that I’m not ‘on my own’.
Even as I’m writing this, I recognise that all of the above is much easier said than done! I practice mindfulness every day but I still have times when I react to things rather than respond - those times are much less frequent than they used to be; but they definitely still exist. I’m yet to find anyone that doesn’t happen to.
So now I’m finishing this blog a day later...
Just before my partner left for work, our baby did 3 projectile pees when we changed his nappy together. Five minutes ago, he was crying, and our dog was simultaneously barking as he tried valiantly to fight his way into the kitchen bin (after unfortunately discovering quite recently that he can be successful in this quest).
But now, at 11:55, both baby and dog are sleeping. If anyone were to enter the room right now, they would think it was a little oasis, and everything was sorted. This moment won’t last forever but I’m enjoying it, and smiling at the fact that any second now, the dog’s snout could be back in that bin…
Thanks very much for reading my blog:) .
If you would like to find out more about mindfulness you can visit this page. And if you want to follow me on social media, I’m on twitter at @calmcitymind and @calmcitymum and facebook at calmcitymind