Just so you know - this blog post contains affiliate links. However, my opinions are entirely my own. If you decide that you love my review and purchase the book using the link below, The Postnatal Project receives a commission. I use this to subsidise my group therapy sessions. Pretty cool, huh? Thanks for supporting my movement.
BUDDHISM FOR MOTHERS
I recommend Buddhism for Mothers by Sarah Napthali to nearly every single one of the parents that I work with - and for good reason. This book greatly influenced my mothering journey when I was suffering with debilitating postnatal depression. It is one of the things that supported me to pull myself out of that dark place.
I’ll be honest - I took a while to pick it up because the title suggested that it may not be relevant for me because I don’t actively practice Buddhism. Until I opened the pages and became so inspired to do so. If we look beyond labels, aiming for mindfulness and kindness is the premise of the book and can never be a bad thing.
From practical tips for maintaining your connection to yourself to relatable and comforting accounts of how a buddhist mother also loses her shit on occasion, it’s a brilliant resource.
“...the whole world is medicine”
This features as a consistent theme throughout and offers such consolation during the turbulent time that parenthood can become.
I personally purchased The Complete Buddhism for Mothers which features three of Sarah Napthali’s best-selling books:
Buddhism for Mothers
Buddhism for Mothers of Young Children
Buddhism for Mothers of Schoolchildren
This beautiful range of content provides a holistic approach to parenting through all stages of motherhood.
But I'll focus on the first book. Buddhism for Mothers aims to be “a calm approach to caring for yourself and your children”. And I absolutely love this because it so greatly resonates with my work and the message that I share. The statement does not say “a calm approach to caring for yourself despite your children”, it says “and your children”. It places equal importance on the care of yourself and your children and suggests that both are a possibility. This is a wonderful approach to take when you’re seeking support on this journey. The first book covers some ground with topics such as an introduction to Buddhism and how this relates to motherhood, parenting mindfully, anger, worry, creating loving relationships, partners, losing our self-image and meditating.
In the chapter “Finding Calm”, Napthali discusses the importance of the present moment as well as seeking equanimity or composure. She writes:
“Imagine how different daily life could be if we could cultivate a spacious mind of equanimity. Your child spills some milk on the carpet: equanimity. Your son grizzles of an evening: equanimity. Your daughter acts sullenly. Your partner works late. Unpleasant noises, smells, sights: equanimity. Otherwise we allow so many details to disturb us that really needn’t and our impatient reactions soon become a habit.” (Buddhism for Mothers, page 62).
When these events occur within a short space of time or are frequent, this habit soon becomes a way of life. We suddenly don’t remember a time where we weren’t frequently and consistently bothered by parenthood. Sound familiar? Napthali offers practical support for shifting your mindset to a state of composure (even up shit creek - I say this because there’s a poo story on page 65 of this chapter that you do not want to miss!)
A hot topic within the motherhood space is “mum rage”. Just because it’s a common theme does not mean that we should settle for this as a way of life. We can seek a calm and kind state of mind and our actions can flow from this. With many suggestions on how to approach anger in motherhood, she also has this to say:
“We may experience a sense of relief as we express anger, a glorious moment of self-righteousness as we assure ourselves: ‘Well, that certainly showed them!’ But the great irony of anger is in the way it does more damage to ourselves than to the objects of our anger, be they family members, friends, acquaintances or strangers. We may see anger as an inevitable response and give up our freedom to choose a more wholesome alternative.” (Buddhism for Mothers, page 73).
Reading this the first time was a big wake up call for me. It was as if feeling anger was justification for how intense things were in our home. But we can still validate our feelings without exploding. And this chapter was a brilliant reminder of this with guidance on how to watch anger rise without acting upon it.
Extending the same kindness to ourselves that we would four a dear friend is a strategy that I use daily and recommend to clients. Napthali incorporates this concept into our relationships too. When we are kind to ourselves, we are often kinder to others. Not only that; when we are not kind to ourselves, we suffer. Napthali writes:
“We may expect our partner to become the source of what we fail to provide ourselves.” (Buddhism for Mothers, page 142)
Napthali then goes on to provide some practical and supportive recommendations in terms of dividing housework, living together and loving each other whilst shedding light on the way in which motherhood, children and parenting together can take a toll on any relationship.
AND THE BEST PART
I absolutely love how at the end of each chapter, there is a summary of take-home points. I refer to these pages frequently. As mothers, it often takes a conscious effort to make time for our own “stuff”. This little end of chapter reminder is super useful when you’ve been interrupted or it’s been a while since you’ve carved out time for a reading session.
And I have never read anything more on point in regards to the way kids shake up our experience (for the better - even if it doesn’t always feel that way!).
“Yes, children are the most demanding and merciless of spiritual teachers. Again and again our children turn us into amateurs.” (Buddhism for Mothers, page 209).
I encourage you to grab a copy. It truly is inspiring, somewhat confronting in the best kind of way and overall, comforting. You won’t regret it.
Have you read it? I'd love to hear what you think!